Review: ReCoreAn underbaked robot pancake
ReCore feels an awful lot like a middle of the road plate of lace pancakes on The Great British Bake Off. The flavours are great, the design is detailed and likeable, but it really needed just a little longer on the pan to solidify as something palatable. An extra few minutes on the heat could have made all the difference and taken it from delicious but slightly raw to an exceptional star bake-worthy contender.
Can you tell I watched GBBO while writing notes for this review?
ReCore, the latest release from Keji Inafune whose last release was the rather lackluster Mighty No. 9, is set on New Eden, a planet set to be terraformed for human life in the near future following Earth’s sudden inability to support our species. Sentient robots, dubbed Corebots, had been sent to the planet with the aim of creating a sustainable ecosystem ready for our arrival. Unsurprisingly, this did not go exactly to plan.
It’s a third person shooter meets action platformer game which takes a lot of cues for its open world design from the 3D console Zelda games: large open empty areas of map used to connect small isolated dungeons which much to be cleared for game progression. Side quests exist in the large empty space between dungeons, but mainly it’s used to give the planet a sense of scale.
While the early game feels rather easy, the late game becomes near impossible
Our protagonist, a female scrap hunter named Joule, feels an awful lot like a 3D MegaMan or Mighty No. 9 protagonist to control. She double jumps, dashes in mid-air, and primarily fights with a projectile-based weapon. Her gun has four different coloured settings, with additional damage dealt if her gun is set to the same colour as the core of the robot she is shooting. While the early game feels rather easy, the late game becomes near impossible without keeping up with matching the colours.
The issues with early game difficulty are only exacerbated by the fact the game uses a form of lock on for shots. The early game’s damage and health balance is such that even without picking colours correctly, enemies are easy to aim and take only a couple of shots to kill, meaning being able to lock on makes most encounters too easy.
However, the main point of interest highlighted in all the trailers for ReCore is the presence of a team of robot buddies who will help you along on your adventure. Unfortunately, the roster of robot buddies you can control is considerably smaller than many trailers for the game seemed to imply. One of the main robots in promotional material isn’t even in the game yet, and is to be introduced in a future update which may or may not be paid DLC.
While any enemy you defeat can have its core removed and added to your collection, you are limited to a pool of three non-hostile Corebots with which to go on your adventure. Mack is a mechanical dog with a blue core who can search out hidden items buried in the world. Seth, a yellow spider, can pull you up to otherwise unreachable areas. Duncan, a red cored ape, can smash through tough items like boulders that block progression, and packs a punch in combat. That’s the majority of the robot system right there in three bots; functions are simple and clearly laid out.
These friendly Corebots will fight automatically and can be commanded to either fall back and regain health or to focus on attacking the same enemy Joule is currently fighting. While this is initially frustratingly simplistic, as the Corebots are upgraded you’ll find that effective switching between bots, use of the lethal attack command to chain attack combos, and an increased combat ability variety make that combat loop far more interesting and engaging.
Leveling allows for stat boosts to Joules, but also increases the potential max stats of your CoreBot, which can only be achieved by working on them at a workbench. This is where the cores stolen from fallen enemies come in, as they can be fused to your Corebots to raise their attack, defense, lethal frequency and lethal effectiveness. It’s nice to be able to pick and choose how you upgrade your team, but it can be a slow and labourious process depending on how many cores you collect, as you can only fuse one new core at a time. When you sometimes find hundreds or even thousands of cores between visits to the workbench, this can be a tedious process.
I wish you could avoid some of this tedium by making more regular trips to upgrade, but this is where we get onto the slightly underbaked pancake aspect of the game. The loading times in ReCore are horrifily long.
Any time ReCore loads, the process can take anywhere between one minute and two minutes and 10 seconds. This makes fast travel feel like a chore rarely worth doing, and death feels like so much of a punishment that at times I wanted to stop playing all together. Dying in a small room and reloading to that same small room should not take a minute and half, yet sometimes it somehow did. Once or twice it’s not a huge issue, but when playing the game in large batches it begins to mount up and become a huge detractor from the flow of gameplay. Recore is not a large game, nor a fantastically beautiful one. Running on decent hardware, I really can’t understand what’s taking it so long to load.
Also, it’s the bad kind of buggy where textures fail to load, the protagonist can get stuck in scenery, and the game can completely and utterly crash costing precious progression. This gets old fast.
These complaints said however, I loved my time with ReCore. I found the story charming, the robots and protagonist endearing, the combat for the most part rewarding and the world exciting to explore. It simultaneously scratched my Zelda and Metroid Prime itches, and kept me hooked throughout.
It just really needed a few more minutes baking for Mary Berry to be able to stomach it.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
Platform: PC (reviewed), Xbox One
Developer/Publisher: Comcept & Armature Studios/Microsoft Studios
Release date: September 13 (NA/AUS), September 15 (JP), September 16 (EU)
- Engaging characters and plot
- Good late-game difficulty
- Responsive gameplay
- Unforgivable load-times
- Too easy at the start
A great game held from perfection by numerous technical issues.