Developed by: Armature Studio, Comcept
Published by: Microsoft Studios
My first review on this shiny new website also happens to start with re. Get it? REview, REcore…okay, I’ll stop now.
Keiji Inafune, famed creator of the Mega Man franchise, and his studio, Comcept, have been the center of controversy this year, and for understandable reasons. In my eyes, Mighty No. 9 was a complete disaster, failing to meet any expectations set by its promising reveal. Now just a few months later, after the launch of Mighty No. 9, Comcept’s next game, ReCore, a collaborative project with Armature Studio, has hit the market as a Microsoft exclusive. But honestly, this is more of an Armature Studio game than a Comcept game, though both parties had a lot of involvement in ReCore‘s development. Coming from some of the same people that made the Metroid Prime trilogy at Retro Studios, ReCore had my interest from the very beginning. But does it hold up to the legacy of Metroid Prime, or did slowly sink to the bottom of the quicksand like Mighty No. 9 did?
ReCore takes place in the desert world of Far Eden, where corebots, robotic machines sent to Far Eden to build facilities on the planet, have gone mad. Joule, the game’s main protagonist, and her companion corebot, Mack, travel the vast deserts of Far Eden looking for the cause of the corebots’ corruption, and the truth about her father’s whereabouts. Along the way, Joule meets fellow colonists, such as Kai Brehn, and other corebots, such as Seth and Duncan, who aid her on her journey. With her corebot friends, Joule sets out to explore the mysterious deserts of Far Eden to discover the truth.
ReCore’s cast is small, but that works in its favor. Joule is an interesting character; she has goals, motives, and personality. I really appreciate that the developers attempted to give her a likable personality. However, I never felt attached to her as a character. Joule is a likable character, but not a striking or incredible one. Where the game really shines in its characters are the main corebots. Mack, Seth, and Duncan all have striking personalities. When I would swap between these three characters in-game, I felt like my party had a different dynamic. I even came up with personalities for them. Mack is your loyal companion, Seth is the weird guy that follows you around at a party, but you like him anyway, and Duncan is the dumb tough guy. I found myself really enjoying my time roaming Far Eden with each of them. Plus, their designs are really awesome and they actually help you access new secrets in the over-world. You can definitely feel some of Keiji Inafune’s design touches here, and they work great.
In terms of its gameplay, I would describe ReCore as an action-adventure platformer, with some RPG elements mixed in, too. Your primary focus is to collect “Prismatic Cores” around Far Eden; these are like the Stars you collect in any 3D Mario game, collecting more allows you to advance in the game. You can find Prismatic Cores by exploring Far Eden and finding them in the over-world, or by completing dungeons. In the over-world, you may find them hidden in rocks, in the sand, or even inside fierce corebots, which you will have to fight before extracting their cores. Dungeons typically vary between two challenges: timed platformer areas and timed battle royals. Platforming in ReCore is basic; you have a double jump and a dash attack to get around long distances. With practice and precision, the platforming in ReCore becomes a piece of cake, and actually quite fun.
Combat is also fun. Using your trusty gun, you fight off enemy corebots using standard shots and charge blasts. What makes combat more interesting is that each enemy has a different color, which you have to match up with the ammo of your gun. There are blue, red, yellow, and white enemies, and throughout the game you gather upgrades to allow your gun to match these colors. Some enemies even change colors to keep you on your feet. ReCore’s gameplay is very arcade-like, and I like that. Getting a high combo or defeating a tough enemy feels rewarding and makes me want to keep grinding for the next level-up. I noticed some have said ReCore has an “identity crisis,” since it implements so many genres. I personally disagree with that, since I think it implements all of its genres well. The platforming, combat, and crafting all benefit each other in the experience, and thus make it more complete. For the most part, I enjoyed and had a lot of fun playing with ReCore‘s mechanics.
Despite my enjoyment of ReCore, the game has an array of technical issues. In fact, there are way too many technical issues for any modern game. To start, the load times were horrendous. Every time you fail in combat, or do something that gets you killed in the game, expect to sit through a 2-4 minute load time. After failing in a dungeon, I sat the controller down, walked downstairs, made a sandwich, and still came back to the loading screen. For a game released in 2016, this is absolutely unacceptable, especially when the game is installed directly on the console. During gameplay, especially high action sequences, ReCore suffers from constant frame-rate drops. Frames can drop to as low as 20 frames-per-second during intense action scenes, or areas with many moving objects. This constantly changing framerate between scenes can really be a headache inducing experience. This is incredibly frustrating for an intense, arcade-like game such as ReCore.
ReCore also has an issue with its textures. Textures and characters just do what they want in the world. For example, in one cinematic scene, the sand below Joule’s feet ends up going above her foot. There is also an instance where a character’s hand goes through another’s face. It was a perfect way to end a touching scene, if you ask me. I would gripe more about the graphics not being the best, but that’s the least of ReCore’s technical problems.
ReCore is an incredibly fun experience, but it also feels rushed, rough, and un-polished. The teams at Armature Studio and Comcept show a lot of great ideas within this 8 hour campaign, but this title could’ve used some more time in the oven. To answer my question from the beginning of the article, ReCore lies somewhere in between those two titles. Not nearly as good as any of the Metroid Prime games, but definitely not as much of a failure as Mighty No. 9. I’m just hoping that if Joule gets the chance to explore more of Far Eden in the future, that it gets more time to really flourish.
Verdict: Wait for a Sale. While ReCore has a lot of great ideas and is generally fun, the array of technical issues prevents it from being a game worth playing now. ReCore was played for 15 hours on Xbox One for this review. ReCore is out now for Xbox One and Windows 10.