Corebots in disguise.
Sometimes I just want to play a video game. Having played them for the better part of my time on this planet, things have changed so much with each generation. Games as services have become the latest craze; living games that evolve over time. This makes me nostalgic for the days when a game was straightforward. It is what it is, so to speak. ReCore is that kind of game.
It should come as no shock considering the pedigree behind it. Armature is a team made up of a lot of the same talent that worked on the legendary Metroid Prime game, and Comcept is headed by none other than Keiji Inafune, who some remember for the Mega Man series as well as the recent Mighty No. 9. ReCore is the definition of these nostalgic feelings. There is no living game here, no multiplayer, just a beginning to end experience akin to what some referred to as the B-tier of titles released last generation.
Platforms: PC, XB1
Price I’d Pay: $39.99
Time to Beat: 10-15 hours
Players take on the role of Joule, as she awakens on the planet of New Eden after a long cryosleep. Things are not going according to plan, and she sets out on an adventure to discover why the world that should have been ready for human habitation is still so barren. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic environment where humans have attempted to terraform a new planet, but Joule appears to be the only one around, well except for the Corebots of course.
Return of the Mack
The Corebots are, for lack of a better word, the core of the game. Joule starts off with just one, Mack, but over time gains a trio of personalities to aid and fight alongside her. These sidekicks all have distinct personalities, and even names to go along with them. Mack is the equivalent of a dog, and can dig up items in the barren wasteland of New Eden. Seth is a tepid spiderbot that helps Joule climb around the world, and Duncan is a bipedal robot that can smash certain areas around the world.
All three of them make up the content-gated portions of the game, which makes the design of their use all the more troublesome. Later in the game new frames also become available, and players can swap out the minds into new bodies. For example Mack could be switched in a flying frame, thus changing his abilities. It is a cool system, but one hindered by the aforementioned design decision. Players can only take two bots at a time out into the world, thus creating a padding to make the game feel longer than it really is.
I simply don’t understand this decision. The game gates content around the world based on these Corebots abilities, then limits which ones can be used at any given time. It creates needless backtracking to Joule’s crawler with the only benefit that the game clock is increased. It slows down the pace of an otherwise exciting ride.
Corebots can also be upgrade by collecting new blueprints throughout the world. Each piece can be crafted using scrap found around the world, and even upgraded with core fusion to increase their abilities. It is a cool system, which is good as Joule herself doesn’t come with any type of skill tree. Instead her rifle and the Corebots themselves level up based on collected XP for killing enemies.
Combat is fun, combining shooter action with the Corebot abilities in a fast-paced, arcade-style mash-up. There is a combo system that increases damage as it grows larger. Joule can also opt to extract cores from enemies, which garner items and power-ups for her Corebots. The combat is immensely satisfying, especially when I was able to execute an instant extraction, which then caused a massive explosion, damaging all enemies around.
Corebots also join in on the action, providing support and even having special moves of their own. I will be honest, Seth is by far the best to bring into combat. His pulse shots absolutely devastate most enemies, especially after he is leveled up, so he was almost always in my party. One major issue I had with combat though is the stunlock animations for the various shot types. Joule could easily get in an animation loop that resulted in instant death. As long as I was moving, things were fine, but one mistake and it all started over, as I had little chance to recover.
A color for every occasion
Joule also has three different shot types based on color. Each color matches the enemy, dealing more damage when switched. It is a neat mechanic that works well in practice. Switching up between the various colors kept combat from becoming a slog. Outside of the cheap deaths, combat was by far the highlight of the game.
Where ReCore can fall apart though is in its pacing. I blasted through most of the game in about six hours. This was doing minimal side quests and dungeons from the start, just to push through a lot of the story. When I reached what was clearly the end of the game, a wall pops up.
Prismatic cores are the main collectible, and they are similar to the stars in Mario 64. A certain number is required to enter some dungeons. The final area has several gated areas that require these cores, which meant venturing back out into the world to find more of them. The poor fast travel system and Corebot limitations can make this a slog at times, and while the combat remains interesting, traversing the same areas over and over quickly siphoned the fun out of the end game.
ReCore is longer than it needs to be, and that is its biggest crime. This game would have been a perfect 6-8 hour game, but instead it felt like the developers wanted to aim for that 10+ experience, thus sacrificing the pacing towards the climax. I would have happily gone back to explore more after completion, but the game instead forced me to do it earlier, thus breaking the pace of an otherwise solid and fairly linear experience.
ReCore has the privilege of being the first game in Microsoft’s Play Anywhere program. This means players who purchase the game digitally will receive both the Xbox One and PC versions of the game. Achievements and saves are shared across both platforms, and in my tests this all worked flawlessly. I started the game on PC then switched immediately to Xbox One, then back with no break in the action. It is worth noting that the PC version features increased resolution, and plenty of bells and whistles that can be tweaked, including an unlocked framerate.
ReCore looks good on both machines though, and while the Xbox One certainly isn’t as sharp, it looks good. The framerate does struggle at times to keep a solid 30 on XB1, but it rarely hinders actual game play. The biggest difference between the two versions though is loading times. The XB1 version is one of the worst examples I have seen in years. Dying in a dungeon can sometimes produce up to two minute load times, which is entirely unacceptable. The PC version is much, much better, so for those that have the option, the PC version is where to play.
ReCore was exactly what I wanted from a game like this. The action is fun and the exploration kept me interested. I just wish the pacing towards the end was better. While it mimicked the parts I love about classic adventure titles, it also copied the poor padding practices as well. Still, ReCore is a game that I would recommend to anyone that just enjoys playing games. It bypasses all the services and forced multiplayer we have come to expect, not to mention it is a heck of a lot of fun to play.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.
This game was reviewed on an ORIGIN PC
- Motherboard: Gigabyte Z87N
- Liquid Cooling: Origin Frostbyte 120 Liquid Cooling
- Processor: Intel Core i7 4770K Quad-Core
- Memory: Kingston HyperX 8GB 1600 MHz
- Graphics Card: Single NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN (6GB)