What happens when key talents behind the Metroid Prime series, the creator of Mega Man, and the writer and director of Halo and Destiny cinematics all join forces to start a massive game project? The answer: you get Recore. With this in mind, even before it's finished booting up, it has a lot to live up to. Three giants with different backgrounds in the game industry, with three different areas of expertise, have raised expectations for the desert-filled adventure, and they've done it simply by having their names dropped in the marketing. But does Recore live up to those elevated expectations?
The story of Recore is presented in a manner similar to how the narrative was delivered in Metroid Prime, as in it isn't particularly present throughout the adventure. It is obviously there for the interested player, but we're not spoon fed it as with traditional adventure games. The underlying narrative can be found in audiologsm and it's in the audio files scattered in the desert that you'll find all of the various story elements explained. Of course you may also find information in the form of cutscenes, but if you want to understand exactly what is happening and why, you'll need to go out hunting collectibles.
Joule wakes up from a so-called "cryo sleep" after lying frozen, and the context is that your water-covered planet (for reasons unknown) was considered uninhabitable and the entire world population therefore needed a new planet to settle. It is here Joule and other colonists, along with terra bots and core bots, were meant to act as heroes. Terra Bots would build up communities, planting crops and maintaining them while human colonists would in turn maintain the robots after waking up from their freezers. Judging from the game's setting something went wrong along the way and it's up to you to figure out what happened and make things right with the help of your loyal companion.
Recore is an open world game with a massive desert hub world to explore, which also has a bunch of Zelda-style dungeons to get through. The player takes on challenging platforming sequences using various types of robotic companions, finding treasure chests with upgrades and appearance modifications for your companions, while also killing enemies along the way.
The developers have been good enough to show what the final game will look like from the beginning. Recore isn't graphically comparable with blockbusters released under our current console generation, and the animations don't feel in any way lifelike and believable. The graphics bother us the most when we're in the hub world (the desert landscape) as the underwhelming visuals are especially jarring there. The ground has little in the way of detail (except when the sand moves while Joule uses her rocket fitted shoes to rapidly traverse the terrain). The remaining textures are better but definitely not great. With that said, this is reflected in the game's low price.
As for Joule's animations, we were initially quite torn. Joule has stiff movement, meaning that it may not look particularly realistic, however it also makes the main character much easier to control. As you move the joystick, you know exactly what will happen on the screen and if you release Joule comes to a quick stop. The movement gives you the much needed control over Joule in the sometimes extremely tough platform sequences. Compared with games such as Red Dead Redemption, which have lifelike and weighty animations, but that often felt awkward when you have to navigate environments with more finesse, we feel that the animations are suitable for the experience offered by Recore.
And speaking of arcade-stylings, even Recore's combat system feels the same. You could compare it to the combat system in Metroid Prime: you aim at the enemy, the reticle locks on, and you shoot with different ammunition based on the different types of enemies. You can also charge your shots to shoot a lot of energy that damages and applies an effect on enemies (the different effects depend on the type of ammunition used). It's important to move and just as important to keep track of the enemy's core colours.
To assist in the sometimes intense fighting you have your corebots; ultra-smart robots customised for each colonist on Far Eden. Joule begins her journey with her robot dog, Mack, but meets four more during the adventure. Your corebots all have different stats, which are upgradeable, and different frames can be built on in order to change your companion's look. In addition, each corebot has a speciality - one helps you dig for treasure, one will help you climb, and one lets you glide and reach places you couldn't access previously (in true Metroid-vania style). In battle, these robots are worth their weight in gold as you can command them to attack your enemies. They can also act as punch bags and take abuse so you don't have to as well.
Recore's upgrade system is incredibly simple and allows you to upgrade your core bot's defence, attack and energy. Attack and defence are both self-explanatory, and energy allows your corebot to use its special attack more often.
Now that we've explained everything that makes the game good, it's time to talk about the game's big downfall: the lengthy loading times. The game loads when you go between areas or after death, which is normal, but to have to wait several minutes for the game to load so you can continue with a boss battle is incredibly tedious. Loading times are different depending on which zone you are in, but in our experience they were all more than sixty seconds, and sometimes we were waiting up to five minutes. If you have problems with a tricky boss battle, it becomes incredibly frustrating very quickly.
If you can live with the loading screens (or wait for the patch that fixes the problem), like to explore, and if you are a fan of challenging platformers, you should undoubtedly give Recore a try. It is also part of the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative, so if you buy the game on Xbox One, you can also play it on the PC and vice versa, and it carries a smaller price tag than most other console-exclusives. There's plenty of entertainment value to be found here thanks to an 18-20 hour campaign, even if there are some flaws that hold it back.