Review: ReCore (Xbox One)
Recore is one of those rare games that comes along every couple of years that really captures your heart with fun mechanics, great platforming, a potentially great progression system, and a hope that the game would continue to evolve over the course of its playthrough. Unfortunately, that love and hope quickly vanishes around the eight hour mark and ReCore descends into something tedious, unforgiving, stagnant, and not to mention ugly.
Developed by Microsoft Studios in collaboration with Comcept Studios, ReCore is the culmination of producers from the highly respected Metroid Prime series and Mega Man series. With a resume like that, ReCore should have been a hit right out of the box. The game stars a young engineer named Joule as the last human on a planet called Far Eden. Joule's existence and purpose is left a mystery but as the story unfolds, it's discovered that Joule is one of the last remnants of humanity sent to Far Eden to terraform and prepare the planet for human colonization. Aided by her robot dog, Mack, and cryptic messages left by her father, Joule must journey across the desert wasteland of Far Eden to uncover why she's the last woman on the planet.
The story starts off intriguingly enough, and Joule as a character is smart and capable but as the game progresses, more and more the game strays from that initial mystery. By the eight hour mark, the game lost all momentum, and my interest in the story, as it became singularly focused on defeating the main villain, and treated me to an ending so anti-climactic that Damon Lindelof would be jealous.
The gameplay starts off great as well. A third-person action shooter/platformer, ReCore plays like Ratchet and Clank with the auto-aim system of Metroid Prime and the overworld and dungeon system of The Legend of Zelda. Joule is only given an automatic plasma rifle, but as the story progresses, she finds upgrades that add different ammo types to the gun. Each ammo type is a different color to match the color type of the enemies she encounters, which are large robots buried in the sands of Far Eden. Depending on what color the enemy is, that color of ammo will deal significantly more damage to the target. There's an ammo meter underneath the crosshairs and ammo replenishes fairly quickly as long as the trigger isn't being held down. The shooter aspect of ReCore feels pretty good and the auto-aim system is implemented well, but I had several issues where the auto-aim would lock on to a target far away in the distance rather than focusing on the enemy in front of me. You can easily switch between targets but it became a common nuisance the more I made my way through the game.
Joule can also double jump, typical of any action platformer, but she also has a nifty dash maneuver to quickly traverse across the world and reach far cliffs. The platforming feels great and is probably my favorite aspect of this game as there are puzzles that will require some quick thinking and even some utilization of one of your robot companions to help in a cinch.
Joule will make friends with four upgrade-able robots in the game: a dog, a gorilla, a spider, and a flying...thing, each of which have unique abilities Joule can use to access unreachable areas and call upon in the heat of battle to deal massive damage to enemies. The robots' abilities are a blast to use, like Seth who uses spider-like arms to climb along tracks with Joule in tow, but there are some dungeons and areas that aren't clear on which robot Joule will need and she can only use two at a time so if she reaches an area that requires a specific robot, she will need to return to a fast travel point to swap them out. The worst aspect of this is towards the later part of the game where suddenly each robot is revealed to be a shell and their cores can be swapped between each animal frame to use their abilities. Adding insult to injury, the only way to swap cores is by returning to Joule's home base inside of a large Star Wars-like crawler, which becomes a chore because I felt like I was spending more time on the load screens than I did actually playing the game.
The load times. Oh boy, the load times. One of the many technical "marvels" of ReCore. This game is a technical mess from constant clipping on Joule's character model, even when she's standing still, and the occasional falling through the world to the ridiculously long load times. I've come across long load times in both Witcher 3 and Bloodborne but those games take a lot of power to run while ReCore looks like a lesser HD remake of a Playstation 2 game so it's baffling that this is a problem on a modern console.
While the structure of the game is relatively straightforward (Follow waypoint, collect this, defeat that) the game becomes rather tedious. In order to unlock new dungeons, Joule must collect prismatic cores which are found throughout the world of Far Eden and within dungeons. They're collected at a relatively quick rate while accomplishing story missions but just as the game feels like it's ramping up, suddenly there's a large difficulty spike, the gameplay drastically changes, and the last five missions are unforgivably locked behind collecting prismatic cores. I've never enjoyed the last few hours of a game less than I have with ReCore.
ReCore is a mess of a video game. With great ideas and initially great execution, the fun eventually runs dry and what's left is a baron wasteland as empty as Far Eden itself.