The Riftbreaker: Metal Terror (Xbox Series) Impressions

Exo-morph extermination
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When I returned to The Riftbreaker to tackle the new Metal Terror DLC, the experience was both familiar and refreshing. I enjoyed the initial release on console, though the gamepad support needed work and the campaign felt padded out by lengthy research times.

Thankfully, Metal Terror is a more compact and cohesive experience that entertained me but also reminded me why I stopped playing. An hour each night between other games quickly turned into nightly sessions, and then entire weekend mornings disappeared. The Riftbreaker’s compelling blend of base-building, juggling resource allocation, tower defence elements, and twin-stick combat make for a more-ish experience.

A competing coloniser?

The Metal Terror DLC can be accessed fairly early in the campaign after you’ve built a few core structures – namely the Rift Station Foundation, Orbital Scanner, and Alien Research Lab – and undertaken at least two reconnaissance missions.

A meteor comes hurtling past your HQ – a common enough sight in the game – but this time Mr Riggs informs Ashley it was not following a natural trajectory from the nearby asteroid belt. After studying the unusual metallic composition of the debris, a scan for similar deposits reveal a new region on Galatea 37 that looks nothing like you’ve seen before.

Now while The Riftbreaker has an interesting premise, tons of dialogue between Ashley and Mr Riggs, and a never-ending codex, storytelling was never a strong point. The same holds true for the Metal Terror DLC, but the shorter, focused string of missions, with several instantaneous research rewards, make for much better pacing.

An early encounter with biomechanical lifeforms and the ruins of an alien starship kicks off a back-and-forth quest to discover the fate of another colonisation gone awry. At first, it seems you may just be dealing with the remnants of an expedition but it soon becomes apparent they may still have a presence in orbit and control over parts of the planet. The mini-narrative does its job of bouncing you between locations and escalating sieges, but also fits nicely with the existing themes of reckless colonisation.

Metal Terror new enemies

Less waiting about and better base locations

For returning players, you can consider the Metal Terror DLC a chance to unlock some situationally useful new structures, a few new weapons and gear, and a new branch on the Alien research tree. For newcomers, or those starting a new run for the DLC, it’s compact enough that it doesn’t interfere with the flow of the main campaign. It also gives you something more interesting to do while waiting on major research projects.

The mission flow is similar to that of the core game: you arrive in a new location, scout the terrain, investigate an important location, and typically establish a fortified outpost to hold out against a new roster of particularly dangerous foes – dubbed “exo-morphs”. The exo-morphs fill the same basic functions as Galatea 37’s insane flora and fauna, but there are new complications that make outpost defence more challenging and force you to rethink your layout.

Metal Terror tech tree

As an example, swarms of metallic dragonflies function as basic rushers, but they can fly over terrain and attack from any angle. Rolling cube-like forms are easy to kite and destroy on foot but they explode on contact with walls, making it essential to have multiple layers of defence to avoid a sudden breach. The biggest foes are lumbering bipedal mechs that combine devastating close-range attacks with an artillery-like plasma launcher. Of course, there are some new and weird, non-hostile flora and fauna to encounter.

To make matter worse, events escalate quickly across the Metal-Terror mini-campaign so you’ll be fighting large hordes early on. The upside is that most locations you need to secure are far more forgiving in their layout, with more natural chokepoints and a higher density of basic resources – think carbonium, ironiom, and cobalt – within a defensible perimeter. Sure, it’s beneficial to have invested some research into defensive structures but sieges are never impossible, especially as the mission research rewards are primarily focused on defence and power generation.

Metal Terror sieges

The power of Morphium

Introduced quickly in the first new region you visit, “Morphium” liquid is found in pools around the metallic biome and is used to power unique structures. In the opening missions, you’ll first run pipes to existing Morphium towers to clear a path into alien ruins, but those soon become a part of your arsenal. These provide an effective area-of-denial tower that modifies the surrounding terrain – exceptional against the aforementioned rolling cubes – and they only require piped Morphium to function. Similarly, the Morphium powerplant, especially once upgraded to level-3, is highly efficient given the low construction cost and minimal Morphium consumption cost.

These structures are particularly useful when quickly establishing, powering, and defending an outpost in the metallic biome, as all you need to find is a pool of Morphium. That said, there are new layout challenges as the aboveground piping system is far less efficient than simply dropping energy nodes everywhere (which can connect beneath structures).

Metal Terror gamepad improvements

More of the same but still compelling

If you’ve been playing The Riftbreaker frequently since launch, the Metal Terror DLC might feel a little light on new structures, gear, or game-changing technologies. The narrative detour is entertaining enough and expands on the universe (possibly providing a sequel hook), and slightly alters the existing end-game scenario depending on your final choice. For new players, it’s smartly integrated and feels like a natural part of the overarching questline.

What I appreciated just as much – and this is a free update for all players now – is the ongoing quality-of-life updates. Make no mistake, building defences and running power nodes while under pressure is still tough on a gamepad, but it’s easier now with smarter automatic placement and default behaviours. There are also updates like placing new turrets on top of your existing defence structures (with an automatic refund for the original structure), and the ability to toggle the selection box size for quick repairs or mass upgrades.

If you’ve not returned to The Riftbreaker in a while, the Metal Terror DLC is a cheap and entertaining excuse to lose a few more weeks to its compelling gameplay loop. If you’ve never tried The Riftbreaker, consider this a reminder it’s a lot of fun, well-priced, and still part of the Xbox Game Pass service on both PC and Xbox Series consoles.

Note: Like many other players, I experienced an intermittent issue where my saves would sometimes be flagged as corrupted, leading to a revert back to the start of the mission. I found messing around for a few minutes after this forced restart, waiting for an auto-save to trigger, and then trying to reload my old save files seemed to fix the issue. The developers have indicated a patch is coming soon.

A code to cover The Riftbreaker: Metal Terror was provided to gameblur by the publisher.

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