ReCore Review

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Action-Adventure Colour-Swapping Exploration RPG + Robots
 
Rating: M15+
 
Release Date: September 13th
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
3.5/5


User Rating
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Positives


-Wonderfully compelling character relationships
-Amazing cohesive art design
-Fast-paced action and satisfying platforming

Negatives


-Story is too sparse
-Combat can feel unfair and cheap
-Load times long enough to make sandwiches


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Posted September 12, 2016 by

 
Full Article
 
 

When ReCore was announced at E3 2015 I honestly didn’t know what it was, just that it was from ex-Metroid Prime developers and that I really liked that robot dog. It wasn’t until I got to try it out at E3 this year that I began to understand just what Armature Studios were creating and how much I wanted it. ReCore is part-platformer, part-RPG and part-fast paced action shooter, with some Ikaruga-styled colour change mechanics thrown in for good measure. Tie those mechanics together with a story driven by compelling human-robot relationships, some excellent art design and rough the edges around a bit and you have ReCore summed up.

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ReCore forgoes the idea of exposition, instead opting to go with a cold opening as main character Joule and robotic dog companion Mack begin exploring a cave in search of a part to restore power to her base of operations. While the opening mission does a great job of introducing many of the mechanics present in ReCore, what it really introduces you to is the relationship between Joule and Mack. Mack is Joule’s companion robot, meaning that he is her only constant on a world in the process of being terraformed so that Earth’s inhabitants can escape a deadly plague. Their relationship and interactions are immediately endearing, as Joule shows a level of love and caring for Mack that you only really see between pets and their owners. Joule doesn’t just think of Mack as a robot helper, she thinks of him as a close and dear friend, and Mack reciprocates this in his actions and motions towards Joule. While you as the player cannot understand the barks and noises he makes, Joule’s responses and his animation quickly cemented in my mind how close and loving a relationship they have. It’s amazing that Armature have managed to create a wholly endearing and relatable relationship that left me enamoured with Mack, as well as Joule’s other companion robots.

While the characters of ReCore, in particular Joule and Mack, are incredibly engrossing and well envisioned, the actual story in the game did not grab me in the same way. After repairing her base of operations, which is called a crawler, Joule quickly comes to the realisation that much of the planet’s technology has been shut down and she quickly sets about righting this. Thus begins Joule’s journey across Far Eden to ultimately restart the terraforming that will make it hospitable, while also uncovering how the systems fell into such disrepair in the first place. The premise itself is somewhat clichéd, but the real failing comes in how sparse it is, due in part to the relatively short nature of the game. While there are audio logs that give you some small amounts of backstory and context, as well as the occasional cutscene and narration, the story itself feels criminally underrepresented. While the story may be sparse, it is well written and compelling, however there just wasn’t enough to make me care about the humans in the same way that I cared about Mack.

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While much of ReCore’s prerelease marketing has focused on its combat and some of the track climbing mechanics with Seth (another robot companion you meet), platforming is a large and integral part of the game. Equipped with a double jump and a dash manoeuvre from the get-go, Joule is ultra-mobile and the game quickly begins putting you through your paces with a series of ever escalating platforming requirements. Early dungeons and environments may only require some double jumping, but later you will need to chain these with air dashes, timing to use gates that give you an extra double jump and track running with Seth. The platforming gets particularly fiendish and complex later in the game, needing to chain many of these moves together while also avoiding lasers and landing on tiny platforms. This is all helped by controls that are extremely responsive and camera controls that work well in the larger spaces platforming occurs in, ensuring that it’s difficult but never feels unfair.

Initially, the combat in ReCore seems shallow, with just your jumps, dashes and charged shot to spice up the experience. This quickly changes as you progress through the game, gradually unlocking the different colours of your gun and facing larger numbers of enemies with more varied attack patterns. Charged shots work well against shields, while also having the chance to impart special effects on enemies, and matching the colour of your shot to your enemy deals extra damage. Once weakened, you are able to extract an enemy’s core, using it to power up your companions, but you can also fire your extractor to interrupt an enemy’s special attacks. You’re also able to command your ever-present companions to use their own special attacks during combat, with colour matching being important here as well. Damage dealing isn’t the only thing you do in combat, with damage avoidance being just as important. Some enemies will fire a series of shots at you, as another sends a series of waves of fire and another charges directly towards you. If that sounds hectic, it’s because it is. Combat is fast-paced and staying still will quickly get you killed. It’s an interesting mash of systems and they come together really well.

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There are two issues with death in ReCore: one being how prevalent it can be and the other being the incredibly long load times you will suffer. Combat at times feels unfair in Recore, as there are occasions where a single hit from an enemy creates a combo of attacks that kills you in mere seconds. This is largely due to Joule being particularly fragile, which does make sense considering she’s a human fighting hulking robots, but it also means that you can sometimes feel frustrated as a single mistake costs you your life. This frustration is only compounded by the minute plus load times every time you die in combat. This also translates to load times when going to a different area, while deaths from platforming result in a near-instantaneous revival. Load times could also be highly-inconsistent, with the same load sometimes taking only 40 seconds and other times 1 minute and 40 seconds.

What the long load times really mean is that travelling from area to area becomes a tedious exercise, which is disappointing as it’s highly necessary within the game. Some areas and items are unobtainable until you unlock specific companions and their abilities, while the crafting system for companion upgrades requires travelling to different areas to gather parts from downed enemies. Later dungeons and story missions are gated behind specific requirements, meaning that you need to jump from area to area often to find which of a finite number of special cores you’re able to obtain with your current skill sets.

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These loads artificially inflate the total time you spend playing ReCore and mean that you often end up staring at a loading screen instead of taking in the incredible art design or its fantastic music. This is especially disappointing considering just how cohesive the art direction is across the entire game. There are many different robot enemies and companions that you will face, but all follow a set of design principles that make their common ancestry instantly recognisable. It really is impressive to see so many different enemies and yet be able to see the common elements in their designs that link them all together. Environments can also be impressive at times, with massive swathes of white sand that glisten in the sun, but they’re let down by some less impressive texture work. I never found myself thinking that ReCore looked bad while I played it, but it also wasn’t impressive from a technical standpoint. This also made the frequent framerate drops and stutters I faced early in the game extremely confounding, however by the day before release these had stopped occurring as often, implying that a patch had released addressing that issue.

Overall ReCore is a compelling experience, not for its story or environments, but for its characters and art design. Combat is incredibly fast-paced and involved, but can sometimes feel unfair, while the platforming is complex, difficult and incredibly satisfying. There are some technical issues, such as unusually long load times, which drag the experience down slightly, but they never stop you from enjoying yourself. ReCore is easy to recommend to anyone looking for some fast-paced combat and exploration, especially considering its budget price of $49.95.


Andrew Cathie

 
Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.


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