I’ve never played a game quite like ReCore. At its heart, it’s a 3D platformer, but it’s also an open-world exploration game, and an RPG, and a third-person shooter. I guess the best word to describe ReCore is “ambitious.” With Keiji Inafune, the creator of Mega Man, as the producer, and his team, Comcept, heading development, as well Armature Studios (formed by designers who worked on one of the Metroid Prime games) lending a hand, there is a lot of anticipation surrounding ReCore. The good news is that ReCore delivers a very unique and engaging gameplay experience in almost every way. The bad news is that the player’s ability to enjoy this title is held back quite a bit by very poor technical performance.
So let’s get this out of the way: ReCore runs like crap. The framerate drops regularly, the screen tears, and load times between areas are often more than a minute long. To make matters worse, the object clipping isn’t great, and sometimes you’ll get snagged on items in the world, or even fall through the floor instead of landing on a platform you thought safe. The framerate and screen tearing are more of an eyesore than game-altering, but falling through the floor happens often enough to be a major pain in the ass, and the loading times are a long-term annoyance that don’t get any less painful as you play. Do these technical issues completely ruin the game? No. Do they hold it back significantly from being an amazing title? Absolutely. ReCore can be a lot of fun, so long as you’re willing to overlook this happening occasionally:
The real disappointment here is that ReCore is an otherwise great game. The combat is chaotic and intense, the platforming is fine-tuned and challenging, and the RPG mechanics are engrossing. The most impressive part of ReCore is how wide a variety of gameplay elements there really are, and how polished each of those experiences feels. One minute you’re using your robotic friends to scale walls and narrowly avoiding falls to your death, the next moment you’re fighting a massive boss, and the next you’re customizing your companions’ stats and abilities. ReCore lets you explore the open-world of Far Eden at your own pace, and take on a huge range of different and awesome experiences.
ReCore tells the story of Joule, who awakens on the planet of Far Eden under mysterious circumstances. The planet was supposed to be colonized by humans who fled Earth after an epidemic, but by the time Joule awakens the planet is abandoned and occupied only by robots. With the help of her robotic companions, Joule sets out to uncover the mystery of Far Eden. The narrative is interesting, but certainly not ReCore’s primary draw. Although there are some interesting cutscenes, and Joule is a genuinely likeable character, most of the story is told via voice recordings which can be found throughout the world, and the narrative ends as quickly as it began.
The stars of the show are Joule’s robotic companions, who only speak in robotic beeps, but have a ton of personality and character. There is Mack, a robotic hound who can somehow smell things; Seth, a spider-like robot who is great at climbing, but afraid of heights; and Duncan, a lovable brute in a chassis that bears resemblance to a gorilla. Each of the robots have different abilities and can be powered up and customized as you go. Mack is sturdy, fast, and helps Joule dig up things buried in the sands of Far Eden. Seth climbs up certain surfaces, dragging Joule behind him as he goes, and can shoot explosive projectiles at enemies. Duncan can break through barriers in the world using his brute strength, and is great at dealing some serious hurt to enemy bots.
What’s even more interesting is that you can take the orbs out of each robot companion (which contain the essence of the characters themselves), and switch them into different chassis. So Seth, a cowardly robot, can live in the shell that Duncan normally possesses, to entertaining effect. Later on in the game, you’ll also find completely different chassis that any one of the robotic companions can occupy, like one that flies in the air, and provides Joule with the ability to fly.
The upgrade system for Joule’s robotic companions is a lot of fun to tinker with. As you level up and unlock new chassis blueprints and crafting components, more options become available for you to customize and power up your bots. The system is a little complicated at first, but not so bad once you get the hang of it. The ultimate reward for your time learning the system? You get to make your robots look like this, if you want:
The only thing that puts a damper on the robotic companion system, is that you have to choose two to bring with you at anytime. This means that sometimes you need one robot for a specific purpose, but left them at home base, so you have to fast travel back home and switch them out, then travel back to where you were originally. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem, except as I mentioned before, the load times in ReCore are especially lengthy, and this proves to be a major annoyance later on in the game.
At the core of the ReCore experience (see what I did there?) is 3D platforming, which is without a doubt one of the the things that the game absolutely nails. You can double jump, dash through midair, and use your robots in interesting ways to help traverse hazardous environments, but even with all of those helpful tools, ReCore will likely kick your ass pretty often. Platforms are tiny, traps are everywhere, and only precision and proper timing will see you through. I haven’t had this much fun in a 3D platformer in a very long time. Here’s a taste of the platforming in ReCore:
The combat in ReCore is fast-paced, and requires a lot of movement to succeed. Enemies can paralyze Joule with electricity, slow her down with slime, or light her on fire, and the only way to survive is to keep moving, fire back with the proper weapons, and rely on your robots for support. Similar to a lot of RPG shooters, each enemy has a different elemental type, and you’ve got to shoot them with the matching elemental type to take down enemies. The combat is fairly solid, and staves off becoming repetitive with interesting boss fights, and plenty of non-combat gameplay between combat sections. My only real complaint here is that enemies will occasionally overwhelm you, and put Joule in a stunlock pattern that kills you in five seconds flat, and then you’re faced with the undying torment that is ReCore’s loading screens.
ReCore is an open-world and for most of the game you can do whatever you want, whether it be fighting robots you find in the wild, exploring vast landscapes, or taking on optional dungeons. Open-world exploration can be a lot of fun, although Far Eden looks a lot like Jakku, in that it’s enormous, but 90% barren desert, so you’ll see a lot of samey-looking environments.
The main course of open-world exploration in ReCore is the optional dungeons, which are loot-filled, treacherous caves of awesome. Each dungeon has a boss (and usually a mini-boss as well) and a final room with ultra-valuable “prasmatic cores” and blueprints for new chassis designs for your robots. The dungeons are one of the more challenging pieces of ReCore, and one of the more enjoyable activities that are available for you to take on — there is no better feeling than when you clear a dungeon and get this cutscene in the final treasure room:
The presentation in ReCore is a mixed bag. Although much of the game looks really beautiful, you’re mostly staring at a lot of sand for most of the game, with little variation in landscapes. The graphics are decent, but the framerate and other visual hiccups take the impact out of its overall presentation. The voice acting, and soundtrack are both pretty good, as are the sound effects, but some of the audio logs you find are just a full minute of loud, annoying gibberish. Also, oftentimes one audio queue will be playing, then you do something and another one talks over it, making them both unintelligible.
Still not sure if ReCore is your thing? Check out some extended gameplay footage here!