One botched blueprint
The long awaited ReCore has finally arrived. Having seen the initial trailer during E3 2015, this Microsoft exclusive title has been on my mind. ReCore’s trailer showed off a female protagonist, fun platforming, and a variety of weapons/robot companions. It was completely my aesthetic and reminded me a bit of the Jak and Daxter series. I was hooked.
ReCore was one of the reasons I bought an Xbox One. But, after playing through it, I’m relieved to say my relationship with my Xbox One does not depend on this IP.
Developed by Comcept Armature Studios, ReCore is an action-adventure platformer with some elements of an open-world. The premise of the game is as follows: Joule wakes up from a cryogenic sleep on a planet known as Far Eden only to find the corebots, who helped establish the colony, have turned against the humans. It’s a tale as old as time, and it’s up to our heroine to set things right–alongside her corebot, Mac.
The game doesn’t hesitate to throw you into the action. You quickly figure things out as you are presented with jumps to make and enemies to kill. The controls are fairly intuitive and tips appear on screen–especially during the early stages of the game. The first boss battle happens early enough that your goals in this game are quickly established: figure out why the corebots rebelled and how to set things right again. This is achieved by defeating enemy corebots, adventuring, and collecting prismatic cores.
To aid her in her quest, Joule starts out with a white gun and her loyal corebot companion–Mac. Mac can help out in battle by attacking enemy corebots on your command. Additionally, you can use Mac to search the sand; if he finds a dig spot he can retrieve hidden items for you. Later in her journey, Joule is joined by two more corebot companions–each with their own special abilities to help you battle and explore.
Far Eden itself is a semi-open world that Joule explores on foot, using her rocket booster shoes or via fast travel with the help of a little robot named Violet. The scenery can be altered by sandstorms, and there’s a range of unlockable areas that can be accessed using prismatic cores. It is worth noting that some prismatic cores can only be obtained with certain corebots–which led to quite a bit of backtracking later in the game.
Enemy corebots are constantly appearing, but players are rewarded for combat. In addition to XP that will level-up your weapons, the cores and other items gained from slain enemies can to boost the stats of your corebot companions. Exploration is encouraged, since Far Eden is filled with blueprints for improved corebot parts–which Joule can craft and equip in her crawler.
On paper, ReCore is a good game, but in practice it flounders in its own poorly paced story, low-quality audio, forced backtracking, and brutal load times.
I don’t need a good story to enjoy a videogame. Some of my favorite games have stories that are afterthoughts at best (Princess Peach being kidnapped by Bowser has never been–and will never be–a riveting tale). However, when story is presented as a key game aspect, I expect it to be of some quality. I can live with ReCore’s semi-generic storyline of robots taking over; it’s the presentation and pacing that ruins the experience for me. We, as players, find out everything so quickly and never have to think for ourselves. I want to have moments of curiosity; I want to piece things together. ReCore allows me to do neither. Between Joule’s constant narration of everything (from plot to in game obstacles) and the weird audio log collectibles, I was given an overly straightforward story and random snippets of a story. The worst of both worlds.
In addition to a sub par plot, I found myself completely uninvested in any of the characters. I didn’t care about Joule or anyone else that appeared during her journey. None of these human characters had any personality. I will say that Joule’s corebots were quite charming, but they needed more cut scene screen time to solidify them as dynamic characters.
As far as audio, the soundtrack is extremely forgettable, and the dialogue can be hard to hear over the atmospheric sounds. I realize this may be done on purpose for the sake of realism (Joule is one of the few left on Far Eden after all), but it just leads to comprehension issues. I’m one of those gamers who plays her own music while gaming, but with ReCore I couldn’t because I was worried I’d miss one of Joule’s tips or one of the audio logs–neither of which should happen, since I have subtitles enabled. Another flaw is when you collect, and thus trigger, an audio log, it keeps playing no matter what–even if you trigger a cut scene, it will just continue playing over it.
For a game that mentions, very bluntly, early on that you can do the campaign or explore for more items, I was very frustrated to find myself backtracking midway through. At one point, I was missing six prismatic cores to continue the game. I spent several hours hunting them down. In my opinion, the gap should never be that big (one or two I understand). Personally, I see it as a design flaw. If you need 16 prismacores to open a door, for example, the game should make you get 14-15 before even reaching that door.
And lastly, all of these complaints pale in comparison to the obnoxious load times for everything.
Fast travel, load. Open a door, load. And worst of all–die, load. Load screen can last for over a minute. This is completely unacceptable in this era of gaming. Gut whatever you have to, but please fix this problem.
ReCore is not without some redeeming qualities, however. The platforming is an absolute joy: offering straightforward challenges and visually pleasing obstacles. Flying through the air with Seth is a memory I’ll forever cherish.
The combat itself is fairly simplistic (ex. you’ll want to use yellow ammo on yellow enemies). But it’s truly a blast: easy enough to avoid frustration, but once a lot of high level foes are coming your way, you’ll be entertained and challenged by their different powers. You’ll find yourself avoiding fire, static, gunfire, and so on.
And there’s something so satisfying about extracting cores from enemies.
Still, it’s just not enough.
Even for the low price of $40, I can’t recommend ReCore. This game feels like a first draft. A lot of the gameplay mechanics are there, but the world and story fails to satisfy. You’re best off waiting for the price to become insanely low, picking it up, and hoping for an IP saving sequel.
I certainly am.