Available On: Xbox One, PC
Genre: Action Adventure
Official Site: recoregame.com
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Where to Buy: Xbox Live, Windows Store on PC, Retail
I really wanted to love ReCore. The platforming heavy gameplay and the fun open world are a joy to tinker with, but technical limitations and some strange gameplay mechanics bogged down the experience, dragging it into mediocrity.
The denizens of Earth have left the planet as it decays and crumbles. They set their eyes on the far-off planet of Far Eden – a desert wasteland with ecology similar to Earth’s. Humanity sits in cryo sleep for hundreds of years while mighty machines called pillars terraform the planet. But something has gone wrong.
You play as Joule, a colonist of Earth who has woken up a little too early. You wander the barren industrial wastes of Far Eden, accompanied by you versatile robotic companions.
Gameplay revolves around the exploration of the game’s various open areas and intricate dungeons. You need to hunt down Prismatic Cores that can help revive the planet and reveal the truth about what actually happened to humanity.
In order to do this, you’ll need to take full advantage of your suite of abilities. You can double jump and dash forward to traverse the rock ledges and decrepit corpses of the long broken machines. You’ll also need to leverage the various abilities of your robotic companions. The k-9 core lets you uncover goodies hidden beneath the sand. The spider core lets you scurry up yellow tracks, reaching previously inaccessible areas. There are several cores and robotic forms to find and befriend, each with their own personalities, abilities, and combat moves.
The cores are your main companions throughout your journey, offering support in the form of a cluster of beeps and whistles. Each one has a distinct personality, making them more than just tools for reaching the next sandy area.
While their traversal abilities are invaluable, in combat they can be a little less reliable. Combat is simple at first glance but relies less on aim and precision and more on constant movement. You lock onto enemies, choose a bullet color (red, yellow, blue, or white) that corresponds to the color of their core, and start pumping bullets into their corroded metallic frames.
You can finish an enemy off one of two ways: either by shooting it until it dies and explodes or by getting its health low enough to extract its core. This results in a tug of war minigame. An orb of light travels down your grappling line, and if the line glows red you know you need to let it slack. It leaves you completely defenseless but they’re worth the trouble.
Defeating enemies outright will net you debris and while engaging in the minigame will fill your pack with cores. Debris and be broken down to create new bodies for the cores, ones that can withstand a beating and are impervious to certain effects. Cores, on the other hand, are used to raise the overall attributes of each core, strengthening their base stats.
Combating one enemy can be pretty dull. You just need to dash and jump out of the way as they spray projectiles at you. But when a horde of robotic wolves comes sprinting across the sand it is a very different story. Melee and projectile attacks close in from every direction, each one knocking off a large chunk of Joule’s health.
It’s occasionally frustrating feeling so weak. And with the game’s leveling system it’s sometimes easy to find yourself out leveled and outnumbered, which is often a surefire recipe for watching one of the games extremely lengthy loading screen crawl by.
The Xbox One version of the game, which is what the game was primarily reviewed on, suffers from load times that sometimes stretch as long as two minutes. When I died or entered a new locale I was often able to use the bathroom and grab a drink before the game had launched me back into the action. Load times are certainly better on PC but still drag down the experience. They disrupt the pacing, which is generally great otherwise. The game is constantly pushing you towards the next objective, at least in the beginning.
Later areas are gated by a specific number of Prismatic Cores, forcing you to scour the landscape and find the missing collectibles. It’s a great way to see the side dungeons and secret areas that are tucked away in the darker corners of the map. But I just wish the developers didn’t gate the story in this fashion. It once again muddles the pacing, turning what starts as a smooth platforming action game reminiscent of titles from the early 2000s into a mediocre title that has some great ideas.
The latter half of the game hides most of these problems. As things get more complicated and new and more complex systems are added everything just doesn’t flow as well. The upgrade and forging systems are fun to explore and tinker with and you’ll need to fiddle with it in order to finish the game. But that doesn’t make it any less exciting.
ReCore is at its most fun when it presents players with a slew of obstacles to leap and dash around, making their way to a tantalizing goal in the distance, wiping the floor with ay enemies that decide to block your path. The mobility granted to Joule from the offset makes exploration incredibly satisfying.
What’s incredibly disappointing is that exploring is sometimes more work than it should be. I was simply minding my business, hunting down a side dungeon in the vicinity, when I found myself plummeting through the ground, descending into nothingness. The screen faded to black, informed me that I had died and served me another lengthy loading screen.
Instances like this aren’t exactly few and far between, either. Mission objects randomly repeated when I entered an older area, hampering my progress. I fell through the environment more than once. And each and every time a painfully long loading screen as at the end. For a game that encourages exploration, ReCore sure makes it difficult to enjoy its tantalizing world.
Don’t get me wrong; I had a lot of fun with ReCore. Its problems are just too glaring to ignore. The fun base that is established almost immediately is eventually bogged down by a desire to drag out the experience with gated areas and unnecessary padding, not to mention the plethora of technical problems.
The glimmer of possibility still lies beneath the muddled exterior of ReCore, but that possibility is extinguished after a couple hours of play, replaced by a sense of disappointment and frustration. I loved the feeling of playing a modern iteration of a game from my childhood; I just wish the technical problems had stayed in the past.
Gameplay: An action platformer with lock-on combat and slight open world elements.
Graphics: The world of Far Eden is beautiful and diverse, despite being mostly sand.
Sound: The beeps and whistles of your robotic companions are delightful, but the music is rather forgettable.
Presentation: Despite a strong first impression, ReCore quickly shows how technically inept it is.
- Fantastic platforming
- Fun, hectic combat
- Charming robotic companions
- Technical problems
- Unnecessary padding near the end
- Inconsistent story
Steadfast Nintendo fan who loves to expand his knowledge of the gaming industry. Follow him on Twitter to hear his musings on games and life in general.