‘ReCore’ Review

Platforms PC/Xbox One
Developer Armature Studio/Comcept   Publisher Microsoft Studios
Genre Adventure   Platform Played Xbox One

Following Joule as she ventures across Far Eden in an attempt to terraform it into a hospitable planet, ReCore combines exploration, RPG elements, and creative platforming to create a memorable experience, albeit one not without its issues.

At the outset of the adventure, Joule has a solitary robotic companion named Mack. Contained in a familiar canine body, Mack’s core offers little in the way of unique advantage over his late-game counterparts, but serves as a fantastic introduction to the mechanics of the game. Over the course of the initial dungeon-esque segment, players are informed about the different colours associated with enemies. Red, yellow, and blue robots will attempt to interrupt your progress, and to better your chances of defeating them, selecting the same colour from Joule’s gun will inflict more damage to the enemy in question. When enough damage has been dealt to an enemy, the player is faced with a decision, as there are two separate ways to dispose of an enemy, with each method yielding a different benefit. You may choose to extract the opponent’s core (the powerful, coloured orb which acts as a power source) but doing so will immobilize you temporarily as you engage in a tug-of-war with the robot, or you may simply shoot the robot until it explodes and provides you with crafting materials.

Cores are used to upgrade Joule’s robotic companions and make them stronger, but crafting materials are needed in order to product stronger parts for them. While “Prismatic” foes (i.e. bosses) require you to extract their core, and “Corebytes” (i.e. incredibly weak enemies) simply get destroyed, the vast majority of aggressive robots will force the player to choose and reward them appropriately. This balancing act is an interesting one which adds an extra layer of intricacy or strategy to combat, but nothing is more infuriating than working through a dungeon location and having to discard some of your extracted cores simply because you found stronger ones and your inventory is full. Considering how integral the core extraction mechanic is, the inventory for cores is extremely limited and could benefit greatly from allowing players to hold an additional 10 or 15 cores at any given time.

ReCore does a satisfactory job sculpting the environment of Far Eden into a believable terrain. Clearly the society has focused heavily on robotics and technology, but without human care for decades, the harsh climate of the planet has reclaimed the majority of modified land. The drifting sand, rock formations, massive pieces terraforming equipment, and buildings still in existence all fit perfectly together. Unfortunately, while there are no shortage of collectibles to hunt down, there can frequently be times when you have nothing to keep your attention for several minutes as you explore. Obviously there should not be an endless stream of items to locate, but when you are traversing large open areas in the name of reaching your next objective, it can feel like quite a lengthy and chore-like task without puzzles or items rising intermittently. Instead, you will frequently see enemy robots erupt from the sand in front of you to distract you for a few moments. After dispatching each party of robots, the already lengthy trek feels that much more painful as it has been drawn out two be two or three times as long.

When you do see puzzles or collectibles, you may or may not be able to access them at that time due to which robot companions you have with you. There are five different robot frames in the game, all of which have unique abilities, and are needed for overcoming different obstacles, and you are able to select any two of them to travel alongside you at any given time. However, there are only a couple of cores used to animate these frames, meaning you will need to change which frames are activated depending on which puzzles you are presented with. There is only one place to activate different frames, Joule’s “Crawler” (the base of operations for our protagonist). Fortunately, each companion core will gain experience and level up, even if they are not with you as you explore Far Eden. This prevents the typical RPG issue of two or three companions becoming incredibly strong, but having several others who are far lower levels than your usual party members.

Returning to previously explored areas after unlocking a new robot frame will generally result in several more dungeons and powerups becoming accessible, but you will find yourself constantly returning to your “Crawler” and having to swap out companions before finding the closest fast travel station to where you had been and travelling back to that specific puzzle. It is also a very distinct possibility that there is no fast travel station near your previous location, and you must spend another 3 or 4 four minutes travelling across the wasteland to reach it again. The game would have benefited significantly from the ability to fast travel back to the precise location from which you had recently warped to your Crawler. If the argument is made that you need the fast travel stations in order to actually travel in that manner, why is it always an option to teleport back to Joule’s Crawler regardless of where you are? That same function should be available to revert back to that location, even if it disappears after you use it once or fast travel to a different location in the world.

