Way back in 2016, the platform/3rd person action adventure genre was a sadly diminished place. Diminished that is until ReCore came along, published by Microsoft to give the genre a shot in the arm. Featuring a world seemingly on the edge of destruction, known as Far Eden, and also featuring the most adorable companion robot since, well, ever (and no, Claptrap doesn’t count!), I was immediately sold on the mix of exploration and combat, robots and resources that the game brought. So come with me back in time to the launch of ReCore, and let’s take a stroll down memory lane…
First thing that a good game needs is a strong narrative, to make you care about the protagonist and the fix that they find themselves in. Luckily, the premise of ReCore was a great one. Set around 200 years in the future, Earth was falling victim to a disease called “Dust Devil Plague”, and so the race was on to find a new home for humanity. A new planet, Far Eden, was found, and some corebots were sent to build atmosphere processors, leaving colonists to remain in hibernation until the work was finished. Joule Adams, our character, has awoken after centuries in cryo sleep with the hope of becoming a volunteer in what should have been the utopian colony of Far Eden. A brief stroll around reveals that the terraforming hasn’t really gone to plan, and since the Earth was destroyed, all Joule can do is make the best of what she has in front of her.
And so the scene is set – where are the rest of the colonists, and why are the corebots which were sent to do the work now hostile and seemingly more interested in destroying the terraforming equipment?
Luckily, Joule isn’t alone in the world – she has her trusty corebot Mack, a very sweet looking little robot doggy. Needing to find a power core to get her crawler back online, Joule finds one in the wreckage of a corebot, and using her extractor tool she pulls it out, introducing one of ReCore’s core mechanics. As the adventure continues, Joule will meet corebots who are not only hostile, but that need to be given a damn good thrashing. You see, once she has weakened one of them enough, she can attempt to remove its core, prompting a kind of mini game where you have to pull the core out without breaking the grip on it. Doing this successfully adds a core to your inventory, and defeats the corebot instantly. It’s certainly worth practising this, but only in a one-on-one contest, as attempting to do it when surrounded by corebots is a recipe for disaster.
It is the discovery of a prismatic core that really kicks Joule’s adventure into high gear however, and while the story of the game after this point does feel a little forced, a little artificially extended by numerous fetch quests and grinding for materials, it is still entertaining enough to keep you playing.
As Joules goes around, exploring the open world, her traversal skills become more and more interesting. In addition to a rocket in her backpack, she has rockets on her shoes, and these can be used to extend her jumps. She also has a cool grappling hook she can use to swing on, and this, when teamed up with her rocket dash, can see her chain together some very impressive jumps, almost taking flight.
There are a variety of dungeons, for want of a better word, to find and explore, and doing this is when her traversal skills will be put to the test, as the good stuff is either up high out of sight, or behind a boss corebot that needs to be taken down. And what do cores and materials make? Well, I’m glad you asked a cores unlock new areas of the game that are locked behind a kind of core-based paywall. Need to get to the next area? Collect more cores and you’ll be able to!
The materials that you find and collect can be used to upgrade either the corebots that you find (there are more than one to recruit; one a kind of gorilla thing called Seth and a speedy spider type thing, called Duncan, that can run upside down on walls and things), but they also allow Joule to upgrade her firearm. Her gun is a work of art actually, able to change between three different flavours. As you explore the world, the corebots you meet start to come in either red, blue or yellow colours, and switching your gun to the matching colour will do more damage to the enemy. Of course, you quite often get ambushed by a red and a blue, say, and so have to adapt tactics on the fly! Getting your friendly corebots involved in the fight may just turn the tide, but obviously if they are destroyed they are out of action until they respawn. The thinking side of the combat, like the thinking side of the exploration, is a big part of the fun.
Considering ReCore launched some five years ago, it does still look good today and whether you played it at the time, or are tempted back now – as I have – it’s well worth a look. The design of Mack in particular – but all the corebots in general – is very good, and when you are whizzing around the place attached to a spiderbot’s head, the speed of the platforming action is still impressive. Gliding around with the rockets and grappling hook is still challenging, and all in all ReCore appears to have stood the test of time pretty well.
The audio was very well designed as well, with the corebots having their own language (called DigiMode, fact fans) that Joule is able to translate, as well as the obligatory gun fire effects and rocket boost noises. One of the enduring audio cues that has stayed with me is that of Duncan’s metal spider feet skittering along the walls and ceiling as he gets you to where you need to be.
Apart from the artificially extended run time of ReCore, something which included a load of grinding and fetch missions – the game is still a lot of fun to play today. But what about you guys out there? Did you play ReCore on launch, or have my witterings inspired you to give it a try? Let us know in the comments!
If you wish to pick up ReCore, the Xbox Store will cover your needs. It’s available through Game Pass AND can be played via the Cloud Gaming too.