The latest game in the Ratchet & Clank series, Rift Apart, is one of the flagship games of the nascent PlayStation 5. It’s the latest adventure of the two titular characters, the first continuation of their tale since 2013. Given that it’s bringing in new fans, the entire game is about setting up for the big central mystery — only to then end off on a cliffhanger in the credits.
Spoiling Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is essentially a side trip in the series’s ongoing plot. The game opens with Clank gifting Ratchet the repaired Dimensionator and proposing that he use it to find wherever the Lombaxes, Ratchet’s species, are hiding. Instead, Dr. Nefarious gets hold of it, and shenanigans ensue. Ratchet and Clank are sent to an alternate universe, meet their counterparts Rivet and Kit, and have a grand adventure battling an evil tyrant.
It’s all pretty great, not going to lie — it’s the most fun I’ve had on the PS5 so far. At the very end of the game, Ratchet proposes that they use the Dimensionator to not only return to Rivet’s universe for clean-up, but to finally find the other Lombaxes. That would be a promising enough ending, but the credits tell the rest of the story: They follow several characters (including characters from previous games in cameos) after the events of the game, including multiple scenes of Ratchet, Rivet, Clank, and Kit hanging out and having a good time. They end with the four opening a portal with the Dimensionator and diving through it, implying that they are indeed going to meet the Lombaxes.
What’s That Cliffhanger All About, Anyway?
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart’s primary purpose in the larger story is … well, not negligible, but it’s more housekeeping about the characters’ emotions — Ratchet specifically — on the topic of finding the Lombaxes than actually moving towards that goal. That is, it’s like that until the final few moments of the whole game. As fun as the Rift Apart adventure is, at the end all it really accomplished was that Ratchet and Clank found companions for the same trip they were going to take to begin with.
Ratchet spends most of the game not sure if he’s actually ready to meet the rest of his species, for fear that he’ll disappoint them or otherwise not live up to their expectations. Given that he grew up without any other Lombaxes around, he doesn’t know how to act like a Lombax. It’s easy to relate to the insecurity, and it also feels right when Rivet gives him the figurative slap upside the head for hesitating over the chance to see their people again.
From an out-of-universe perspective, this is also important because Ratchet & Clank, as wonderful as it is, is an old series. While the remake of the first game returned it to public attention, the last completely original story in the series, Into the Nexus, was released eight years ago. The original trilogy of games was released in 2002-2004, meaning there are legal adults who weren’t born when the first game in the series was released (sorry, but I’m going to make sure you feel as old as I do). And given that Rift Apart is a very kid-friendly game, there are lots of youthful gamers with PS5s who will be playing this with no clue of what the series’s larger emotional stakes are.
To get new viewers up to speed, Rift Apart has to establish several things: Ratchet’s been separated from every other member of his species for his entire life, the Dimensionator is the only thing capable of reuniting him with said species, and doing so is an incredibly important and momentous decision for him. That’s basically what Rift Apart spends the entire game setting up. When Rivet finds out that Ratchet has access to the Dimensionator and hasn’t already used it to find the Lombaxes, she’s incredulous and confronts him about it. (By the way, not sure how I feel about Clank spilling about Ratchet’s emotional quandary to someone he hardly knows, but that’s a topic for another column.)
It may take a while to get there, but Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart does what’s necessary to re-up the series’s mythos and central driving mystery. Maybe in the next game we can finally — finally — find the other Lombaxes. The game spends its 20-or-so-hour runtime building up to that cliffhanger finale, for the longtime series fans and the new ones alike.