I’m a bit late to the party, but I picked up a used copy of ReCore today on Xbox One to check it out for myself after its lukewarm reception upon release. I know I’ve mentioned this a hundred times before, but I absolutely adored the Metroid Prime series on GameCube, along with most of Keiji Inafune’s earlier work.
The concept of both developers joining forces to create ReCore is more than enough reason to at least give it a shot, though I’ll admit I was concerned going in about the game’s repetitive nature and poor performance issues.
For those unaware, ReCore is a third-person action RPG where you control Joule (pronounced “jewel”), a terraforming engineer who mysteriously awakes from cryosleep nearly 200 years after the world of Far Eden has gone to shit. At least that’s what I’ve gathered so far.
Far Eden is home to desert landscapes and linear cave formations, but it’s mostly home to a plethora of angry robots. These robots function by way of a central glowing orb, known as cores. Using this to her advantage, Joule can extract these cores from weakened enemies and use them as a resource to power up her own robotic companions.
During combat, Joule can command her mecha-canine pal Mack to dash at enemies, and, by collecting blueprints and crafting materials dropped by enemies, can customize them to focus more on attack damage, defense, or energy (used to trigger the aforementioned lethal dash).
Combat is really slick, with Joule obtaining different colored ammunition that can be switched on the fly. Each enemy type is weak to its own element, which is weird, I know, but it keeps things far less confusing when you’re surrounded by bloodthirsty robots. Each of her robot pals represents a different element as well, so swapping them around to color match is definitely a good idea.
It felt a bit like a ballet of death once I got the hang of it. Rapidly switching between the different ammo types to counter swarms of enemies, using charged shots to interrupt high damaging attacks, all while double jumping and air dashing to avoid attacks, is an absolute blast.
Combat is definitely the game’s strong point, since the world of ReCore is not very pleasant to look at. There are moments when Joule and her robot pals look fine, and since I’ve spent most of my time zipping around platforms and killing things, I rarely stopped to soak in the barren atmosphere. But when I did, it was pretty off-putting.
Most of the game’s textures are not only recycled quite frequently, but they’re downright terrible. I get that ReCore is a “budget” title at $40, but so was The Witness and Ratchet & Clank on PS4, and those games are both gorgeous. Hell, Ori and the Blind Forest launched at $20 and it’s still one of the most beautiful games on current-gen consoles. So I don’t agree that the game’s price excuses its less than desirable aesthetic. The game was clearly rushed.
Bad visuals aside, I really do like Joule’s character model, along with her robot buds. When Mack yelps in pain and limps along the floor, I feel for the little guy as if he were a real canine. With ReCore giving me very little story to work with, I find myself drawn to the characters far more than I have any reason to, which speaks volumes to the game’s art direction — at least from a character standpoint.
Most reviewers tend to agree that while ReCore starts off strong, with a rather interesting combat system, robot companions, and various upgrade and crafting mechanics, it tends to get worse the longer you play it. After spending a little over 3 hours with the game, I’m starting to understand their concerns.
The flow of ReCore is frequently interrupted at various checkpoints that task the player with hunting down a collectible called “prismatic cores.” You essentially reach a locked door, see how many cores it needs to open, and then check your map to go hunt them down in challenge dungeons.
Challenge dungeons are kind of enjoyable, but these are things generally put aside as optional content in other games. It feels weird, then, being forced to race against time in a tricky platforming segment, or hunting down hidden switches, just to progress the story.
When so many other games have used this type of content as a way to offer additional time sinks, either by way of achievements and trophies or rewarding players with additional loot and XP, ReCore’s method of forcing this upon the player is equally confusing and concerning.
It’s as if the developers knew they had a short game on their hands, and rather than just accepting it and polishing what they had to work with, they instead inflated the experience in a very unnatural way.
The content isn’t necessarily bad, per se, but this is all the game has been thus far for three straight hours. Enter a new zone, find a locked door, hunt down prismatic cores to proceed, and repeat again and again. Combat is great and so far I’ve enjoyed crafting parts to upgrade my robots, but the gameplay hook has been largely unsatisfying.
Other common complaints draws attention to ReCore’s awful framerate dips and load times, which I can vouch for firsthand. Being surrounded by glowing enemies that are frequently exploding, the game takes a nasty dip in framerate more often than it should for the lackluster visuals it’s putting out. This lag makes ReCore’s otherwise enjoyable platforming and combat segments an exercise in frustration at times.
Perhaps the most baffling concern is the game’s absurd load times, which can exceed 2 minutes if you’re unlucky enough to die in-game by way of an enemy. Oddly enough, falling to your death respawns Joule almost instantaneously. Zoning in to an area also triggers some pretty agonizing load times, even when fast traveling back to Joule’s tiny hideout to dump loot and upgrade robots.
Supposedly there’s a patch on the way to address the load time concerns, but with any luck they’ll also focus on making the prismatic core hunt a bit less tedious. I’d rather finish an enjoyable $40 game in 6 or 7 hours than grow bored and frustrated at having to run cliche challenges commonly reserved as optional content in other open-world games.
At least then I’d already be halfway through the game. Right now, I’m not even sure if I’ll stick around to finish it.
*ReCore is available on Xbox One and PC through the new Xbox Play Anywhere initiative. Buying the game on one format gives you access to both. However, my early impressions review is based purely on the Xbox One version of the game.