In a world without humanity, you’ll have to survive hostile robots and desert sandstorms, if you want to see another soul again.
Version Reviewed: Xbox One
I’d be lying to you if I said I remembered, before receiving the code for ReCore, that it was a game that still existed. I haven’t seen a single advertisement for the game since just before E3 2015; when ReCore was first shown off to the public for the very first time.
As to why publisher Microsoft and developer Armature Studio have chosen to bury the game, I honestly have no idea. Because ReCore isn’t actually a bad game. Will it single-handedly revolutionise the video game industry? Of course not, but it’s also nothing to be ashamed of in the slightest.
What little marketing material there was for ReCore was extremely vague on what the game actually entailed. And perhaps this was intentional, as upon first starting up the game, you’re not immediately made privy to what exactly is going on, and why Joule happens to be all alone on the desolate planet of Far Eden.
I immediately amassed questions within the first ten minutes of ReCore. Where is everyone? What am I doing here? Why are all these robots trying to kill me? Why does my robotic dog have the body of a German Shepherd but the bark of a Chihuahua? The mysterious nature surrounding the plot of ReCore is actually quite compelling, if an incredibly slow burn.
And taking the slow-burn approach to the plot might actually end up driving a fair few players away from ReCore. Instead of focussing on getting answers for your questions per what happened to the rest of humanity, ReCore instead makes the player embark on one long salvage trek after another, making sure the player has nailed the gameplay loop, before presenting them with any story progress.
In a way, I actually admire this. The norm within the video game industry is to introduce a game via exposition, or at least place the storytelling right at the beginning of the game, before handing control to the player. ReCore flips this, giving control to the player right away, and only stops after roughly an hour to drops hints on what’s actually going on with Far Eden and the rest of mankind.
And while these hints are critical to unravelling the mystery of the plot, they aren’t placed where you’d normally expect them to be. A narrator by the name of Adams will occasionally drop bits of information at various points throughout the game. However, these bits of information are entirely without context and are placed at the strangest locations. For example, you could hear Adams talk about the situation back on Earth, upon entering one of the many dungeons found in ReCore, rather than when Joule is having some downtime back at her base.
Speaking of the base, which it referred to as ‘the crawler,’ this is where Joule can perform upgrades on her various robotic counterparts. Although you’ll start out the game with Mack, the K-9 unit, there are a few other companions to be found at different points throughout the main quest line of ReCore. Each of them has their own unique abilities; for example, Mack can use his dash attack to hit an enemy robot where it hurts, and another might fire a barrage of rockets instead.
However, having these different allies, even with their unique abilities, fails to make the player change their play style depending on which ally they currently have. This also speaks to another problem of ReCore, that the game is simply far too easy. The main ‘cut and thrust’ of the combat is simple: keep moving while firing your rifle at enemy robots. The rifle can automatically lock onto enemies, which means it’s very rare that you’ll actually miss any shots. In addition to this, the rifle ammo merely recharges, meaning you’ll never have to scavenge around or craft more.
The easy difficulty level of ReCore also means that the upgrade system for your robot companions, which I briefly mentioned earlier, is made virtually redundant, given the fact that they’ll never actually take enough damage to get knocked out of the fight. This is mainly because the vast majority of the enemy robots are too busy rushing towards Joule, to take any notice of the small robot aggressively prodding them in the side.
This problem also works in a similar way for Joule, as well as her companions. While the protagonist’s health bar isn’t anything too generous, it does only take a few seconds to begin recharging. Given the fact that it’s extremely easy to abuse the dodge mechanic and dart away from slow enemy attacks, it’s very rare that the player will die, and the only time this fate befell me is when I got stuck in a wall.
And, just like that, it’s time to mention the most ironic thing about ReCore. Throughout the game, Joule will tackle robots that have malfunctioned, or have been tampered with in some way. However, she isn’t the only one who’ll be undertaking such a task, as the player may also find themselves battling through a malfunctioning game, constantly beset by various bugs and glitches.
While some of the bugs can be overcome (for example, the frame rate can occasionally dip down to as low as five frames per second), there are some utterly game-breaking glitches, too. At one point in ReCore, I was tasked with defeating a certain amount of enemies in a room, and only after that would an energy barrier dissipate, allowing me to pass through. However, one of the robotic enemies decided to jump behind said barrier, pelting me with projectile attacks to which I had no hope of responding. It’s bugs and glitches like these that hound the player throughout ReCore, popping up at various intervals, as well as a loading screen that can run well over two minutes.
Aside from the accidental bugs placed in the game, there some simply some poor design choices on the part of Armature Studio. Traversal dungeons can actually be a whole lot of fun, forcing the player to think on their feet, and keep on moving to gain a reward at the end within a time limit, as well as providing a side quest from the main story. However if, say, halfway through the dungeon you were to run out of time, there isn’t an option to go back to the start or exit the dungeon entirely. Therefore the player will merely be forced to make it to the end of the challenge, knowing that no reward awaits them.
ReCore has a fairly solid and enjoyable, if simple and easy, gameplay loop as a foundation on which to build. The trouble is, it fails to build from there, dragging out tiny plot details as long as possible, while suffering from numerous design flaws and technical issues throughout. ReCore is by no means a game that deserved to be buried, but it also isn’t an entirely successful start as a franchise hopeful for the Xbox One.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.