ReCore, a combined effort from Armature Studio and Comcept, is the first title in Microsoft's new Xbox Play Anywhere initiative. While that program, which allows gamers to buy a title once and play it on both the Xbox One and the PC, is a welcome development, ReCore itself is apparently a bit of a misstep. Going by the opinions of several reviewers, it seems the game simply isn't that good. We haven't played the game ourselves, but we've read the reviews and picked out some of the juiciest tidbits for you.
In case you missed it, Microsoft's Xbox Play Anywhere is (in principle) an olive branch to Windows gamers who may have felt jilted in the shadow of the company's Xbox game consoles. Put simply, users can purchase a game once and play it on Windows or Xbox. The Windows versions of the games will require Windows 10 and a Windows store login, of course.
ReCore, then, is a new open-world game from Armature Studio with help from Comcept. If those names are unfamiliar to you, it may be useful to know that Armature Studio is helmed by three top dogs formerly of Nintendo subsidiary Retro Studios. That studio created the legendary Metroid Prime series, among other titles. Comcept, meanwhile, is led by Keiji Inafune, the game designer responsible for Lost Planet, Dead Rising, and of course, Mega Man.
With a pedigree like that, the title's lukewarm response across the web comes as a bit of a surprise. Reviewers agree that the title makes a strong first impression. In fact, that seems to be one of the major problems with the game. Hayden Dingman at PC World writes that "The biggest disappointment reviewing ReCore is how strong it starts." Arthur Gies at Polygon seems to agree. He says "On paper, it all seems like a great idea, and at first, the formula yields results."
Unfortunately, it seems the game's solid early bits give way to a highly padded experience. Most of the reviewers agreed that the actual game's content was too thin and stretched-out. Ars Technica's Sam Machkovech praised the way ReCore lets you go anywhere you can see, but says the rewards for exploration are "decidedly paltry." Matt Whittaker at HardcoreGamer says "A shocking amount of time is spent gathering Prismatic Cores in order to progress the story, and it always feels like a way to artificially extend game length."
Acquiring "Prismatic Cores" is a key element of the game. These mysterious objects are hidden around the game world, and finding them is a key part of making progress in the ReCore universe. While progression tied to collectables isn't a new idea, ReCore's implementation of the concept seems almost antagonistic. Many reviewers complained of not only the excessive number of Cores required for progression, but also the laughably short distance between the Core-gated areas. Cores can also be acquired by completing secondary objectives, but unfortunately, Gamespot's Tamoor Hussain writes that "completing them feels like doing chores for pocket money."
To make matters worse, it seems the game is fraught with technical issues, too. On the Xbox, Sam Prell at GamesRadar was the most vocal about the problems. He writes that he encountered load times upwards of two minutes simply upon entering or exiting dungeons. He also says he fell through the game world three times, and that he had sudden unexplained framerate dips, among other issues. The other Sam back at Ars Technica says the PC version is the one to get, as while it has the same problems, its potentially-higher framerate is helpful for the game's precision platforming. If gamers were expecting blow-for-blow parity between PCs and consoles with this new program, ReCore isn't that magic bridge.
The story isn't all bad, though. Reviewers universally praised the game's movement and exploration mechanics. Samuel Guglielmo at TechRaptor wrote that the platforming reminds him of a higher-precision Ratchet and Clank, and that one section left him "surprised that [he] managed it and exhilarated that [he] did." Matt at HardcoreGamer likewise says ReCore's biggest draw is its fluid movement mechanics. Given the game's focus on exploration, that's definitely a good thing. Multiple reviewers used the word "charming" to refer to the game's robotic companions, and even GamesRadar's Sam Prell—who scored the game a 2 of 5—said "[protagonist] Joule and her companions are instantly likable."
The specific complaints that reviewers mentioned leave us wondering if Microsoft might not have urged Armature and Comcept to push their love child out the door a bit early. If that's the case, it's a shame, because ReCore is under more scrutiny than usual as the first Play Anywhere game. If you're interested in trying it out for yourself, ReCore is available now on the Windows Store for $39.99.