ReCore has the basis of a great set up for a third person action game, but suffers from a myriad of poor design choices and half-hearted ideas. Though its large planetary surface you can explore is filled with the remnants of mechanical marvels and rogue artificial intelligence, it lacks any sense of fun when surveying your surroundings. I expected to play through something interesting when I first dived into ReCore, and in some cases that’s what I got, but to the extent I would have liked to see. Technical bugs, a shallow plot, and a lot of bad design choices made my time with ReCore feel like just an okay experience.
The story of ReCore follows a girl named Joule, whose father helped put into motion plans for humanity to leave Earth and settle on a planet named Far Eden. Without getting into the specifics, humans are placed into suspended animation for a set amount of time while on the planet, and periodically work shifts over a set number of years, with the help of robots, to help terraform Far Eden into a livable planet for humanity.
I love the set up for the story and feel it could have covered a wider array of ideas related to the plot, most of which are never touched even in the small audio logs you find while exploring. Why doesn’t a planet filled with robotics have any use of vehicles when traveling around? It’s these kinds of things in the plot that feel incomplete or rushed, with some explanations either being too vague or outright ignored.
Joule’s connection to the world of Far Eden are built up pretty well, with a few exceptions towards the end of the game. The most interesting, and yet most underwhelming, characters are Joule’s robotic companions Mack, Seth, and Duncan. I wanted to see each of them get more fleshed out backstory that went beyond what we were shown or told. Mack, the robotic dog is a companion that’s been with Joule for a long time, but we’re only given some backstory about their relationship or how they met. The same goes for Seth and Dunacan, the spider-walker and robo-gorilla respectively. Each robot has its own personality with different behaviors to them, but I felt like they were the least explored character-wise, with Seth getting the most backstory we actually see in-game.
ReCore’s gameplay feels like a standard third-person action game, with little to no elements that deviate from the basics. Joule has a gun that can fire ammo of different colors, as well as the ability to jump and dash through most platforming challenges. The one neat ability Joule has is a grapple hook that can rip out the core A.I of her enemies.
Dealing enough damage will make an enemy vulnerable for you to instantly destroy them by taking out their core. And while I liked this ability, it became repetitive and sometimes buggy in the latter half of the game. Sometimes I would latch onto an enemy and pull when prompted on screen, only to immediately lose the grip and be hit my another enemy out of view.
And then you have Joule’s robotic companions. You can bring two of them at a time with you to explore, and each has their own abilities and characteristics. Mack can dig for hidden items or enemies on the ground, Seth can carry Joule along rail tracks and launch her into the air, and Duncan has immense strength to shatter weak structures and open up new areas.
In combat, each of the robot companions offers something different, with some being more adept at combat than others. The robots can grow stronger through the leveling system that gives Joule and her companions experience with each enemy they defeat. This is expanded upon with the various blueprints Joule can find in Far Eden, which allow her to build better parts and strengthen the exoskeletons of each of her robot companions.
However, the leveling and experience you gain felt very superficial. Each of my robot companions grew stronger as I defeated enemies, which also opened more blueprints to exoskeletons I could equip on them as they leveled up. But leveling up Joule herself almost felt non-existent. Joule’s gun is what increases in strength as she levels up, allowing her to deal more damage to enemies, but it doesn’t change anything else about her. If leveling up Joule was completely absent from the game, it would keep more of the focus on building up her robot companions.
The biggest problems with ReCore lie in technical issues that I found throughout my experience. The loading times are significantly long on many occasions, with some lasting more than two minutes before restarting at a checkpoint or loading up a dungeon. This got very annoying as each time I had to restart different sections, I’d be waiting for a long time at the loading screen. Some boss fights with difficult enemies are usually the worst places for this, where each death you have is another potential two minutes of starting at a static loading screen. Going into a new open area on the map also suffers from the same problem, even if there isn’t a lot of objects the game has to load in the environment.
Some of the platforming and exploration also has significant issues as well. Areas where you don’t think you can climb end up being necessary to scale large structures. In one instance, I felt like I broke the game by climbing onto a pillar that extended from the ground in order to reach a high platform. The pillar was clearly way too narrow to stand on, but I was able to get onto it as if it was the flat surface of a box.
Navigating the area is made worse by the terrible map you have available in the menus. You can never zoom in far enough to get the exact position of key points of interest and the placement of nearby structures. It didn’t help either when the waypoint to my objectives began to bug out and not update its placement with new objectives. I would spend a long time wandering around trying to figure out where to go next, which only lead to me restarting my game a few times to fix the issue whenever it popped up.
I really wanted to like ReCore, but there were too many issues that prevented me from enjoying it. The story has an interesting sci-fi premise that would be better if it were fleshed out some more. The long loading times and technical bugs are enough to pull anyone out of the experience pretty quick, but will hopefully be addressed in future patches. ReCore may appeal to someone looking for another exclusive to add to their Xbox One game collection, but it might be a better idea to wait before diving into it.
This review is based on a digital review code for ReCore on Xbox One, provided by Microsoft.