Late to the Game: Recore - Xbox One Review

ReCore is an interesting case, being the first game in Microsoft’s new Play Anywhere program for Xbox and Windows 10, but also a AA title, putting it somewhere between your typical $60 title and the varied prices of smaller indie titles. It wasn’t always like this, but for the last decade it’s been the standard. That’s not the only way the game makes call backs to the past. The game is billed as an Action-Platformer, crafted by industry veterans of Metroid Prime and MegaMan fame. So how refreshing is it to play a game built on older industry conventions? That’s what The Movie Sleuth is here to investigate today.

The core gameplay mechanics in ReCore is easily its greatest strength, and there’s a lot of pleasure to be had from the mastery of these systems. The combat is all built upon a color-matching system, where you’ll be tasked to change your gun’s damage type on the fly to best take down the various robotic menaces that plague the world of Far Eden. It’s something that may seem insultingly simple, especially with the lock on aiming, but works to keep combat fresh and frenetic. Additionally, your AI companions, called corebots, which you have limited command over, still manage to feel like a true extension of your skill pool, able to deliver heavy hitting “lethal attacks” that can do wonders when well-timed with a charge shot from your rifle. Getting the health of your enemies down past certain ticks build up your combo meter which increases your XP gain and can grant an “Instant Extraction”, allowing Joule to rip the core straight out of an enemy bot. This brings us to the extra layer of decision making the game gives players, whether to outright destroy enemies for parts and blueprints, or to take out their cores via the neat little extraction mechanic. Launching into the extraction mini-game is honestly loads of fun, and can provide a satisfying end to a hard fought battle.

Joule is also armed with a decent amount of mobility, a simple dash and double jump that can sometimes prove to be your only line of defense in a rough combat situation, if they were just a bit more effective. Luckily they shine well throughout the platforming sections, even with as tough as they are. They offer little leniency and an understanding of your range becomes paramount for progression. This goes doubly true when you’re trying to chain these with certain non-combative corebot (companion) abilities. It’s one of those things that may elicit some cursing, but some repeat attempts will often reward you with a feeling of sweet accomplishment.

A girl and her dog.

It’s the gameplay in ReCore that makes it honestly hard to hate, but boy does the game try to drive out the joy you can get from it. The attempt at an open world lends itself to a frustrating scavenger hunt in a fairly linear game. It’ll have you scouring every nook and cranny for small battery bots to open entries to dungeons only to send you back out looking for more special prismatic cores to actually access it. It’s probably the most frustrating aspect of the game since you blow through the story elements fairly fast. At least until you hit the final area, which presents a multi-tiered gauntlet, each section requiring five more cores than the last. The worst part about this is that it made all those optional dungeons and combat/platforming challenges feel mandatory. Going through the story will only net you about half of the 45 prismatic cores you’ll need to complete it, padding out an 8-hour story into a 15-hour experience.

You can pair these frustrations with some technical hang-ups on the Xbox One, lengthy load times being the main issue in a title that frequently has you fast traveling to and from your home base to unload your inventory or to swap out what corebot frames you’re traveling with. With each loading screen clocking in at about a minute, patience is a virtue needed to complete the game. It extends beyond that, unfortunately. Twice in the game I found a dungeon area failed to load entirely, and in the over world I frequently found rocks stuck in lower resolution textures usually meant for long distance rendering. I was also often surprised at the sparse, seemingly random musical cues that would pop-in at strange times.

This game can feel like a real slog.

It’s kind of sad, because the world of ReCore can be utterly beautiful with all of its visual nuances like the shimmering sands and the model that arises over it from dashing, and the gorgeous animations of each corebot and their distinct personalities. It all amounts to a highly mixed experience spent mostly upgrading your robotic companions. It’s truly got a lot of charm and character, with a ton of fun packed into the gameplay. I can’t help but feel like it needed a bigger budget to push it into that full AAA industry experience, and maybe that’s why these mid-tier games are missing from the current state of the industry. At the end of the day, I don’t feel like your money would be wasted, but I feel like maybe this isn’t the full ReCore experience.



Developers: Armature Studio and Comcept

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Platforms: Xbox One and Windows 10

Release Date: September 13th, 2016

Reviewer’s Platform: Xbox One