ReCore (Xbox One Review)
There was a point in time where Keiji Inafune could do no wrong. Anything he touched was gold and during his time at Capcom he helped produce and create some of their most popular, and in some cases forgotten, series. After stepping away from Capcom and working with Comcept on Microsoft’s next big exclusive, all eyes were on Inafune and his team. Enter ReCore.
ReCore starts with the awakening of Joule, a colonist sent out to scout and help maintain the terraforming of a new planet after an outbreak disease on Earth, from her cryo-sleep. After a while it appears that there has been an issue and Joule was in stasis far longer than she should have been. After this realisation Joule sets out alongside her trusty corebot, a series of robots created to help colonists perform their duties and maintenance, called Mack. The two set out to explore the region to see what happened and what’s wrong, finding additional collectible audiologs along the way. ReCore’s premise is fun, if not a bit overdone, and the story will sink its hooks in while you try to work out just what happened to the other colonists. Although the story is short lived with a rather drawn out final act, a straight push to the end will leave players short on playtime and a number of unanswered questions, questions that won’t be answered at all – even if you get all the audiologs it seems.
Even without the unanswered questions, ReCore is still enjoyable with moment to moment combat that borders on RPG while maintaining a feel and perspective that is not unlike Lost Planet. Tasked with ridding Eden, the obviously named new planet in which Humanity would rise again, of evil corebots will see Joule rallying up allies and upgrading her gun by finding new attachments and through experience points. Everything in ReCore is colour coded, right down to the nozzle of you gun – and that’s no joke. Enemy types have weaknesses and shield that correspond to the colour of the corebots in your party and the growing assortment of attachments for your weapon. The enemies even have shield giving Inafune to bring back his favourite, the charged buster shot.
Out with the combat based mechanics of ReCore, corebots serve an alternate purpose in either allowing for the destruction of some objects, gliding, or scaling large walkways in the sky. Each corebot has their own unique ability and can be upgraded through finding corresponding energy to the stat or by creating new parts for them with salvage scrap from destroyed enemies. Through gaining access to new corebots the world of Eden opens up for Joule and adds a Metroid style exploration to dungeons and the landscape.
Dungeons are ReCore’s fluff as it were. These optional areas can be platform based, arena based, or just an area of the map to explore with more loot therein. Each dungeon has a set of secondary objectives that require you to complete in a certain time, find switches, and discover a hidden key. There is no innovation to be found in the structure of these dungeons, but what they add to ReCore is a sense of depth, allowing you to grind out some extra materials or push your new corebots to the limit as you access once sealed areas. By completing a dungeon you will unlock as Prismatic Core, a special type of energy that unlocks more dungeons. While completing all three secondary objectives in one burst will unlock further cores, new upgrades for your corebots and some currency/upgrade materials, the only downside being that it seems impossible to change your party to a specific layout at some point in the story. Without giving too much away, it involves one of the flying corebots and I was not able to actually select a part of two including him from the party select screen – leaving a variety of teams consisting of Duncan, Mack, or Seth.
All of this grinding and exploration really leads to one thing, a gameplay loop. See it, kill it, harvest it, and upgrade are the driving force behind ReCore. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoyable. Through customising your corebots they change shape, colour and gain bonus attributes by wearing a set of upgrades will grant extra bonuses. What’s more is that these changes are visible in cutscenes, a small but overlooked feature in games with customisable appearances that are greatly appreciated when implemented.
Unfortunately a nice addition to the cutscnes doesn’t save ReCore from the drastic execution on a technical front. Landscapes often feel baron as the textures force themselves in at unsettling distances and ruin the sandy vistas that you are pushed to explore. When running about and playing in general the Xbox One version of ReCore greatly suffers at the hands of countless dropped frames and really breaks concentration, which is something you wouldn’t expect from a game with longer loading times than manually creating your own game in a ZX Spectrum.
And ReCore’s issues don’t stop there, some dungeons suffer from terrible respawn placement, specifically the timed platforming segments. Players will be dropped in at odd locations that mean avoiding death is nigh on impossible. This feeling os poor placement even extends to ReCore’s animations, as they often feel clunky and the camera has atrocious framing during cutscenes.
It’s truly the technical side that lets ReCore down, these missteps have resulted in another “Xbox One and Windows 10 Exclusive” just failing to hit the mark. There are some really great ideas in ReCore and they feel realised, but it never really hits the point where they feel like they have been executed efficiently. At points ReCore did feel like it could capture my attention for days, but just like the frame rate my interest abruptly came to a halt and I felt that I needed to push myself to continue. A patch might go a long way to fixing ReCore and I hope it does, but until then it feels as cobbled together as the corebots that have to put up with Joule’s incessant requests to break things and take her places.