The world of New Eden promises a second chance for mankind. Its arid landscape is ripe with opportunity. Once the corebots complete the terraforming, all of humanity will have a safe place to call home. This was the promise, but something has gone very wrong. The world that our heroine Joule awakes to is not a new utopia, but a heat-blasted wasteland populated by corrupted robots originally created to bring the world to life. There are many secrets to discover hidden beneath the sands.
ReCore is a modern throwback to the classic third-person platformer of previous game generations. Equipped with the standard double jump and boost, you control Joule through various dungeons and across a changing desert landscape as you attempt to discover what has gone so very wrong on New Eden in the years she’s been in cryo-sleep. The story itself is mostly told via audio logs and automatically prompted narrated sections. While it’s not covering any new ground, the pacing is great, and couples the telling of the history of New Eden with your discovery of new locations and dungeons.
Much of the core game is also hardly ground-breaking. The platforming follows the standard mechanics from any of the genre’s more well-regarded entries, but ReCore does provide ample opportunity for backtracking and further exploration as parts of the world become accessible either due to the terra-forming action of the planet’s sandstorms that change the layout of the overworld, or via new abilities opened up as Joule upgrades and increases her corebot buddies.
The corebots themselves are rather delightful, and have very distinct personalities. Mack, her first bot, is by far the most endearing. His dog-like form and mannerisms are quite adorable, but all of the bots and their different forms are given the same level of detail and attention, be they spider or ape. These wonderful bits of UI are the standout feature in the game, and help to overcome some of its shortcomings.
As far as shortcomings go, the combat is the major sticking point. While the platforming can occasionally be a little less accurate when the camera does something unexpected, it’s a rare occurrence, but the combat very quickly becomes an exercise in repetition. The lock-on gun mechanics do their job well enough – even if the enemy select can be a bit jumpy – but the issue is that there is no real variation or difficulty.
Aside from a colour alignment mechanics where certain colour enemy robots are affected by different ammunition colours, you’ll be using the same basic approach for each enemy: weaken with gun fire, use friendly corebot to stun, and finally use core grapple ability to wrench the enemy power core from the bot. It’s fun for a while, but even with large groups of enemies there is not a lot of challenge. Boss fights also suffer from this lack of challenge except for some actually unfair moments that feel badly designed.
The colour alignment mechanic is used throughout the game. Some dungeons will require you to possess certain colour ammunition to unlock the door, or even complete specific challenges. Your corebot’s colour alignment can also be changed as part of the RPG-like upgrade system. Parts can be swapped out for better ones and/or different colour alignments. It’s an interesting idea, but doesn’t really do too much to mix things up, and like many of the various parts of the game feels rather shallow.
ReCore is a hell of a lot of fun when it focuses on the core pillars of exploration and platforming. There are multiple dungeons to discover, with many offering increasing rewards for completing challenges within. The overworld desert is fairly dynamic, and completionists should find a lot to love here as formerly inaccessible areas become available.
Thankfully, it’s that feeling of discovery, challenge and exploration that drives the experience and when you focus on that, there is a lot to like here. It’s just a shame the combat can’t deliver on the action front. The end game does grind to a halt with what feel like a lot of unneeded padding as well, but at that point I was engaged enough that it didn’t grate too much.
ReCore is shackled to the Unified Windows Platform which is much-maligned by PC gamers as a barely-functional mess. Thankfully, it does not seem to adversely affect ReCore in any meaningful way. Performance is fantastic with high frame rates and solid performance on my admittedly high-end system, but the technical issues reported in earlier games seem to be absent here. The only issues I experienced were some longer-than-expected load times (even on an SSD), and the fact that the debris from shattered containers seems to be animated at 15 frames per second, even when the game is running at over 100.
So, the final product is a fundamentally flawed yet very fun action platformer. It won’t appeal to everyone, but for those wanting some challenging third-person platforming and plenty of exploration will find a lot to like, even if the combat become a bit of a chore midway through.