STAFF REVIEW of ReCore (Xbox One)

Friday, September 16, 2016.
by Kirby Yablonski

ReCore Box art At E3 2015 Microsoft teased a game called ReCore. It was a game shrouded in some mystery given that it was just a teaser trailer and not too much information, if any, was given. At E3 2016 this past June, ReCore was fully unveiled to the public and the reception was generally positive. Given that developers Comcept (headed by Mega Man legend Keiji Inafune) and Armature are fairly well respected, there was some buzz about it. The demo, which revealed a combination of platforming and shooting, wasn’t half bad, and the game was looking good at the annual E3 show. Fast forward to the present and ReCore has been released to the masses. At an entry price point of $40 ($50 CDN) many wonder if this Microsoft Studios published game is just a cheap one shot experience or something that was priced under the regular cost of AAA game, but would offer some ‘gaming’ value. Having put the game through its paces over the past week, we here at XBA believe the game deserves your time, even though there are a few hiccups during the adventure.

In terms of the game’s story, Earth is in a critical state and mankind has moved on to another planet where they are trying to terraform it. The new planet is known as Far Eden. Joule, the main protagonist, wakes up to find out that the whole terraforming process has been thrown “out-of-whack” and the robots that are on the planet to help them with the terraforming have turned against her and the other people, and to complicate things a little more, those ‘other people’ are nowhere to be found. Joule, and her corebot Mack (a robotic companion), set out to discover what has happened on Far Eden and try to get the project back on track. During their adventure they make a lot of discoveries about the world they are currently inhabiting, both good and bad. There are a few surprises to be experienced during your adventure too.

The narrative in ReCore is not that bad. During your quest you can learn a lot more about the story, and the people involved, by finding audio logs hidden throughout the open world and the ‘dungeons’ you play through. These audio logs add more context to the narrative, as you hear various tidbits from various people in charge of the mission to Far Eden, including Joule’s father, about stuff that was going on during the trip to, and start of, the terraforming phase. They are not crucial, but they do add further background about some of the things you find, and some of the things you’ll see. Sure, the story won’t win a Pulitzer Prize, but it’s not bad and will have your attention as you play.

ReCore is a great mix of Platforming, Combat, and Adventure. I was very surprised with how many elements are mixed into the gameplay. Being that the game is 3D in nature, I had concerns that the platforming would be disappointing; however, the mechanics for platforming are quite good. With the ability double jump and dash (mid-air or on the ground) you’ll find that there are many opportunities to make those jumps that seem almost impossible. I can’t count the number of times I thought I would not make a “leap of faith” only to just reach edge and climb up. The platforming mechanics are such that they manage to make this a better game.

As for the combat, it's fairly well implemented too, but it can be repetitive at times. As you progress through the game you are given access to coloured ammo that represents the colours of your enemies. You want to make sure to match the colour with that of your enemy’s core. You will encounter enemies later on that are not on your colour scheme (e.g. purple and green) but you can shift through the colours you have and find the one that seems to do the most damage in battle. As the enemies get tougher, and higher in level, you will find that you’ll be reacting and changing colours on the fly, using your autolock feature on the enemies while firing away. There are many instances when you’ll be forced to jump and dash out of harms way, and you’ll feel some insurmountable odds at times. Your corebots are your best friends though, as you are allowed to take two with you on your journey outside of the safety your own crawler. Use their weapons to attack certain enemies when you are fighting three or more and your battle becomes manageable. That being said, you’ll have to keep on your toes at all times when fighting multiple enemies who all have different coloured cores.

There are two main ways to vanquish your foes: you can whittle their shield and health all the way down causing them to explode or you can whittle their health to a certain point allowing you a chance to extract their core and get their coloured material. It’s up to you to decide as both methods are useful. Destroying your enemies gives you items that allow you to research blueprints and make new parts for your corebots, where as extracting your enemies core gives you material that you can fuse with your corebots own core to make them stronger in the areas of attack (red), defence (yellow), and energy (blue).

