ReCore Review – A lack of focus
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ReCore is an action adventure 3D platformer developed by Comcept Inc. as well as Armature Studio and published by Microsoft Studios. ReCore has some good ideas, but the game tries to do too much all at once, giving me a sense that it lacks focus.

Even after finishing the game in roughly nine hours, I still found it hard to understand what the game really wants to be. ReCore suffers from an identity crisis with its open world, an RPG-like crafting system and 3D platformer gameplay.

Welcome to Far Eden

The game plays off after a catastrophic event on earth forces humanity so search for another habitable planet, which is where Far Eden comes in. Being a great distance from earth, humanity had to send robots, called corebots, to help prepare Far Eden for colonization and start the terraforming process.

Joule Adams is one of the last humans sent to Far Eden, so things should have been going pretty well when she awoke from her cryogenic sleep. Unfortunately for Joule, she awakes from her slumber to find no sign of other humans. Instead, the corebots sent to help humanity have become aggressive killing machines.

Teaming up for her trusty corebot companion Mack, Joule braves the desert planet in search of answers; and cores to power her base of operations called a “crawler”.

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Poor old Mack's paw hurts

Throughout the campaign, one thing that really stood out for me as a positive was the relationship between Joule and her corebot companions.  Every interaction was expertly crafted. The corebots’ personalities accompanied by Joule’s thoughtful and loving actions towards her mechanical companions never failed to impress. Unfortunately, the above mentioned moments of interaction are the best thing about the game.

The story became predictable fairly quickly, but at the same time lacked a sense of real direction. Throughout the campaign, I was never surprised at any of the plot points. Instead, when the story was finished, all I thought was “of course” coupled with a sigh of disappointment.

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The world opens up after a couple of hours in, giving you the freedom to explore dungeons, hunt for blueprints and find hidden treasures in supply caches found throughout the environment. Instead of adding something interesting, the open world actually detracts from the experience and takes away the small bit of enjoyment I experienced through the platforming gameplay.

The core gameplay

ReCore’s gameplay reminds me of old-school platformers. You can jump, double jump, dash, fire your weapon or charge it up for a deadly blast. Shiny platforms sit in the air and some strange-looking portal-like devices help you recharge your dash and double-jump ability; with absolutely no explanation in the story for why these objects can just float in the air…

If you are familiar with the above-mentioned gameplay mechanics, ReCore isn’t very difficult to get into; but it does offer some satisfying moments where you barely reach the next platform or blast your foes to pieces on low health.

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Press dash to extinguish flames or smash jump a few times will get you out of a “sticky” situation. If you are stunned, frantically swiping your “left stick” negates the effect. These are some decent mechanics, but they do get annoying. For example, even after an enemy is down, an effect persists until you perform one of the above mentioned actions.  

Then there is the core extraction mechanic…because cores…

It is without a doubt the most annoying mechanic I have experience in any game in recent memory. Basically, when an enemy is at low health or stunned, you can press the core extraction button, which works like a tug-of-war. If you are successful, the enemy instantly dies and an admittedly satisfying loot piñata effect occurs.

After pulling a core out of enemy corebots roughly ten times, it became a chore, one that I simply couldn’t stand later into the game. But the developers didn’t stop there, you also have to pull cores from objects such as doors or a pylon…Yes, the game clearly focuses on cores, but the whole experience just isn’t fun, but you have to do it to progress. Boss corebots won't die until you pull out their core…so even after a nice boss fight, you still need to perform the core extraction action. Extracting a core instead of simply killing an enemy does yield a lot more fusion, so the extraction mechanic becomes somewhat of a “must-do” chore.

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Further gameplay mechanics also feel a tad bit overdone, for example if you fire your rifle for too long and it will need to recharge, so you have to keep your eye on its ammunition bar at all times. Then, you also have to watch out for colour schemes and change your weapon damage output to a matching colour of an enemy, door or just about anything else. It’s not difficult, it just puts a pause on the action and offers no real enjoyment.

In the “open world” you can also collect blueprints to craft items which you can then use to upgrade your corebot companions and increase their strength with fusion earned. It is an RPG-like crafting system that you need to use simply because enemies get a lot harder to kill. However, not once did I get excited when I found a blueprint.

Finding a blueprint only meant going back to my base of operations and crafting it. The crafting mechanic does very little except pause the action. They don’t add cool new abilities to your corebots, but rather just increase damage, defence or ability power.

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The corebots themselves feel like an afterthought in battle. They do have some abilities that help out, but all their interaction in a fight is minimal. For example, I only need to press “Y” on my Xbox 360 controller so my dog-like companion can charge in and deal massive damage to an enemy.

Picking up items that increase your health or your weapon’s damage doesn’t feel rewarding. It’s just a little glowing object you run close to and your character’s power increases permanently.

Then, there are the doors. The game is horribly gated to put it mildly. Each area you have to make it to a certain point, then open a door, which requires battery bots you need to find. Basically, all you do is find a number of battery bots by jumping over platforms until you run over one of them; then you head back to the door so they can insert themselves into green slots.

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Oh look, ANOTHER door…

Finding and using prismatic cores to complete an object is the exact same thing as opening doors. You gather enough prismatic cores from enemy creatures or point-of-interest structures until you have enough to progress. Rinse and repeat those two progression mechanics roughly 50 times all while battling evil robots and you should complete the game in roughly eight to ten hours, depending on player skill.

Graphics, sound and performance

Let’s get to the good part first. The game does deliver decent sound and music and the voice acting for Joule is incredibly well done. When you kill corebots and pick up items left behind, a satisfying “clink clink clink” builds upon the game’s platforming experience. Further, your corebot companions sound mechanical yet somehow alive, which is part of the reason Joule and her companions’ interaction is so well done.

Unfortunately, ReCore suffers from some graphical bugs and performance issues. On my gaming rig, a GeForce 970, Intel Skylake i5 processor at 3.6ghz and 16gb of RAM, I experienced slowdowns at 1080p. To make matters worse, the game doesn’t even look that good. Joule and her corebots look fantastic, but the environment around her looks ugly and low res up close.

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There is an enemy bot I have to kill in that wall…

Enemy corebots clipping through a door or a rock further shows that the game simply did not receive enough polish. These incidents of clipping and ugly textures does away with any bit of immersion I felt in the world. Throughout nine hours of play, I experienced five crashes. The crashes happened at inopportune times, which meant I had to redo some extremely difficult jumping sections.

The Verdict

ReCore isn’t a terrible game. It has some charming moments and the platforming can be satisfying at time. However, at its core the game fails to deliver anything memorable. There are just too many moving parts and unnecessary mechanics that, all of which detract from a decent platforming experience. It is simply a chore to play.

ReCore is available on PC and Xbox One for R699 as part of Microsoft’s Play Anywhere initiative. Although I enjoyed some parts of the game, I simply cannot recommend the game to anyone at full price. My suggestion, wait for a sale before you give ReCore a bash.  

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