Post-apocalyptic seemed to be a theme fit for gaming, and although this term certainly makes you think of the Fallout series which brilliantly portrays it, other titles such Wasteland, Metro 2033 or The Last of Us have done well in their own ways. What is rare however, is to see a Japanese studio to be interested in such a theme, and on top of all one led by Megaman’s creator Keiji Inafune with ReCore. Backed by Microsoft Studio and Comcept, the developers caught our attention with tantalizing trailers at E3, but also with the promise of being one of the first Xbox Play Anywhere titles, as well as being an adventure and third person shooter game produced by Inafune himself. Now that the game is in my hand, and I’ve managed to play through this game, the result was kind of a surprise… And sadly not really the good kind.
Our story begins on Alter-Eden, a planet supposed to save human beings and their faithful robots, after a lack of resources on Earth. We find ourselves in a world devoid of any human presence, while Orbots (the robots) are getting more aggressive. As the sand storm settles just over the dunes of a world in ruins, we discover Joule Adams, ReCore’s protagonist. Strong and independent, our heroine quickly makes a show of her abilities to defend herself within her first clash with robotic insects. Joule is armed with a machine gun that shoot at the speed of light and can lock onto enemies almost like a sort of allusion to Metroid Prime. Easy as pie, but effective, this shooting system is reinforced by a loadable shot that can be activated by “charging” the attack like Megaman, and a simple movement scheme as our protagonist can double jump or use her reactor shoes to dash out and evade from an attack, which in short, makes a complete arsenal for a typical normal platformer and shooter dynamic game.
As our dear Joule continues to look for clues to what happened with the people and her father in these arid lands, a foreign distress signal shares mysterious clues and pieces to something that might save all of mankind… And so one battle after another, our heroine finds herself immersed in a gloomy cave housing a formidable spider which she manages to extract an orb which is as bright as a diamond, oozing incredible energy reading. Back in her safe house, after scanning the orb, she finds an old video filmed many years by her father Thomas Adams, explains his discovery of the prismatic orb, a sphere entirely similar to the one we have just discovered.
This discovery is the story trigger, the one clue that Joule was waiting to move forward and we as players start to explore dungeons scattered all around the Alter-Eden planet. Drawing clearly from various themes such as the fear of the end of the world so often used in the Western fictions, ReCore manages to set a murky atmosphere well offset by the determined nature of Joule. This is certainly one of the greatest achievements of the developers: the game’s universe, despite its relative sadness, is enjoyable to discover topped by a great soundtrack that accompanies us throughout the game brilliantly. There’s also special attention done to the artistic direction of the title, such as Joule’s charisma, and the many creatures you’ll have to defeat, inked in a style reminiscent of what Miyamoto is hoping to achieve in Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Back to the topic of the story, and past the post-apocalyptic foundations of ReCore’s universe, the events that will expand the script are themselves disappointing. Often predictable and sometimes clichéd, the narrative is not perfectly written, with a final twist that disappointed me by its lack of inspiration. Obviously, given the rather short lifespan of the title (between 6 to 10 hours depending on your ability), the ending is easier to swallow thankfully than if we were forced to dedicate more than 30 or 40 hours of our time for the game. Alas, while ReCore was revealed alongside some big names at E3 2015, it is not a major title, and you’ll noticed that right away, alongside the cheaper $39.99 price tag.
On the point of view of mechanics, other than the typical shooting system and platform sequence, Comcept tried hard to create a complex battle system. Hostile creatures are classified by color ranging from white, red, blue to yellow, and each monster will be more susceptible to attacks of this type. So for example, if you see a red mechanical spider, it will suffice to equip your gun the same color for extra damage. Joule is also accompanied by Mack, a faithful dog-like looking Corebot which will assist you in battles on its own, but can also be ordered to charge with a simple push of the Y button. Joule is also equipped with an extractor, a sort of hooking-line mechanics that she can use to extract cores from enemies when they are low in health.
It’s equipped with all these weapons that our adventurer wanders the open desert world, devoid of all human life. You will meet other hand a lot of hostile Orbots, and will shred down dozens quest to accomplish various objectives. Admittedly, all unfortunately becomes repetitive after a few hours, even if the developers have tried to add some additional mechanical throughout the adventure, or by adding timed side-objectives in dungeons. There’s also the long loot collection to do, so that our heroine can upgrade all of Mack (and the other corebots you’ll discover later on) parts, to improve its stats. Interesting RPG element, but clearly dispensable, as the crafted piece slightly improve your effectiveness in combat.
Before addressing the point of technical performance, I should offer a small context in the way ReCore was first announced at E3 2015. You see back then, the game was revealed as an exclusive Xbox One title, but followed E3 2016, Microsoft tried to push ever more their unified PC and console environment with Xbox Play Anywhere, and so a PC version for ReCore was finally announced six months later. Therefore one would expect that it was developed hastily and poorly optimized, as was the case with Quantum Break. The surprise is that it’s not at all badly done, and it’s actually the other way around.
Tested mainly one the Xbox One (and later on downloaded and briefly speed tested on PC), ReCore is full of bugs and technical issues. Textures are extremely blurred, there’s lag when traveling throughout the desert and a heavily pronounced aliasing. But all this is a bearer of a deeper problem: the console version is very poorly optimized. The problems are common such irregular textures, clipping and framerate drops on regular basis, as well as frighteningly long loading time (even after the Day One update). The worse is the kind of bugs that freeze your game, forcing you to quit and restart to continue.
Surprisingly the PC version is better optimized. Even if you don’t escape the aliasing issues, the main console problems mentioned earlier aren’t there on PC. This offers us the opportunity to enjoy ReCore with more than correct graphics and appreciate the art direction to its fair value. For the most demanding PC gamers, know that all traditional graphic options are present in the dedicated menu, and you can continue your adventure on both versions with one purchase.
ReCore was reviewed using an Xbox One downloadable code of the game provided by Xbox. The game is also available on PC via the Xbox Store as part of Xbox Play Anywhere. The game was also tested on a PC running Windows 10 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 960 fitted on a 5th Generation Intel i7 4720HQ 3.2Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• Simple yet fun combat mechanics
• Excellent art direction
• A solid foundation for the game universe
• A semi-open world pleasant to discover
• Nice and subtle soundtrack
• Repetitive gameplay
• Some weaknesses on the narrative front
• The catastrophic optimization on Xbox One
• Uneven difficulty in some dungeons