The Riftbreaker is a silly name for a game that is much better than its title might imply. Released in October on Xbox Game Pass and blending elements from Factorio, Minecraft, MechWarrior, Diablo, and others, I found this top-down survival game very hard to put down.
This piece originally ran on Kotaku Australia on December 3, 2021. It has been retimed as a weekend read.
Also, I’m going to call it Riftbreaker from here on out, ok? Cool.
Ashley, your player character, is an “elite scientist/commando inside an advanced Mecha-Suit capable of dimensional rift travel.” Pretty common situation. Because you are a badass soldier and skilled researcher, you get sent to a faraway planet with a talking mech suit, and the only way back is to create a new, super-advanced Rift portal. Cue lots of tree-breaking and fence-building.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I was down for that. Sure, gathering resources is fine for a bit, but I didn’t want to spend countless hours doing that. But after about 20 or so minutes, the game taught me how to build automatic mining machines, fences, electrical lines, turrets, and storage containers. It was here that I realised Riftbreaker wasn’t just a survival game, but also one about creating a big, highly efficient resource-extraction empire. My first session lasted nearly eight hours.
Riftbreaker doesn’t make you worry about hunger, thirst, or the battery levels of your mech. All of the micromanaging happens around the base using a fairly easy-to-use construction system. Riftbreaker slowly adds more layers to the experience over time, which helps prevent the game from feeling overwhelming. First you learn about mining, then storing all that stuff, then building more wind turbines and solar panels for creating electricity, and then how to store extra energy from batteries. It builds up slowly enough that I never felt confused, but quickly enough that I never got bored. The deadly creatures on the planet helped keep it exciting, too.
Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about the giant swarms of monsters.
As Ashley scours the world for new resources, or after upgrading her base, she’ll be attacked by alien creatures of all shapes and sizes. Often these attacks take the form of huge masses of wriggling, crawling death, wave after wave of space bugs and monsters. Thanks to the top-down view and responsive combat controls, Riftbreaker starts to feel like an action-RPG. You start with just a small sword and a low-ammo rifle. Upgrading your base lets you unlock further movement and combat abilities for your mech, deadlier weapons, and massive spears. (Free tip: The moment the large research tree opens up, go for the spears. They’re powerful, kill most things in one hit, and have great range, letting you take out explosive enemies safely.)
As your base gets bigger and you expand your main HQ, you unlock more ways to rip minerals from the planet and defend your operation from all the nasty creatures looking to ruin your adventure. This leads to a loop that Riftbreaker didn’t invent, but which it pulls off perfectly: Collect some resources, unlock a new thing, build a new thing, get more stuff, use that stuff to build more, etc.
This is the kind of game where you’ll go to stop playing but then one last thing catches your eye, and you think “Well, I’ll just go up there and place down a mining bot.” But somehow two hours pass and the next thing you know you’ve built an entire secondary outpost complete with well-organised storage and defences.
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On Xbox Series X, Riftbreaker looks sharp and runs without any technical issues. The text and menus are a tad too tiny, and having to use a cursor to manage some parts of the UI make it feel like a PC port that could use a little extra work. But these are just minor complaints. And honestly, this thing is on Game Pass, so you probably already have access to it at no extra cost.
If the idea of building out a massive and efficient base while fighting off waves of aliens using Diablo-like combat sounds good, go dig into Game Pass and give (sigh) The Riftbreaker a shot. It’s a wonderful example of how the huge Game Pass library can harbour hidden gems amid the big-ticket Halos and Forzas, so give it a play and see if you don’t love it, too.