Originally announced during Microsoft’s 2015 E3 show, most people weren’t quite sure what to make of ReCore at the time. It certainly seemed interesting, but we didn’t have much on it besides having Keiji Inafune serving as a producer. Now that the game is out we can see if ReCore has heart, or if we should just shut this core down.
In ReCore you’ll be playing as Joule. After a mysterious virus called Dust Devil ravages Earth, an expedition to the far away planet of Far Eden begins. Joule wakes up from cryosleep to discover that somewhere down the road things have gone horribly wrong. The robots that were supposed to be terraforming Far Eden are now attacking her, the ship with the rest of the survivors is stuck floating in orbit, and there’s no sign of her father. So she sets off with her robotic K-9 companion Mack to figure out what’s going on. To discover of this out you have to be ready to collect audio logs and wait a good chunk of in-game time to get to it since ReCore starts by throwing you into the middle of things with no explanation. The story also never amounts to anything. Joule herself doesn’t really do much, so much as just watch things happen. The main antagonist, a robot named Victor, only seems to exist to be evil, while the drama back on Earth only gets a passing mention unless you go out of your way for the audio logs. There’s a narrator that seems to cut in and out with little rhyme or reason, sometimes there to just quickly mention why something was built before vanishing again.
Taking some hints from several different genres, your main goal in ReCore is to collect Prismatic Cores which allow you to access new areas where you’ll learn new abilities that allow you to get more Prismatic Cores. The main way you use these abilities comes in the form of your robot companions. Each robot you get has one lethal and one non-lethal ability. The non-lethal abilities are used for exploration or puzzle solving. For example, the aforementioned Mack can dig up objects buried in the sand, Seth can climb walls with you attached to him, while Duncan can knock over pillars or break through cracked walls. You’ll combine these with your own platforming skills, which allows you to double jump and dash in mid-air.
Platforming has a sort of Ratchet and Clank feel, though quite a bit more precision is required. The game helps you achieve this precision by putting a marker under you when you’re in the air, which clearly displays where you’re going to land. It’s a smart solution, and I never felt like I didn’t have control over myself during some of the game’s insane platforming segments. They really could get wild at times, requiring me to time jumps through laser barriers to reach grapple points so I could hit a tiny moving platform. One section had me dodging rolling electric balls, timing my jumps to land on vanishing platforms, and hitting gates that recharged my boosts mid-air. Looking back on completing this one left me surprised that I managed it, and exhilarated that I did.
The platforming is at its best when you’re actively going through levels, but ReCore seems to have an obsession with sending you out to just find stuff. Want to enter a dungeon, be it story or optional? You need a certain amount of Prismatic Cores. Don’t have them? Good luck finding them! Once you do have the right amount of Prismatic Cores then you can get to the gate only to find that you also need to find a certain amount of cellbots that are hidden in the area around the gate so you can power it up. Then you finally can enter the dungeon only to find more gates that require you to search for more cellbots. It becomes tiring quickly. It especially becomes bad at the last dungeon, which is multiple floors and each floor is split up by doors that require more Prismatic Cores, leading to constantly leaving the final dungeon to go take on more side quests to get more cores. I had to do this not once or twice but six times, each time only managing to make me question why I’m constantly being torn away from the game’s climatic moments to comb the desert.
The exploration keeps piling on, the game constantly demanding I stop to explore more to find more cores, and it goes way out of its way to make it as inconvenient as possible. You can only have two corebots with you at once, and you can only switch them at a fast travel station. That’s annoying, but not so bad. Far worse is that there are five bodies the bots can inhabit yet only three cores. You can only have three bodies active at once, and to switch which bodies are active you have to go all the way back to your home base, something that’s a massive inconvenience. See a Prismatic Core off in the distance and need the flyer bot to reach it? If you don’t have the Flyer active then you need to go back to home base first to activate it, and hopefully when you deactivate the K-9 to do it you don’t run across a dig spot along the way. Or you can deactivate the Ape for the Flyer, until you need something smashed at which point you need to go back and reactivate the Ape. It felt like this entire problem could have been solved simply by giving the player a radial menu to simply select which bot they need at whatever time they need it. As it stands, the constant running back and forth to swap out bodies feels like blatant padding, something to hide the fact that the story mode is only about five hours long without it.
With many different kinds of robots trying to kill Joule, you’ll have to fight back often. Armed with a rifle, Joule only has access to normal full-auto shots, and charged shots that instantly destroy shields and cause status effects to enemies. You can use the d-pad change your rifle’s color to be either red, blue, yellow, or white, and by matching colors with enemies you can do extra damage to them. It’s not a revolutionary mechanic, but constantly keeping an eye on the enemies’ colors and being sure to match them was enough to keep me more engaged in combat scenarios than I expected. Later enemies will switch their colors on the fly, and I had to adapt to that which led to the more entertaining encounters.
As mentioned before, the corebots that I teamed up with had lethal abilities as well. You can take two Corebots with you, and one will always be joining you in combat, attacking by default. You can hit a button to have the Corebot unleash its lethal ability, which can range from dashes, to missile barrages, to more. Corebots also have their own health bars to manage, though I almost never saw enemies actually attack them and their health bars are often quadruple what mine was anyway, plus shields.
