After many games in the current generation focusing on singular protagonists facing insurmountable odds alone, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart reminds players how great it is to have a friend with you while out adventuring.
At the beginning of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Ratchet is unceremoniously ripped apart from Clank, and for approximately half the game the two are separated. Thankfully they each find other friends. But after a short time, I began to notice something — I missed their rapport. There was a universe-sized hole in my heart, and I realized that Ratchet and Clank’s back-and-forth is instrumental to the enjoyment of their adventures. There are a couple factors to take into account for this.
One factor is that we haven’t seen a new adventure with these two in a long time. Their last true adventure was the 2013 title Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus. The 2016 reboot reset the characters’ relationship, and that was one of the reasons fans didn’t particularly gel with it.
The second is that a lot of recent games have focused on the singular protagonist. In Hades you traverse the mythic realm of Hades alone. Yes, you are assisted by all manner of NPCs, but it is Zagreus’ singular journey. In the adored Marvel’s Spider-Man franchise, you play as Peter and Miles as they protect their city alone. In Returnal you spend your whole time literally talking to yourself. And Resident Evil Village’s Ethan Winters’ closest companion is the Duke — and the less said about that guy, the better.
When I returned Ratchet and Clank to each other in Rift Apart, their bromance was palpable. Their friendship is warm and fuzzy. Not only that, it is infectious — Clank breaks down Rivet’s barriers. She’s a rebel living in a universe where almost everything robotic is evil, and she distrusts anyone synthetic. However, the sassy backpack that is Clank helps her through the osmosis of his relationship with Ratchet. He speaks on the perilous adventures he and Ratchet have been on over the years and how it’s created an unbreakable bond of friendship and heroism. Listening to all of this and experiencing adventures with Clank changes Rivet. She goes from being a rebel to a hero.
Clank isn’t the only one spreading the good word though. Ratchet meets the robot Kit and teaches her the power of friendship, which helps bring her out of her shell. Kit believes she doesn’t deserve to be anything more than what she was programmed to be, but much like Rivet with Clank, she watches Ratchet and follows him on a journey of self-discovery, helping her find her place in her respective universe. It’s deeply moving and adds further layers to the already impressive game that is Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
As well as the relationship between Ratchet and Clank, the whole time I was playing Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart I was reminded of all those great relationships that made gaming so much fun when I was a child — partnerships such as Crash and Aku Aku, Spyro and Sparx, and Jak and Daxter. Being the lone protagonist in a game is a power fantasy, but being joined by a friend who can share in the successes as well as the sorrow of an adventure is brilliant and unforgettable. To me that’s what the Ratchet & Clank franchise excels at.
It makes you feel like a kid again with your best friend in tow. This is what having a friend along for a perilous adventure can feel like, and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart exemplifies this perfectly.