ReCore Inquisitive Mack

There is a strong enough plot presence throughout the main quest line to provide players with motivation for their actions and provide some background information, but similar to Dead Space and Bioshock, there are audio logs scattered through the world which offer far more insight into the world and events leading up to the present situation. Those who strive to locate all of them will gain some far more interesting insight into the world of ReCore than those who do not put forth the extra effort. It would have been nice if one of the log sets (and similarly, the dialogue from companion robots) had not been in a completely fictitious language which makes no sense to the player. Even with subtitles, the dialogue is expressed through foreign symbols and blocks rather than actually providing context or meaning to the jibberish being heard.

Sadly, the end-game component of ReCore is anti-climactic, and forces the player to locate more and more prismatic cores before accessing the next floor of a tower. Players who willingly searched for as many prismatic cores as possible before reaching this point may be able to complete the entire tower without ever leaving it, but the majority of individuals will likely have to exit after each floor and hunt down more cores. This process is painfully irritating due to a combination of the fast travel mechanic and the lack of information regarding items in the overworld. While each dungeon will state from the overworld map just how many of its collectibles remain hidden, you are not able to see the locations of the overworld cores unless you happen to be in that section of the map. It may seem like a minor detail, but while hunting prismatic cores, it would make the process significantly simpler if you could see the cores you had not yet collected from a fast travel station or Joule’s Crawler. Instead, you must choose a part of the world to travel to and then open up the world map from there to find out if you happen to be near any or even in the same part of the world as any you have not yet located. If the cores were never displayed on the map, this would also not be an issue, but because they do appear in some circumstances, it results in an awkward and infuriating game mechanic.

Visually, ReCore is a phenomenal game, and taking a few moments to revel in the scenery is a must. However, the desire to explore every inch of the landscape will occasionally be marred by the obnoxiously long loading times. Any time you use a fast travel station, enter a dungeon, or progress to a separate area of the overworld, a loading screen will appear and remain there for a minimum of 15 or 20 seconds. Even returning to the main menu from the pause screen results in a lengthy load time. The worst I personally experienced was during a boss fight in which I died approximately 90 seconds into the bout. In order to reload the most recent checkpoint, which had been from just outside the door leading to the boss chamber, I had to wait just over a minute to resume playing. This was an extreme example, and I never experienced anything close to a minute after that, but the average load time is roughly 25 seconds. In the end-game events which require you to travel the world collecting cores until you reach specific numbers, this can be an extremely unpleasant aspect simply due to how frequently you need to fast travel and enter dungeons.

ReCore is an enjoyable experience that fans of open world exploration will find themselves drawn to, but players will need to exercise a great deal of patience while long load times and grinding for cores take their toll. The plot is interesting enough to keep players engaged, with audio playing on occasion as Joule walks through various environments, but only those who hunt down the additional audio logs will truly appreciate what has happened on and around Far Eden. The combat mechanic is relatively simplistic, relying on colour matching to do the most damage, but limited inventory slots render exploration and collection excursions relatively short in duration so as not to waste or lose resources. The platforming segments are incredibly varied throughout ReCore, but at no point are they perplexing or require extensive amounts of thought to overcome. The gentle difficulty climb allows the game to be accessible to younger or inexperienced gamers, although those looking for a significant challenge or a thoroughly polished title may have to look elsewhere.

The Good

  • Interesting plot keeps players invested in quests
  • Experience gained by inactive party members
  • Beautiful environment

The Bad

  • Incredibly lengthy load times
  • Fast travel mechanic leaves much to be desired
  • Only able to swap out cores and use resources in one location

The Score: 6.4