XenoRaptor preview written by Parker.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
“Take control of a cyberdragon and annihilate swarms of rocket propelled chainsaws.” This line, straight from the Steam listing for XenoRaptors, was too perfect to rewrite. Recently added to Steam’s Early Access program, the game is a top down space shooter, replete with swarms of enemies, a vast arsenal of unlockable weapons and ship (rather, dragon) customizations, and level progression. I’ve had the chance to put some time into the game lately, and have really enjoyed my experience so far.
XenoRaptor plays as a frenetic arcade shooter, somewhere between Asteroids and Geometry Wars, with a suite of ship customizations added in to keep things fresh. The Cyberdragon in your control zips around a galactic backdrop on a 2D plane. With a laser sight on the fore-end of your ship, you aim your armaments at the incoming, chainsaw-equipped ships as they swarm in through multiple waves. Governed by a weapon heat system, special weapon ammo, engine special meter, and slowly recharging health, you must use tactics and quick reactions for any hope of survival. Every 5 waves is a boss encounter, where a massive ship, or a cadre of powerful ships, invade the sector. If you successfully fend off a set amount of waves, you complete the level and unlock the next set.
In order to take on these bladed hordes, you have the ability to equip your ship as you so choose with a vast array of unlocks. Your vehicle has slots for a primary, secondary, and special weapon; sensors, hull equipment, and engines. While the non-weapon systems have only a single tier of customization options, the weapons have 3 or 4 unique aspects, each with their own choices. This allows for a flak cannon that splits off into 3 pieces with the Trident shell and an efficient barrel that saves on energy cost but at a lower damage.
A heavy railgun that uses incendiary warheads to quickly and precisely hit enemies at distance, and set them on fire. Or smart missiles which seek out nearby targets with a drill warhead that do damage over time. Every 5 waves, or every level you complete, you unlock something new, or upgrade one of your existing components. This allows for a sense of progression, even if you cannot quite find the right combination to complete the next level yet.
When playing games like this on a PC, I tend to use a mouse and keyboard for precise controls. In this instance, I started out with that control scheme and spent a majority of my gameplay that way. However, over the last couple of hours, I finally picked up the controller and was amazed at how well it played. Extremely responsive controls allow for precision accuracy, harrowing maneuvers, and a devastating outlay of firepower. Going against my typical predilections for mouse control, I now prefer the controller input here – something I cannot say for many games of similar design.
With XenoRaptor still being in early access, there are some rough spots. The difficulty ramps up very quickly once you reach the third level, completely stymying forward progress. It was not immediately clear that earlier levels could be replayed for additional unlocks, which then becomes the mainstay of gameplay. It can lead to a rather substantial grind, and the unpredictable unlocks make it hard to determine if a runthrough is going to yield anything useful. There are occasions where a tactical retreat is the best move you can make, dodging and thrusting away from combat, but with enemies spawning around you in all directions, this can go real bad real fast. It can be frustrating to hightail it out of a hotzone, only to have a wimpy little ship spawn just offscreen that you end up dodging into, ending your run. But hey, that’s a mainstay of this kind of game, right?
In its current state, XenoRaptors is a highly engaging, twitchy experience. It scratches an itch both for players looking for that fast paced action experience, and also those that crave a vast series of unlocks and precise control over their vessel. With a bit more difficulty tweaking, I could see this being a full release very close to its current state. I’ll be interested to see what more comes in the final build, and we will be sure to check back in when that day comes!
Preview by Parker