Rift Apart is the best kind of alternate dimension story

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is an interdimensional story, introducing counterparts to each of the nearly 19-year-old characters. Rivet, The Phantom, Captain Quantum, and more all exist as alternate versions of characters we’ve known for years. Rift Apart shows us something new about Ratchet & Clank’s existing cast by letting these new characters serve as mirrors to the old ones.

Rivet and her companion are the best exemplifiers of this new storytelling approach. For all their similarities to Ratchet and Clank, the most interesting aspects of their personalities are in the differences. And by peering into their nature, we also get to learn more about the heroes we’ve known for nearly two decades.

[Ed. note: This post includes some major spoilers for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.]

“New” heroes

Rivet hangs out alone in Nefarious City
Image: Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Ratchet and Clank have been the staple leads of the franchise since the beginning. Players have controlled the two titular characters for the entire main series, only jumping in to control other characters in multiplayer modes and spinoffs. In Rift Apart, Rivet is a new Lombax who marks not only the first non-Ratchet or Clank playable character in the mainline series, but also the most significant female character in the entire franchise.

And just like Ratchet and Clank, she’s mostly a package deal. Where we’ve always had Ratchet & Clank, moving forward we’ll also have Rivet & Kit.

Rift Apart revolves around Clank’s new restoration project, the Dimensionator — a new, weaponized version of a gadget from Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction. Clank gives Ratchet the Dimensionator so the Lombax can meet the long-lost members of his species. But, of course, things go horribly wrong. Series villain Dr. Nefarious steals the Dimensionator and uses it to whisk himself and the heroes off to a dimension where Nefarious always wins.

While jumping between rifts, Ratchet and Clank get separated from one another, with Clank getting busted-up in the fall. Rivet, a Lombax from this other dimension, finds Clank and takes him with her to her secret base, hoping to extract information from him. Meanwhile, Ratchet tries to chase this mysterious Lombax down and find Clank.

Relatively quickly, Rift Apart makes it clear that Rivet is Ratchet’s dimensional counterpart — as in, she’s her dimension’s version of Ratchet. But unlike Ratchet, Rivet mostly works alone. That is, until she pairs up with Clank.

Ratchet also bumps into another small, intelligent, and charming robot. This new bot reluctantly helps Ratchet, although she’s worried about getting too close to a new friend. She eventually accepts Ratchet’s invitation to become temporary partners and adopts the name Kit.

When Ratchet and Kit and Rivet and Clank finally meet up, the two Lombax heroes swap robot buddies, and the new duos are complete. But Rivet and Kit’s initial friendship is rocky, to say the least. Because of their very different life experiences, Rivet and Kit have more baggage than Ratchet and Clank.

Baggage across dimensions

Rivet and Clank bond together early on in Rift Apart
Image: Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Ratchet and Rivet are both Lombaxes and both heroes — both are wildly successful combatants with a powerful arsenal — but their lives are very different.

Ratchet grew up as an orphan on the planet Veldin. Rivet, also seemingly an orphan, found a family with the midwestern-like Morts on the planet Sargasso.

When we first met Ratchet in 2002, he was an ass. But after so many years of living and adventuring with Clank, he’s softened into a loving, hopeful character. He’s selfless, and in Rift Apart, he goes out of his way to befriend Kit. He’s still the same old Ratchet, but we’ve seen him change for the better because of his circumstances: meeting Clank, becoming a hero, and a variety of other events over the series history. That’s growth.

We don’t have that kind of history with Rivet. But when we first see her, she’s putting herself in danger to help an alien. She’s a key member of the resistance in her dimension. From our only reference point, she seems to be far more kind before she meets Kit than Ratchet was before he met Clank. It’s part of Rivet’s life experience; she eventually met the Morts, while Ratchet had nobody until Clank.

But as the story goes on, we learn Rivet’s hang-ups run deeper than Ratchet’s ever did. Ratchet was a selfish jerk, but Rivet is more complex. She has trust issues and some understandably deep-seated anger around her circumstances. Ratchet hasn’t developed those feelings because he and Clank have been stopping incompetent villains from controlling the universe for nearly two decades. Rivet’s dimension isn’t quite as fortunate, because its villain is far more competent. And therein lies the root of Rivet’s mistrust: a lifetime living under a robotic regime.

Rivet and a Spybot high-five
Image: Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

Clank and Kit’s similarities aren’t quite as stark. Both started as Warbots. But because Clank was defective and ran into Ratchet early in his life, he never got forced to hurt others. He’s been confident in his pursuit of justice since birth. But Emperor Nefarious used Kit as a violent tool, making her feel like a danger to others. Both robots are hyper-intelligent and earnest, but one never got the baggage that the other did.

Ratchet and Rivet, Clank and Kit; each pair is a mirror of the other. But each mirror has its own unique cracks that make them who they are. Had the positions been swapped, and Ratchet had a makeshift family to rely on but also fell under an empire, would he react the same way as Rivet does when Kit reveals herself as a Warbot? Would Clank be an anxious mess, unable to trust himself had he been forced to act as a Warbot? Rift Apart suggests that answer is yes.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart explores that very delicate thread of “what makes me, me?” It examines how baggage and circumstances can shape a person beyond their nature. Kit and Rivet’s lives have been harder than Ratchet and Clank’s, and their damage almost destroys a shot at genuine friendship. But their ability to set aside their own fears and mistrust, because they both care more about helping save their dimension, tells us just as much about Ratchet and Clank’s true nature as it does Rivet and Kit’s.

The failure to stop insurmountable evil — something Rivet and Kit are more familiar with than Ratchet and Clank — doesn’t stop someone from being a hero. For the differences in their worlds, what unites these characters is the drive to step up and fight back, regardless of how difficult the task may be or how many times they’ve fallen down.

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