I must start with a disclaimer: I have done a great many years of technical support in my time, and ReCore is a game in which you play, basically, a technical support engineer. I am thus rather predisposed to speaking well of it. It’s also the first Xbox One game I’ve played on the console I bought a few months ago, so there’s a heavy purchase justification factor at work here.
The gist of the story is that, in the not-too-distant future (Next Sunday, AD?), humanity is ravaged by a virulent outbreak of some sort of flesh-eating virus. A scant few people make it off the planet in big arks, heading for a new home. The problem is, it’s not exactly a paradise planet, so most of the survivors stay in cryogenic sleep in the arks, in orbit, while the terraforming machines and a bunch of robots do their job to make it less of a desert hell-scape and more of someplace you’d want to settle down and get to rebuilding the human race.
Your job, as a technical support gal, is to fix the machines when they break down. So, you spend most of your time in cryogenic sleep in a big Damnation Alley-style crawler on the planet’s surface, being woken up when something needs to be worked on.
Oh, and you have a robot dog, who serves both as a combat buddy and who helps you find buried things. Later you get a few more robotic companions – there’s a robot ape, who can smash things, a robot spider, who can climb things, and so on.
Light spoilers here, you get woken up at a time when things aren’t exactly going humanity’s way. It turns out that some of the robots that were supposed to be terraforming your new home decided that, while the humans were all asleep, they were going to set up their own robot homeworld and that it doesn’t have room in it for any squishy fleshy types.
There was also a robot rebellion, where robots loyal to humanity fought back. More on that in a little bit.
Anyway, being a good technical support engineer, you aren’t going to let a few genocidal robots get in the way of getting your tickets closed, so you get out of your crawler and start blowing up the machines that want to kill you and fixing the machines that will make the world habitable.
This involves a lot of running around the desert, finding ways to power machines, blowing up robots and scavenging their parts to upgrade your robot buddies, etc. It pretty much follows the open-world template of “here are the main story missions, but you really need to go and do side stuff when you get stuck on the main stuff”, and this is a template that I have come to enjoy. So far, we’re talking a game that is 100% in my wheelhouse.
That’s only about half the game, though. The other half of the game is very tricky platforming sequences, and ones that get very weird.
Now, I will insert another disclaimer here: normally, I get frustrated by games with heavy platforming elements, and that’s not the reason I’m saying it’s weird. This one is exceptionally generous with checkpoints and you’re never more than a few feet back from the most recent time you fell to your death, so I don’t really have any complaints there.
The bizarre bit is that the platforming just gets really, for lack of a better word, “gamey”. Like, it makes sense to me that you might need to jump and climb your way up a giant machine, avoiding hazardous bits along the way, but ReCore’s platforming segments have you literally dashing between free-floating Tron-style hard light platforms, often with laser beams traveling along them to kill you or moving hard light walls to push you off of them. They’re very much 3D versions of old 2D platform games, back in the days when you didn’t really question WHY the thing you were standing on would regularly phase in and out of existence, and the dichotomy between the realistic overworld of ReCore and these platforming sections is pretty damn jarring.
And then we get to the Rollers, which are big balls covered in electrified spikes that serve as obstacles both in the game’s more realistic dungeons and in its abstract platforming stages. They’re the sort of obstacle that made perfect sense – as much as anything needed to make perfect sense – in a SNES game, but which really stand out in a more realistic game.
If you’ve ever seen Galaxy Quest, it’s much the same feeling as the “Chompers” scene, with a strong sense of “why on earth would anyone put these rolling balls of death in the middle of a factory”.
It turned out, after a brief perusal of the in-game encyclopedia, that there was a perfectly good in-universe explanation for the Rollers: they are punishment devices used to discipline members of the robot rebellion I mentioned earlier. Inside every one is a treasonous robot constantly being shaken about until it, presumably, repents or dies.
I am not sure, given this explanation, why the electrified spikes are on the OUTSIDE.
So, if you are easily frustrated by dying over and over while you try to make it through a tricky jumping bit, you may want to give it a pass. I had one bit where my mind elected to simply break down as I constantly sent my character dashing off into the middle of a complicated series of death traps, only to get hit time and time again by one or another of the traps and fall to my doom.
There was a sound associated with this, something like the BOINK of a softball hitting an aluminum bat, and after a while I couldn’t stop laughing at the BOINK-splut-BOINK-splut-BOINK. My wife had to come in and make sure I was OK, and I tried desperately to explain why I was nearly in tears but not actually mad.
Eventually I did get past the BOINKS of doom and finished off the final boss, striking a blow for technical support engineers everywhere and presumably saving the human race as well (it’s not made explicitly clear that you’ve done this, but there’s a short scene after the credits that implies that things are looking up).
All-in-all, recommended, especially if you have an HDR-capable TV. This game has a lot of glowing neon bits and they are gorgeous in HDR.
Nice to read something positive about this game rather than vague complaining about how it’s not very good, but without actually giving any details about why. This is one of the few Xbone games I’m vaguely interested in, but unfortunately still not quite enough to make me want to grab that console!
Microsoft was running a deal a few months ago where you could pick up the Xbox One S, a second controller, and ReCore, Halo 5 and Forza 6 for really cheap, and I was enticed in by a good deal even if I really didn’t NEED the system.
I should probably have mentioned that I played the “Definitive Edition”, which is a version of the game that corrects a lot of flaws that were present at launch and which are probably responsible for the negative buzz surrounding the game.
The launch version had huge loading times, exacerbated by needing frequent travel back to your home base to, say, empty your inventory or change which robotic companions you had along. So every time you died, you were staring at a loading screen for two minutes, every time your inventory filled up you had a pair of two minute loading screens as you traveled back to home base and then back to the nearest fast travel station to whatever you were doing, and so on. The definitive edition lets you do a lot of this sort of busywork from every fast travel station AND cut loading time down drastically, so there’s less frustration there.
Also, the game locks new dungeons behind another very gamey mechanic – you need to collect “Prismatic Cores” in the world, which work very much like Mario stars/moons in that you need to have X number of them to open dungeon Y. You only need to get about 15 of them to get TO the final dungeon, but you need 30 of them to open the door once you’ve arrived and beaten the gatekeeper boss, which means a lot of going out and looking for cores if you weren’t doing that along the way. The narrative is particularly off-key here as you are told that the planet is being ravaged by horrible storms and you absolutely must get to the top of the dungeon as fast as you can… but, oh, go and do some side quests first, K?
So there’s a bit of a grind there in the remastered version, but it’s still a huge improvement over the original version, which had you collecting the initial 30 to open the front door of the last dungeon and another 5 every time you wanted to go up a floor. It was a pretty transparent “we need to stretch out the playtime” mechanic, and I’m glad I didn’t play the game in that state.
It’s a pretty rare game that gets released, roundly thrashed for very quantifiable flaws, and gets a second chance at life with an overhaul like this, so it’s notable for that if nothing else.
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That’s interesting. Particularly as very little was written about this aspect of the game by the press! But I should stop being surprised about the modern press not doing their research and concentrating only on pumping out 500 articles about Destiny 2/Call of Duty/Battlefront/whatever per day. I know better by now! 🙂
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It’s nice to read a thoughtful take on this game. I’ve always wanted to give it a shot.
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