ReCore had me excited from the word go. It was a new IP, which is always interesting to see, and the theme looked really interesting. A lone girl, stranded on a desert planet with only a small cadre of robotic companions fighting against other robots gone berserk. The robots are controlled by AI cores in the form of crystal spheres, color coded by abilities and traits.
The game promised a lot. An intriguing story, innovative mechanics, and a big world to explore with you mechanized buddies. And what’s more, all this would be delivered for the low price of $40.
Which admittedly had me a little worried. The industry has a standard for a reason, and diverting from it has to have an equally good reason. Arcade games are typically $15-$30 and we know what to expect from that range. But ReCore came in at $40. Too low for a full release, but too high to be called an arcade game.
Nevertheless, I remained excited! When Tuesday rolled around I shelled out on the money over Xbox Live and got the game via digital download. In the last week I’ve spent a good fifteen or so hours on it. So what do I think? Is the game good or bad?
Neither. In a world, I would say the game is disappointing. Not because it’s particularly bad. On the contrary, the majority of it is quite good. But a few glaring errors mar the title, and a handful of others aren’t used as well as they should. None of them are gamebreaking, but they add up quickly to leave a sour taste in your mouth.
Let’s start with the positive. The entire premise of the game is new and interesting. After a plague known as Dust Devil infects Earth, mankind decides the best bet is to terraform a new planet called Far Eden. Technicians and advanced AI called corebots are sent ahead to aid in the process. The rest of humanity will rest in cryostasis aboard ships in orbit.
Joule Adams, the daughter of the man who invented corebot technology, is one of the technicians. You play as her, waking up from cryostasis on Far Eden to find the terraforming incomplete and the corebots rogue. Together with your robot dog MA-3K (“Mack”) you seek to discover what happened and put the world back together.
It’s a cool premise, and it unfolds quite nicely. Joule discovers that a corebot named Victor has gone berserk and infected the other bots, sabotaging the terraforming process. Along the way you find another technician named Kai, along with two more bots named Duncan and Seth.
The ending is not terribly exciting. I won’t spoil it for those that wish to play it, but I’ll warn you now you will see it coming. It doesn’t live up to the rest of the game, and you’re left wondering to yourself “Is that really it?”.
The hope is that the gameplay can make up for this shortcoming. And it does, for the most part. The combat in the game is engaging enough for what it is. Your rifle can change color to match the colors of corebots you fight. Matching allows you to deal more damage, so you want to switch on the fly to maximize your lethality.
It’s engaging, and I never really got tired of it, but it also doesn’t live up to it’s potential. The different colors can technically impart a status effect. They aren’t very powerful however, and their unpredictability makes it hard to use them. Your corebot allies help you fight and have special abilities called lethals. But honestly, I never even noticed their presence. Of the dozen different lethals the game gives you access to, only one or two actually feel useful. And none of them feel stronger then just continuing to shoot.
All of which isn’t a huge issue. Not living up to potential is disappointing but not a gamebreaking complaint. The problem is the number of smaller issues that do periodically break the game. My biggest complaint here is the ridiculous prevalence of stun locks.
Enemy corebots have special abilities too, and most of them briefly stun you in addition to doing damage. This isn’t new to games, and it isn’t a huge deal. The thing is that a large number of these abilities are practically impossible to dodge and fired in waves. It isn’t uncommon to get hit by one ability and be stunned long enough that the rest automatically hit you. The whole chain can take out most or all of your life before you can even react.
It is incredibly frustrating. It’s made even worse because the game loves to throw arenas at you. You’re forced to fight through multiple waves of enemies. You can go through ten minutes of a fight without ever even getting hit. Then the last enemy stun locks you and you have to start the whole thing over.
Moving on from that, I want to address a key component of the game: collectible gates and dungeons. The end of the game arrives quickly, which is disappointing for the price tag of the game. It wouldn’t be so egregious, but after defeating the final boss the game doesn’t end. Instead there’re a handful of platforming levels to get through. Each of these must be unlocked by attaining a certain level and acquiring enough Prismatic Orbs, the game’s main collectible.
Now I like collectible gates in games. They incentivize exploring and provide a tangible reward in the form of entirely new areas to access and play through. It’s fun, and I think they’re a good mechanic.
What I don’t like is being forced to do them just to finish the game. The game was going by too fast, but forcing me to go back and play all of the optional content was not the right way to fix that.
The dungeons aren’t any better. For the most part they’re fun, but they’re jarringly disconnected from the rest of the game. The traversal based dungeons are particularly bad. One of the requirements for fully completing them is doing them fast enough, but there’s no way to reset them. Even dying doesn’t restart it, though it still counts against your time. The only way to reset the clock is to finish he dungeon, which can take two to ten minutes.
A number of other little things hamper the game. Mostly these are bugs or glitches. A phased out ledge makes it hard to platform, or my lock-on won’t follow my enemy properly.
By far my biggest “little” complaint was the load times. This game loads a lot, and when it does it takes a really long time. There are six different areas in the game with a number of smaller dungeons, and all of them require a load screen that can take up to five minutes. Sometimes I would fast travel back to the home base and then connect to a different area, and the load time would take so long that I would pull out a book.
Even the ideas in the game weren’t taken to their conclusion. The game feels like there was supposed to be more, in terms of mechanics and raw content. Even the tank chassis, which was used in media, wasn’t actually released in the game. They’ve said it’ll eventually be released as DLC, though they haven’t said if it’ll be free.
At the end of the day ReCore isn’t a bad game. I don’t regret buying it and I genuinely enjoy my experience playing it. The word of the day is disappointment. This game could have been something much more than it ended up being. Something absolutely amazing. Instead it was simply something decent. And at the end of the day, decent games aren’t what we hope for.