Review: ReCore (Xbox One)
Every now and again, there comes a game with such incredible potential to be something truly extraordinary. ReCore is one such game, but unfortunately its potential is squandered by its implementation, bugs and most of all insecurity about itself.
A Very good start
ReCore introduces us to Joule, a friendly, likable character that seems to be alone (except for her faithful corebot called Mack). They are located on the planet called Far Eden, a barren desert-like world that was to be a new home for mankind. But, something went wrong and Joule, along with Mack and other bot friends she meets along the way, set out to find out what went wrong and maybe set things right.
It is a very good premise, and the start of the game might be a bit vague, but a solid foundation is lain for a decent story to follow. There are a few things of ReCore that caught me by surprise, and that was openness of the game. I expected something a bit more linear, and while it is certainly very straightforward, it turns out the game offers a pretty decent sandbox to explore with enough to do to keep you busy and entertained.
It also has some decent combat and the platforming mechanics are some of the best I’ve seen in a while. You have a double jump along with a dash-boost movement, and landing on the platforms and places you aim works pretty well. You later get a corebot that allows you to traverse certain areas on a rail, and eventually propels you to previously unreachable areas.
There’s a definite Metroidvania feel to the game, as you have to obtain certain skills, abilities or corebots in order to reach main objective or secondary locations. The maps have a few dungeons, which you can (and definitely should) explore for extra parts and cores.
Combat is clear-cut, which mostly involves you shooting while dodging the enemies attacks. When an enemy drops some loot in comes in the form of parts and spares that you can utilise to upgrade your bots. You also have an option to extract the core of the enemy bot, which you can use to upgrade the attack, defense and energy powers of your bots. It can get a bit hairy though, and choosing the right colour attack for your rifle, along with the timing of your bots’ charge attacks becomes crucial in more ways than one, since failure really isn’t a great option.
RPG Light at its Core
ReCore features some surprising upgrading and leveling-up mechanics. It all revolves around your corebots. You basically scavenge for parts and blueprints, which you can then turn into parts to upgrade and level the bots. As stated before you can also assign points to certain attributes of the bots such as its attack powers, defense and energy, and each bot has its own strengths and weaknesses. It’s very simple, but it works well and it encourages you to go out and look for certain blueprint parts in order to upgrade yourself to become more powerful.
Sadly, it also falls a bit short, since it only really upgrades your bots’ combat ability and very little else. Each of the bots have specific skills, and upgrading these skills to become more effective would’ve been nice. You also cannot upgrade the abilities of Joule, which could have made for some interesting gameplay if she acquired some added abilities along her quest, but unfortunately, it feels like a missed opportunity.
A nice looking coat of paint
ReCore is a good-looking game by most standards, and its easy to forget that it’s not a full AAA title, but rather an indie game that received the AAA treatment. The design is crisp and refreshing, and even the desert landscape seems alive. Character models also look very nice, especially on Joule and her companion corebots. Facial animations does however feel a bit off. Its clear that the developers went for an artistic cartoony look for the game as opposed to realism, but something felt very off during some of the cut scenes that involved Joule removing her mask.
Overall, ReCore is not a badly presented package, but there are some glaring issues that completely ruined the experience for me, and ultimately influences my opinion of a game that started out so strongly.
All good intentions ruined
Loading screens is something we’ve come to deal with in games, but it has become better over the years, with developers learning new optimisation techniques or utilising cool mini games or loading animations, which doesn’t make it feel quite as long. The developers at ReCore clearly skipped that class, since it has some of the longest loading screens I have experienced in a very long time.
While other games, such as GTA V for instance, would have an incredibly long initial loading time, anything after that is quick and seamless. But it’s not the case here. If you die in combat, you can prepare yourself for a wait of close to two minutes! Yes, two agonising minutes. It also sometimes spawns you back right into the action, so you get killed almost instantly, which means… yup another two-minute wait. I battled to get past a particularly hard fight for almost an hour, and half of that hour was spent staring at a loading screen. The loading times were so long, I could’ve gone out, met my future wife, get married, have kids, get a divorce, see my kids off to varsity and returned back in time to continue playing.
Yes, that is a bit of an over exaggeration, but not by much and it completely ruined the overall experience for me. What makes it even worse is the needless backtracking that the game forces on you. It completely breaks the immersion of the game as well as the sense of urgency that you might feel at some point. It has a metroidvania style to it, but it doesn’t implement it very well, as it almost feels tacked on and out of place, almost to make the game feel longer than what it really is. It’s poorly executed and that, along with the abysmal loading times, really made me feel very negative about what should’ve been a great game.
ReCore is a charming game, and its biggest shortcomings is something that can maybe be fixed with a few patches along the way. I really enjoyed the game in the beginning, and it is incredibly disappointing to finish the game by almost hating it. What starts out as a fun adventure with a likeable bunch of characters, ends up being an exercise in teeth-grinding frustration. While certain game design choices can be forgiven, the loading times can’t, not by the standards set these days.
I really hope it gets fixed, since the world needs more games like ReCore, games that sits somewhere between the AAA and indie titles. It is a bit of an unexplored part of the industry, and those that do venture there might stumble a bit in the dark. I just hope they learn from each others mistakes, especially from this one.