Enemies can be taken out in two ways. The easy way is to just keep shooting until they’re dead, causing them to explode and drop parts for you to pick up. If you want cores, however, you need to weaken the enemies enough so that they become staggered, then toss your grappling hook at them. From here you’ll play a little tug-of-war minigame where, if successful, you can steal their core, killing them in the process. On one hand, it’s a neat little feature that gives me an interesting way to choose what loot I get and defeat enemies. On the other hand, the tug-of-war thing gets old quick, making me just prefer shooting them to death. Sometimes I would have access to an “instant extract” which would instantly kill an enemy of my choice (including mini-bosses) while stealing their core, but these seemed totally random and by the end of the game I wasn’t sure what the conditions to get one to use was.
I did want to take the enemies out quick because their attacks could hit hard. I was often downed in two or three attacks, meaning that constantly hopping and dashing all over the battlefield was a must. Enemies felt unique, and figuring out their patterns and the best times to attack became a lot of fun. Bosses tried to change things up, but for the most part, they’re just enemies with a much larger health bar that change colors from time to time. This isn’t the worst thing mind you, the combat is still fun, but I did wish for something more creative that would make more use of the abilities that I learned in the game.
At times combat also turned into less of combat with enemies and more of combat with the camera. Using an extract to try and rip out an enemy’s core is supposed to zoom in so I can watch my line and make sure I’m pulling at the right times, but sometimes the camera wouldn’t bother and I’d just have to wing it. Other times I got the camera lodged on the environment, causing me to awkwardly boost around to try and get to an acceptable angle. When the arenas are too small for the amount of enemies in them, the camera would pull up nice and close to Joule which gave me a fantastic view of her back and basically nothing else. Thankfully, the camera issues aren’t so bad that they made the majority of the fights a problem, but they are bad enough that I noticed it more than I wanted to.
I could use the parts that I found from killing enemies to build new parts for my robot buddies, changing their stats and giving them passive bonuses, while I could use the cores I got to upgrade their cores to give permanent stat boosts. I could only actually do any of this at my home base, which meant I spent less time customizing robots than I wanted to, but it’s a pretty good system overall.
I basically had to teach myself how all of this worked, too. ReCore tries its hand at a tutorial near the beginning of the game, but it doesn’t really care at its best and totally forgets at the worst. The game introduces the extract mechanic, but fails to tell you when you can and can’t pull on the grapple until long after you’ve already worked it out on your own. Fast travel is introduced by not actually giving you the ability to fast travel, rather just mentioning it in passing during a dungeon. Optional dungeons have extra missions you can complete for more rewards, but I hope you can speed read as the text telling you what the missions aree goes by so fast that I was never able to read it. I was just lucky that every single optional dungeon uses the exact same three extra missions so I could memorize it that way. I’m all for a game using a tutorial, and I’m all for a game letting you figure it out on your own, but if you’re going to do one then you better do it right and ReCore doesn’t.
ReCore‘s presentation is a bit hit or miss. Environments look good, the kind of thing you’d expect from a far-off dust planet with a failed colonization attempt, so long as you keep them at a distance. Once you get close you’re subject to blurry textures that don’t look so nice. The character models are equally iffy. The general artistic design was nice, but watching all of Joule’s many accessories clip through her during cutscenes was distracting. The soundtrack is wonderful throughout, leading to some fantastic pieces that fit the action on hand. Voice acting is also decent enough, with no one standing out as either great or horrible.
To add onto all of this, ReCore has some massive load times, and a lot of them. Each time you hit a loading screen you’ll be looking at it for a solid 30-60 seconds, and you’ll be seeing one every time you enter a new area. The worst is when I got killed, the game putting two loading screens back to back whenever this happened, leaving me entirely unsure of why and missing two minutes of my time. The game also hard crashed on a loading screen once, meaning I had to sit through more loading screens to get back to where I was. Overall, I’m nearly positive I spent more time in ReCore waiting for the game to load instead of actually playing it.
If I’m being honest, finishing ReCore was a struggle. When I came to the realization that the final dungeon was, for the fourth time, blocking me from advancing because it wanted me to collect more Prismatic Cores, I couldn’t do it anymore. From the floor of the dungeon I was on I had to teleport back to the lobby (30 second loading screen), fast travel to base to dump my full inventory (30 second loading screen), pick my companions and fast travel to an area I haven’t explored yet (30 second loading screen). I ran around a bit and discovered I actually needed the flying bot which currently doesn’t have a core in it. So then I had to run back to a fast travel station, travel back to base (30 second loading screen) put one of the cores into the flying bot and hope I don’t need the bot I’m leaving coreless, fast travel back to where I was (30 second loading screen) and then find a dungeon which required me to wander the area to find four plugs before I could enter (30 second loading screen) and hope that this time, I would earn enough cores to actually finish the game. Of course, the answer to that is no, because I always need more cores for some reason. I couldn’t take it anymore. It took any good will I had for ReCore, threw it out the window, and laughed at my anguish.
If you want to truly experience this review in a similar fashion to ReCore then my suggestion is to do the following: every paragraph wait two minutes before reading the next paragraph. Every third paragraph go read a different review entirely. There’s some good stuff in ReCore, there really is, but the game seemed absolutely intent on making sure I would never be able to enjoy it. The worst part? It succeeded.
ReCore was reviewed on Xbox One using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC.More About This Game
There's a good game buried somewhere in ReCore, but it's lost in the massive inconveniences the game throws at you. From constantly refusing to let the player move on until they complete side content (even in the middle of dungeons) to loading times that put Sonic 2006 to shame. This ensures that ReCore starts off interestingly and ends up horrid.
- Platforming can get intense
- Combat can be fun
- Mack is adorable
- Story doesn't do anything
- Lots of glitches
- Pointless forced exploration
- Camera is a pain
- Drops frames, gets ugly
- Corebots are a pain to manage