ReCore Review (Xbox One)
I went into ReCore hoping to tell you all about the wondrous story that unfold on this mysterious planet of sand. I had every intention of praising Comcept and Armature for their narrative brilliance and technical prowess. I wanted ReCore to be a major surprise hit that rocked the gaming world at the beginning of the major release season. While there are glimmers of hope throughout the adventure, the majority of ReCore is neither remarkable nor technically sound.
ReCore follows a girl named Joule as she explores a barren desert planet called Far Eden. Earth has been rendered uninhabitable thanks to a disease called the "Dust Devil Plague," and Joule's team is in charge of finding a new world to teraform and inhabit. Unfortunately Joule wakes up alone and not with her fellow colonists, forcing her to set off into the hostile world and figure out what to do.
She does have some help in the form of Corebot Companions, but they are my first problem with ReCore: I can barely do anything with them. Mack the dog can dig, Seth can travel along rails, Duncan can smash obstacles in Joule's path, but that's it. In battle I can command them to do one attack, but otherwise they are merely traveling the world with me making noise every once in a while. I can upgrade them with parts I find in Far Eden in order to increase their statistics, but those bumps are barely noticeable in the midst of battle where there's supposed to help me out.
Combat in ReCore impressed me the most, as it's a solid mix of mobility and gunplay that actively makes me seek out fights just to keep doing it. It's rare that I charge headlong into every battle I find, but ReCore makes me want to do that. The Inafune Rifle (heh) has two major components: the blaster which shoots both rapid fire and charge shots, and the grappling hook which can pull out the cores from enemy bots and add them to my customization inventory. Pulling out a Core using the hook is seamless in battle, with the line changing colors to let me know when I should stop pulling before the wire snaps off. It's ingenious and really surprised me the first time I saw it, and I went from wondering why the heck I couldn't pull a core out to pulling every core out I found thanks to the visual cue.
Speaking of colors, each enemy in the ReCore world has one of four color associations: red, blue, yellow, and white, and those colors can be used against the attacking hordes. By matching the blasts from my rifle with the color of the enemy I increase my damage output and can pull the core out faster. Switching between colors is a simple tap on the D-Pad, and anything made easier for me when fighting off robot jerks is fine by me.
While the color-coded combat is quick and seamless, the rest of the ReCore experience doesn't respect my time as much. The first and most noticeable thing are the excessive loading times --- more than I've seen since the days of PlayStation 2 --- that completely upend any sense of momentum I have. Every scene transition and every death comes with it loading time ranging between five and fifty seconds in my experience, which is way too long to keep the ordinary player interested. It's as if the game doesn't expect me to be accessing the part of the game I'm entering and has to scramble to load all of the assets, and it's nigh unbearable for me to sit through.
The second major time management faux pas is more egregious, especially considering ReCore's open-world nature. The map of the world is only accessible via the pause menu, and said map is not the first thing I see when I pause the game. However, when I pause the game and check the map, as soon as I resume and pause again the pause menu resets. ReCore's map is big enough and has enough hidden elements that I'm constantly checking the map, but the lack of an intuitive UI when pausing makes checking the map a chore. In a game that relies on exploration I should not feel like checking my position on the game's massive map is a burden instead of a boost, but ReCore does just that.
The saddest thing about ReCore is that these technical mishaps overshadow what is a great little story. The hostile world holds multiple audio logs from multiple people fleshing out the in-game world, and all of it is very interesting to me, but I have no desire to find any of the logs thanks to the map issue. Also, if I have to go to an area with multiple scene changes I know it's going to take at least one or two minutes longer per transition, and that doesn't make me want to keep playing, it makes me want to stop for a while and come back later. This world should be begging me to explore it and I should be begging to oblige but instead I'm apathetic, and it's a damn shame.
I apologize for my ReCore review being a bit late after launch, but unfortunately it's been loading for a really long time. Okay that's a cheap joke, but a lot should be made of ReCore's basic technical issues. Without them this game could be considered one of the sleeper hits of the year, but being constantly forced to wait for a game to load and then experiencing weird clipping issues during the game does not an enjoyable experience make. Combat is awesome with its seamless transition between targets and easy commands to my partner, and the story of the game keeps me interested until the end, but these are merely brief oases in a desert of mediocrity. ReCore unfortunately trips at the finish line it takes far too long to reach, a perfect example of a great idea and poor execution..
This review was completed via a downloadable voucher for a retail version of ReCore provided by the publisher for Xbox One.