I dashed out of the way a mere half second before large blue metallic claws swung down at me. I switch to my blue ammo rounds for bonus damage and open fire. My trusty lock-on system makes sure that all my rounds find purchase upon the outer shell of the blue dog-like creature, a corebot suffering from a form of corruption. It’s at this time I unleash my own dog-like corebot, Mack, as he charges into the side of the hulking blue beast, tearing it to shreds. Dashing over to the remains of its body, I pick up my loot. I find a piece that I need to craft Mack a new set of legs, but not before another creature joined the fight.
Upon a platform high above what seemed like a bottomless abyss, our battle continued. Small flying robots try to shock me as Mack and I attempt to take down this massive green creature. We manage to weaken it with my attacks and Mack’s special attack, but it just gets back up. I switch to Duncan, my gorilla shaped muscle, and he slams his huge fists into the side of the creatures frame, knocking it off balance. With a low amount of health left in the creature and its core exposed, I fire off my winch cable to extract it, it connects. What comes next is a tug of war with myself and the creature for its lifeforce. Pull too much and the line snaps, and if I don’t pull enough, well, I would have to try again. I find the right balance and extract it, adding it to my already growing collection. I’ll put the core to good use back at the workstation, boosting the stats of my fellow corebots. As I collect myself, I attempt to jump to the next platform when I am struck by a mysterious shot of lightning and miss my footing, falling to my death.
I am then subjected to what seems like a solid three minute loading screen, respawning just before my last battle only to be hit from behind while I load in, falling again to my death, and yet again, another three minute loading screen. This is ReCore.
ReCore is set nearly 200 years into our future. However; a few years from our time now, a disease called the “Dust devil plague” consumes the planet. An organization named Mandate attempted to fight the disease. It was then that earth was considered lost and Mandate then launched several missions to a far away planet called Far Eden. To make the planet hospitable for human life, several thousand robotic machines known as corebots were sent ahead to build atmospheric systems on Far Eden, and the first wave of inhabitants were sent. The colonists were put into cryostasis sleep until the planet was capable of survival. It’s during this sleep that several of them vanished, with their corebots becoming corrupted. The story is penned by Halo/Destiny co-creator Joseph Staten, and he doesn’t disappoint.
You play as Joule Adams, one of the colonists who survived the cryostasis sleep. Her corebot Mack, who seems to be free of the corruption is at her side. While out salvaging in the desert wastelands of Far Eden, Joule and Mack intercept a distress call after rebooting a malfunctioning pylon. It’s during this quest that Joule finds what is called a Prismatic Core. It’s after discovering this mysterious item that Joule’s real adventure begins.
Joule and Mack won’t be alone on their journey, as a few other corebots, free of the corruption, will join their cause. I’ll refer to each of the corebots in their starting frame, and I’ll explain why in a moment. You’ll first find Seth, a corebot with an almost octopus style design to him, except with far less legs. He’ll allow you to reach higher places by clinging to track-like rails that litter the sky. Duncan, the gorilla-built corebot will be your muscle, and eventually you’ll have access to a flying corebot to help you explore hard to reach heights.
Now, while Mack starts in his K9 frame, you’ll have the option to swap out their cores to place within any of the existing frames you collect. So Duncan can be placed in Mack’s frame and Seth into Duncan’s.. and so on. This will give the current frames a slightly different style of play due to each of their core’s have a different personality, or so it says. Honestly, with so much of the game gripping the controller during intense firefights, I never really saw what was so different about them. After a few hours in, I stopped swapping cores entirely, and here’s why.
Let’s say you have put Mack’s core into Duncan’s frame and you swapped Duncan into Seth’s frame. When you leave your homebase, the Crawler, it will ask you to pick your teammates, and only two of them. After a while I would forget who was in what frame and since it only says MACK and DUNCAN in the select screen, i’d have to try to remember who was in what. I don’t know how many times I picked Mack to use his digging ability only to have him jump into the fray housed in the gorilla frame, lacking that ability. Where the game also suffers is that you’ll need to visit your workstation just to swap the cores, meaning that should you be out and about and require a corebot in a frame that you have vacant, you’ll have to travel all the way back to your workstation to swap the cores. The game further more will design sections of the game around two specific corebots and then tease hidden areas that require a different corebot than you may have selected. This feels as if the game is padding its length with all the back and forth it throws at you.
The basic gameplay elements to ReCore is that of being a color based shooter. Joule’s gun can be equipped with color based ammo. White, Blue, Red and Yellow. Each color will grant additional damage to that of the same color. Get attacked by blue corebots, use the blue ammo, easy. Sometimes you’ll find groups of enemies that each have different colors and you’ll need to swap on the fly to dish out the most pain. While you won’t get green or purple ammo, you’ll come across enemies of those colors and usually anything in that color range will take them down fairly easy. It’s a solid and satisfying system that excels in nearly every area.
As you destroy enemies and collect the loot that drops from their body, there is an alternative to depleting their health bar. You can harness their core if you manage to pull it out moments before their demise. You’ll do this by triggering a mini-game of sorts with your hook line, making sure not to pull too hard or the line will snap. You’ll need to balance each confrontation of whether you need crafting components or the enemy core’s needed to upgrade your corebots. There are moments in the game where you will get an instant extract, and this is usually if the enemy doesn’t see you or you’ve built up a specific combo, this comes in handy later on for sure.
ReCore is a 3rd person shooter with light puzzle mechanics and a somewhat medium emphasis on exploring. Shooting is via a lock on system that allows you to get the most out of your ammo, while also not making the game a complete cake-walk. I really enjoyed the shooting and the frantic nature of the game and felt that most encounters were well paced. While there are some nasty camera issues present here, these are usually issues that plague nearly all 3rd person fast-paced shooters.