Progressing through the game seems to flow nicely, until you all of a sudden you hit an area where you need more ‘prismatic pores’. I was somewhat surprised that I could not advance any further a couple of times, and discovered that I had to go back to other areas of the map to collect more prismatic cores. Luckily there are indicators on the map after you move forward where these cores are located. It can be as simple as fighting a few waves of enemies protecting a chest holding one of these cores, to having to fight one special boss-like enemy who seems to have a knack at breaking your efforts, to extract its prismatic core. You can also go to some special dungeons that have prismatic cores to find within them too. Regardless of where you get these cores that are needed to advance, or open up other areas, you’ll find that it kind of breaks up the flow of what was a fairly good experience up to that point. Sure, it’s not a deal breaker, but it was kind of jarring to have to all of a sudden backtrack and collect more cores to advance.

There are a lot of RPG elements to ReCore, something that was not hinted at leading up to its release. You’ll find that changing parts on your corebots allows you to instill certain spiffs such as increased shield recharge and increased maximum health. To do this you have to research various blueprints that you discover in hidden chests throughout the games open world, as well as the levels that you explore. These blueprints rely on various materials to make the part you want, and the materials are obtained by destroying enemies and finding other chests full of mats. Of course the farther into the game you go, the harder the enemies, the better the materials you can get. There is also the idea of not only matching the colour of your weapon with the colour of the enemy, but certain corebots are stronger against certain types of enemies, no matter what the colour. It’s these RPG type of gameplay elements that I think will surprise many.

Now, all may seem good, but there are indeed a few setbacks that actually affect the gameplay experience. The first is the LONG load times. Yes, I put the caps for emphasis. I actually started to find that the load times were unbearable during one area that I was struggling. I took out my phone and timed the reloads after my deaths, and low and behold the load times were two minutes. Yes, I said two minutes. Throughout my gameplay experience there were a lot of long loading times, which I just didn’t understand. Another issue I had with ReCore were the in-game glitches. I found many times that geometry disappeared or I fell through the ground/floor resulting in me having to jump around to get my character on screen. I even had an issue where I was extracting a core during a key point of a boss battle and the game just stayed in the extraction animation for a couple of minutes. It would not let me move but I could still cycle through the colours of my weapon. Luckily though it eventually reset and the level continued. Finally, there were framerate issues now and then, as well as texture pop-up in the distance while exploring the outside world. These visual glitches were really disappointing given that at times the world of Far Eden looked incredible. From the character, corebot, and enemy design, the various rock faces, dungeons, platforms, and man made vehicles you could traverse to the shimmering sand, there were occasions that I was really happy to stop and just look around the environment.

ReCore is a single player only experience, so don’t expect to head online for any cooperative or versus play with others. My adventure took about 11-12 hours. I did some random exploring, searching for chests, and of course obtaining more prismatic cores. Something that I noticed towards the end of my adventure is that it seemed like the game was stretched out longer than it should have. I won’t add any spoilers here, but after you meet Victor, a character that is kind of key to some of the story, the lead up to the end seems forced. Platforming and enemies thrown at you just for the sake of adding a bit more. I found myself frustrated as the enemy fights could get difficult given what I had to face in the small area they presented it in. There is more to do after the final credits roll, as you can access and complete dungeons not related directly to the story (e.g. Arena or Traversal Dungeons) and each of these have their own challenges and/or secondary objectives. You can also search the open world to find any chests you may have missed and level up your character and corebots to the maximum level. Of course some of these also allow you to complete achievements should you wish to get all those. So, there is more to do after you finish the story, but it’s not imperative to do so.

ReCore is a game that is surprising in many ways. First off, with gameplay mechanics that were not advertised, the larger than expected game map, and the RPG elements found within, most will discover that there is quite a bit to do in Far Eden. That being said, the glitches, the long load times, and the uneven pacing of the story towards the end is some cause for concern. At the end of the day though, ReCore is a new IP brought to you from seasoned developers, and although it is far from perfect, gamers will no doubt have fun with it. Oh, and the cheaper price doesn’t hurt either.

Hopefully with an update or two to the game, the load times will be greatly decreased and the visual glitches will be mostly resolved.

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 7.9 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.4 / 10


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