ReCore is a charming action platformer by a studio made up of well-established developers. Armature consists of folks who had worked on Metroid Prime as well as Keiji Inafune, who is known for his extensive work on the Mega Man series. Their DNA is certainly all over this game, but it lacks the level of care and quality of the aforementioned games. Even with an interesting premise and great cast of characters, ReCore feels empty and outdated. With that being said, there is a lot of fun to be had, even with its numerous shortcomings.
ReCore is set in the desert world of Far Eden, where humanity has made an effort to revitalize society. A plague has wiped out the majority of Earth’s inhabitants and scientists have started to use organic-mechanical beings called Corebots to help with the rebuilding process. The main character, Joule, awakens on Far Eden only to find that the experiment has largely failed, as the planet’s Corebots have all turned hostile. With the help of Mack, her dog-like Corebot companion, Joule scours the wasteland for clues as to what really happened. Joule is a great character with a spunky personality, but she needs to play a more prominent role. She shows a lot of promise as a protagonist and perhaps a sequel can revitalize her and the franchise as a whole. In this game, she feels underutilized.
Gameplay is based in combat, exploration, and platforming. Combat couldn’t be more simple, since Joule has one rifle that is essentially her only method of attack. It’s also her only tool for doing anything including destroying loot crates and activating switches. It has two types of attacks: rapid fire and a heavier charge-up shot to take out mobs and larger enemies. A color system dictates the amount of damage that is done against various enemies. Blue, yellow, and red ammo types are best used against enemies of the same color type. Since shooting is the only thing that Joule really does in combat, it’s nice to have the extra layer of depth, even if it isn’t much.
Mack and a few other companions that are acquired throughout the game handle the other side of combat. They will automatically fight alongside Joule, but she also has control over who they attack. Pressing Y will cause them to heavy-hit specific targets, which takes off quite a bit of damage. Along with Mack, Joule also encounters Seth, a spider Corebot and Duncan, a primate-like Corebot. They each have their own type of attacks: Mack does a simple dash attack, Seth fires missiles, and Duncan smashes enemies and lights them on fire. Continuous attacks build up a combat meter, which allows for more damage output and the ability to steal a bot’s Core in a cool tug-of-war sequence. Cores and other parts found throughout the world is used to upgrade and customize Joule’s Corebot companions.
After fighting through waves and waves of similar enemies, the combat gradually begins to feel like a chore. This is made even more tedious since random encounters happen whenever Joule is traversing the open world. ReCore is hindered by a lack of any custom waypoint system, so constantly referring to the in-game map is a necessity. A green indicator appears for the main story missions, but even that only shows up some of the time. Getting from one place to another is a drag, especially since there is a lot of backtracking involved. I found myself getting lost a number of times because I simply couldn’t tell where the game wanted me to go. The lack of waypoints and clear instruction makes ReCore feel like it is a generation or two behind.
The world itself is empty and lacks any real detail. Even for a desert planet, it’s boring. The landscape of New Eden doesn’t have much to offer by way of exploration, apart from loot chests to find and dungeons to go through. Completing dungeons awards prismatic cores which are used to progress through the main story. These are platforming and combat-based “obstacle courses” that must be completed within a certain amount of time to get the cores. They’re really fun to run through, especially since the platforming is well-designed. Unfortunately, if you don’t keep up with the dungeons, you’ll be forced to backtrack in order to progress through the game. This can often mean a delay of a few hours, mostly due to the fact that the map is so difficult to navigate. It’s easy to get lost, which adds an extra layer of frustration.
To top it all off, one of ReCore’s largest problems is its excessively long load times. Dying results in further punishment in the form of one minute long load times. Since the later portions of the game just unload dozens of bullet-sponging enemies on you, dying is fairly frequent. This, of course, means players will be spending a lot of time in the load screens.
ReCore has a lot in common with PS2 3D platformers such as Ratchet & Clank and Jak & Daxter. It also feels like a game from that era, in the sense that it is clunky and clearly low budget. Parts of it also feel unfinished, which is reflected in the mostly empty overworld and minimal story. Pure gameplay is essentially the only reason to play this game and even that leaves something to be desired.
Gamer Professionals thanks Microsoft for providing a review copy.