As you trek around the sand covered Far Eden, you’ll encounter dungeons. There are a few different types that you’ll gain access to, should you find the required amount of Prismatic Cores in your travels. Exploration dungeons are more akin to a game like The Legend of Zelda where you’ll solve puzzles and defeat foes to progress to the end. Platform challenges are areas where you’ll sprint and jump your way past various death traps on your way to the goal. Finally we have Arena’s where you’ll endure wave after wave of enemies until the final door opens up, revealing your prize. Each of these dungeons have objectives to reach and sadly, they are the same objectives for each and every dungeon. You’ll need to complete the event in a certain time limit as well as find a certain number of colored switches. There is also a yellow key to find, and each objective you complete will grant you treasure behind a locked door. Tackle all objectives in the dungeon and you get a bonus chest, usually consisting of a rare schematic.
As you level up destroying corrupted corebots, you’ll enhance Joule’s gun, giving it more damage output. You can also make your corebots more powerful as well by boosting their core power or crafting new legs and heads and body pieces. It’s pretty fun to see all the variety your corebots can have with a few simple upgrades. The crafting system can be a bit too random in regards to finding the parts you need, making completing certain schematics rather impossible. I went around 4 hours trying to find a single piece needed to make the back legs to Mack and only to find out I wasn’t high enough level to use them. The crafting system is alright, but nothing terribly special as I really wish you were also able to craft Joule new outfits to help with her survival, and hey, who doesn’t love customizing your own character.
Upgrading the corebots via their cores is pretty simple. Each color; Red, Yellow and Blue will boost attack, defense and energy. You’ll feed the core’s that you ripped out of the corrupted creatures into your own corebots to boost those specific stats. It’s a pretty easy system to use that can help you out in a pinch when you require more special attacks that each of your corebots have at their disposal. While the corebots themselves will level up, their max range of each stat will increase each time they level up.
ReCore is a sometimes gorgeous and sometimes awful looking game. Indoor areas with colorful crystals and various facility looking sections look fantastic, as does the more populated outdoors areas. Sections of the game that takes place outside in wide open areas just don’t do the game any justice. The game features a massive amount of sand that just doesn’t do anything. While there are moments where sand will fly around during your speed boosts, that’s about all it does. You’ll have sections around the map be revealed when the sand has shifted, but this is a narrative timed feature and not in real-time. Sadly, the world of Far Eden can be very boring and just far too big for what is around you to explore. At launch there is also a missing corebot that allows you travel across the quicksand areas, so as of right now, those sections of the game are off-limits. Will they be added as free content? DLC? who knows, but considering the game is budget priced at 49.99, it’s hard to say.
Character-wise, Joule and her corebots look great. I love the design to each of the characters and each of the corebots have just enough personality to them to offer a bit of an emotional attachment to them. Enemies and bosses are ok, with nothing being terribly original or impressive. Joule herself is wonderfully crafted and one of my favorite parts of the game. I did find that the default setting the game starts in is just too bright and mutes a lot of the color in the brighter areas. Open areas of nothing but sand can almost look pure white and devoid of any real detail. Visually, this is a game that struggles to be consistent.
There’s quite a bit of audio in the game, everything from audio logs you find scattered about, to Joule giving words of encouragement during battles or while crafting new schematics. While the rest of the audio is fairly decent, it’s mostly forgettable. One of my favorite audio bits in the game is the gibberish audio logs of a robot speaking in a foreign language. You can’t make out what they are saying, but it is acted so well and so goofy that you can’t help but have a smile on your face while you listen to it.
Joule has rocket boots allowing her to double jump and dash. Some sections of the game are designed around getting the maximum distance you can run, jump, dash and jump again, or run, jump, jump and dash to some high up ledge. While you can combine these moves with the flying corebot to get a few more extra feet of height, some areas of the game are just so punishing and require an almost inhuman amount of skill to pull off. While the game has a few Zelda-like dungeons, it’s the final area of the game that feels like a controller gauntlet of death. Forget exploring or finding cool secrets by the time you head to the tower, as the five floors you’ll take on are nothing but rooms of instant death and tedium. Disappearing platforms, laser walls/floors and various death traps fill the screen and then some. Despite a few issues with the game I had up until that point, I was enjoying my time with ReCore. Halfway through the third floor, however; I was pretty much fed up with the game. After what seemed like a few dozen or so cheap deaths, I managed to finally complete the story and enjoy the ending. It can be a bit abrupt, but the tease after the credits was pretty cool.
I wanted to love ReCore, like, a lot. I remember seeing the initial trailer and was wowed. After playing through the whole game, I can say that it’s average, at best, and that may be giving it too much credit. I was a bit worried in the months leading up to its release as this is another game by Keiji Inafune, whom had just released the awful Mighty No. 9. And while ReCore didn’t look anywhere near as bad as that title, it still worried me a bit.
There is a mess of control and camera issues and the constant running back and forth (even with the use of fast travel..) just seems to pads the game’s length. While loading times were fixed to a certain degree with the latest patch, this was done after I had already beaten the game. ReCore at times can be frustrating, but there is just something really fun about the game regardless of its numerous failings. I can’t fully recommend ReCore as much as I want to, those final few hours just poison a fairly decent game. ReCore is at its best when it feels like a cross between Mega Man and The Legend of Zelda, but this feeling is buried behind sections of a game that is mostly designed around instant fail moments. Out of the 20 or so hours I spent with ReCore, I would say that a solid 4-5 hours contained an incredible experience that made me feel as least some small amount of hope that if we ever get ReCore 2 that maybe, just maybe, it’s built around those 4-5 enjoyable hours. I can only hope.