Lorbs are just one of the many collectibles in Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, and they’re basically the game’s audio logs. It feels as if audio logs have gone out of fashion in video game design recently, and that’s probably for the best if I’m being honest.
A few years ago, you couldn’t go anywhere without encountering an audio log. In the ‘00s, it was basically them, people wearing double denim or six belts, and pop punk. Whenever you went out, you were sure to bump into one of them. The problem is, they got a little stale. Audio logs, that is – Pop punk will never die.
Audio logs are supposed to be part of the world building, but they take away as much as they add. While the information in them might have helped construct the wider universe, their very existence was immersion breaking. Often, the stories inside them were too important or personal to have been recorded in an unencrypted audio log to be just left lying around. One or two in a lab, as an organic part of the note taking, was fine, but because everything needed to be a collectible in the gaming noughties, there were far too many of them hidden in far too stupid hiding places.
Even when the actual tales inside seemed like they could belong in an audio log fairly organically, why is the log up on the roof? I understand their status as world building devices, sure, but audio logs exist first and foremost to extend your playtime and give you more stuff to do. Video games are still emerging from this era, with some still asking for far too many feathers or pages or books or gems or relics. In Crash 4, the problem is too many boxes. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart fixes this problem.
It’s still a game with collectibles, but they’re healthy – ten Spybots (with one on each planet and two in the Arena), nine CraiggerBears, and 25 gold bolts. You can even find a map that tells you where they all are. It has the ‘00s platformer collect-a-thon vibe for those who want it, but these collectibles never feel like they’re inflating the runtime or are obtuse to the point of annoyance. The Lorbs though feel particularly special.
Lorbs are Lombax Orbs, and you find them all on Savali, a planet you visit a few times across the main story, as well as being free to return whenever you wish in between story missions or as part of the post-game. There are 12 of them in total (find them all in our Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart Lorb guide), scattered around the planet in various hiding places. Some have puzzles blocking them, some have enemies to fight off, and some are constantly moving, needing to be chased.
That sounds like a throwback, with them scattered for the sake of it, but because it’s all contained in the very dense world of Savali, it never feels onerous. This is a planet of research scientist monks, and so the puzzles make sense, as does the combat – the enemies aren’t guarding the Lorbs as much as they are intrigued by the statues and curious to figure out how they work. The moving ones… yeah, okay, not so much, but the Lorbs as a whole feel like they’re an active part of the story. Rift Apart is all about dimensional rifts and alternative versions of characters, and the Lorbs fit that perfectly.
Lorbs tell the tale of a lombax researching every dimension in existence, and while we only hear 12 of them, they each bring an interesting slice of humour and intrigue to the party.
It’s not the first time Insomniac has done this. In Miles Morales, there are two audio logs – one for Uncle Aaron and one for Miles’ father. While the first one can be fiddly, it feels very much of Miles’ world. He’s recording the sounds of street life and being rewarded with anecdotes from Uncle Aaron; he’s walking in his father’s footsteps, and there’s a narrative reason this mission uses audio. Likewise, the side quest in the epilogue is all about a message Miles’ father left when he passed away, and that Miles can still hear his voice is deeply important, while the collection itself highlights the various pit stops of their relationship.
Some games do audio logs well, others do them poorly, but Insomniac does them seamlessly, and that’s an important development for audio logs to take. They’re not supposed to add to the narrative, they’re supposed to be part of it.
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