ReCore is a little rough around the edges. Since its release, the game has gotten mixed reviews that cite some buggy performance, inconsistent designs, and other issues — on Xbox, at least. As a jointly developed western and Japanese project, it may be that it just didn’t get enough support compared to, say, Gears of War 4. It’s also possible that there were some struggles in getting the design right between multiple teams; it’s the kind of game where you can tell that things didn’t quite hit the level of polish they might have needed despite strong individual components.
Its silver lining is also, potentially, its biggest tragedy — the load times are absolute murder. With former Metroid Prime developers at Armature and Keiji Inafune’s team at Comcept, you would think that ReCore’s sci-fi adventure would be a fun-to-play game focused on exploration, and that’s not entirely wrong. It is fun to play, with Joule sporting a cool dash boost and her CoreBot pals getting their own interesting abilities. Ostensibly, the world is also brimming with non-linear “Metroidvania” bits, encouraging players to get out there and chart the world’s secrets.
That’s great! Third-person games of late are sorely missing this kind of open-ended adventure design where in the process of discovering new places you encounter things you can’t access yet without proper abilities or equipment. Never pulling you too hard in one linear direction (which is part of the UI that players should be absolutely be able to turn off) is always a good thing. But when a game wants you to uncover the mysteries of its alien spaces as much as ReCore purports to, two-minute loading screens between maps, in dungeons, or dealing with any kind of travel at all absolutely kills any sense of wonder or consistency; this isn’t a huge planet to explore, it’s just a series of boxed-in stages, and the game fights players who want to soak in the world at every turn.
I realize that it’s ridiculous, to some degree, to single out load times despite how much I feel they’re a disappointment that leads to a much less motivating experience for players. It isn’t really about the time — it’s about repeatedly breaking from a world which otherwise seems interesting, leaving you disengaged from the game’s overall presence.
When Bloodborne launched in 2014, fans were livid over the lengthy loading that occurred when you died or went back to the Hunter’s Dream, but they never bothered me much because Miyazaki’s fiction had these places as separate realms, and once it had loaded again it was completely seamless until the point when you died. Unfortunately, ReCore doesn’t share in that idea or execution, and that’s really a shame. And since Metroid-style games are so rare now, it makes that much worse.
I’m hopeful, as was the case with Bloodborne, that ReCore will be able to get patched in some way down the line to address this — potentially even as a title upgraded for Microsoft’s Scorpio — though that remains to be seen. It’s by no means perfect, nor does it redeem Inafune’s spotty track record post-Mighty No. 9, but it is a game that has some promise, and, given its design, one I was excited for. Don’t get me wrong, though; it’s less that you outright shouldn’t play it and more caveat emptor. Maybe in some small way it can still eventually find a little redemption.
Photos via Sony Interactive Entertainment, Microsoft