Armature Studio, Comcept/Microsoft Studios
Sometimes when I critique games, I refer to them as being a premise or concept in search of a game, but Armature Studios and Comcept’s new game Recore is different. It’s the first time that I’ve actually encountered a game that barely has any story and yet is still in search of a game.
From the get-go, Recore’s set-up is paper-thin, and just screams that “too many chiefs, not enough Indians” were helming its development. It’s a flimsy hodge-podge of hackneyed concepts and gaming tropes. In Recore, you step into the dusty boots of a woman named Joule Adams. Joule wakes up after a two-hundred year old cryo-sleep, and things aren’t what they’re supposed to be (yawn). She was supposed to rise and shine to a newly terraformed planet, but instead is greeted by the same old dust ball that it’s always been (double yawn). Something (gasp!) is wrong with this picture, and it’s up to Joule to find out what exactly is going on.
Through assorted cutscenes (that are admittedly well done, after all this is a triple A developer), you learn that this barren rock of a planet is inhabited by a multitude of different types of robots. Each robot belongs to a group of its mechanical brethren, and they are distinguished by what sort of “core” that powers them (get it? core…Recore).
Oh yeah, and Joule not only begins the game with her robotic K 9-like companion, Mack, but can also acquire additional metallic companions as she progresses throughout the game. As stated, the different robotic groups are imbued by certain types of cores. Blue cores are associated with happiness and energy boosts, yellow cores covet alertness and vigor, and finally, red cores are all about aggression and weaponry.
Her starter robot companion, Mack, is a blue core doggie-bot. But later, Joule crosses paths with Seth, a yellow core bot that cringes like Scooby Doo when it comes to heights, but can help her traverse the raised portions of the environments, as well as Duncan, a big, lumbering red core that can blow up stuff that gets in your way. To its credit, Recore succeeds in conveying your robotic companion’s individual personalities, along with their quirky idiosyncrasies, with ample aplomb. In fact, the robots, along with the cutesy little beeping and whizzing noises that they make, seemed to have more personality than the rather mechanical-acting Joule. That’s a testament to how drab of a main character you get to play as, and an inkling as to what is to come.
The rest of the desert planet is populated by hostile robots that you either have to destroy or avoid altogether. As a run-of-the-mill platformer in the same vein as Metroid Prime or Castlevania, the game mainly consists of Doom-like rooms full of enemies, in this case naughty robots, separated by platforming puzzles. Lots of platforming puzzles. Actually, lots and lots of platforming puzzles. So much of your “adventuring” time will be spent hopping around from platform to platform because Recore forces you to deviate from your main mission quite often. It does this because it seems very self-conscious that there isn’t much of a game here, and it tries its darndest hard to convince you otherwise.
This sell job takes the form of a kind of bait-and-switch. You see, in Recore, when you’re not hopping around like some deranged bunny rabbit, you’re tasked with collecting cores. You can do this by destroying the various boss bots that you’ll inevitably encounter, and then extracting their cores from their smoking husks. You can also gain cores by being awarded them at the end of each main region within the game. Each of the expansive dungeons can only be accessed if you have a certain number of cores. The farther into the game that you get, the harder it gets to obtain cores, and the more you’ll need to have in order to progress.
For instance, in the beginning of the game, I only needed ten or so cores to gain access to the next level. Towards the end of it (the game is only around seven hours long), I was required to have a very high amount of cores in my inventory in order to unlock the doors to the final areas. So, if you don’t have enough cores, you have to backtrack or side-track your way within Recore’s open world sandbox in order to obtain the proper amount of cores for entry. This is much more tedious than it sounds, and consists of more hopping from boring platform to boring platform than I’ve ever experienced. Seriously, as I’m writing this I feel all hopped out.
Recore’s combat system is simple enough. It consists of encountering a bad bot, hopping around a lot and shooting at said bot, and occasionally hiding behind obstacles that you can use for cover. But in this case it is indeed as yawn-inducing as it sounds. No, I don’t mean that you get to utilize actual tactical cover such as in the brilliant Rainbow Six: Vegas series, or any of the Metal Gear Solid titles. I mean that you sort of just hop behind an object and wait for one of the baddie bots to finish firing at you so that you can pop up and continue blasting away at it. Rinse, repeat.
Recore’s graphics are at the level that one would expect they’d be from a triple A development team. They’re highly detailed and everything, but rather sterile. They are both nice to look at, but also somehow seem soulless at the same time. It’s as if the graphics modelers didn’t really believe in the project that they were creating, but rather just showing up and working on it in order to collect a paycheck.
In fact, Recore as a whole just seems as vapid as a pile of robotic scrap metal. Were there small instances of fun? Sure there was—here and there. But these were few and far between, and were overshadowed by the exhausting tedium of seemingly endless platforms that you’re forced to navigate. If you miss your timing, you fall do your death, and that happens a lot. There’s nothing more frustrating than almost getting to the end of a dungeon, only to mistime a jump and die. And you’ll do this a lot since the game’s platforming elements are very difficult, overall.
As a game, Recore should only appeal to hardcore platforming junkies with oodles of time on their hands. I’ve never been much of a fan of platformers, and Recore hasn’t done anything to change my perspective on them. But if you’re a fan of hopping, hopping some more, shooting, and then hopping again, you may just find something to enjoy with Recore.
Recore does have some very appealing graphics to behold. However, you have to have an equally fast gaming PC in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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