What happens when you get the director of Mega Man and three people from the Metroid Prime team, then rush out a game with their names as the selling point? Something pretty forgettable, evidently. ReCore came out in 2016 with so many bugs they had to make a “Definitive Edition” on the same console a year later. Since then the game has been sitting in discount bins and Game Pass, tempting me with mild intrigue. I’ve been in a Metroid mood lately so I decided to see what this game was all about.
You start on an unknown planet that your character Joule doesn’t know anything about. She just woke up from a 1000 year Game Pass binge. Far Eden is the planet’s name, with a grand scale landscape that stretches further than you can comprehend, until you open the map that is.
From the moment I took a step I felt pretty good about this game. The controls are QUICK! In open world games it’s common to have a “realistic” control over a character who turns around slowly and can barely jump. In ReCore, you have lightning fast movement right away like Mario, and you can double jump and slide like Mega Man.
The game engine prioritises movement and geometry over all else, and the game has some graphical weaknesses as a result. Draw distance can be shaky, with things popping in and out, and in general the texture work and detail is kinda low. This is almost the opposite approach to most open world games who just want you to sit there, rotating the camera and admiring the view. This game is simply made to be playable and looks ugly most of the time. I found this gameplay-first focus quite refreshing.
This platforming looks intimidating but the controls are so good I was gleefully chasing any platforming challenge I could find. The double jump / dash combo is reliable and even if you land near an edge you’ll still grab a platform, it’s quite lenient. It’s also very easy to center your character with the speed in which she adjusts. If you dash while on ground to leave a platform, you can also do a second air dash, something I didn’t realise until later. The platforming is mostly in optional challenge dungeons, but can also be found in the open world. This was the most fun part of the game for me, running around and trying to figure out how to get to certain places high up.
This game still can look impressive despite its low-budget graphics, with unique structures and crystals lighting up caves underground. The scope of the landscape is impressive, and the fact that you can climb on all these rocks and platforms is the real exciting part about it. The world opens up more when you get new corebots with different abilities and movement options. It was a very pleasant surprise when a few generic structures I had seen hanging around became usable.
This is meant to be an important collectible… can you see it? This is an audio log which is where most of the game’s story comes from. I enjoyed listening to these, but the clear holographic display made them very difficult to find on bright surfaces. It is a strange design choice, considering the standard material collectibles are much larger and easier to see despite being insignificant. They show up on the map after you go near them, but that’s not a very engaging way to find them.
Apart from graphical issues and glitches, I experienced a handful that affected gameplay. Some chests just didn’t open when I opened them, and then remained locked forever. I also lost my corebots randomly and couldn’t select them again until I fast traveled to the place I was already at just to refresh things. There was also a dungeon that required a corebot I didn’t have, so I got in and found it unbeatable halfway through. It says its a “level 15” dungeon but you don’t get this thing until way later. I also had a boss get stuck in a wall and become unbeatable, and got permanently stuck in a “shock” state once. You are meant to mash A to escape in a few seconds, but I was mashing the A button for a minute before I realised I was glitched in that state forever. Ouch.
What is it boy, would you like some new legs? This is your Crawler, the last real remnant of a failed human civilisation. You can use this place to build corebot parts using blueprints and materials that you find while platforming, or fighting enemies. The enemies are robots who used to be “good”, and simply used as slaves to mine this planet and stabilize the atmosphere so humans could live here. In a shocking twist, that plan went horribly wrong when they were corrupted and turned evil. Luckily you still have some loyal corebots who are willing to kill themselves for you. They have cute names and the dog for example has a very doglike personality where it still sniffs itself and wags its tail, even if there’s no use for a robot doing that.
The fast movement and no-nonsense style to progression and gameplay makes this game much shorter than other open world games. I welcome this approach, until the developers decided to pad it out and go against the game’s very own principles. ReCore unfortunately drags out in the second half of the game with a mandatory grind and bullet sponge enemies. The first 10 hours or so are brilliantly paced, with an equal mix of platforming, exploration and combat as you discover new abilities and lore in excitement. Eventually you hit a roadblock where you are forced to level up and grab cores from around the world to unlock story progress. Thankfully the game is very fun to explore, but I’d rather be doing this out of my own curiosity than obligation. The lack of variety on this planet also makes it feel like a slog when everything looks the same. To put this final part of the game into perspective, only 1% of people have the achievement for beating the game.
This is one of the game’s bosses and its a good example of the combat’s lack of depth. You just have to hit the core coming out of its back… that’s it. The hard part is holding the shoot button for 5 minutes because the health bar is so big. The combat starts off interesting, but soon reveals itself to be the weakest part of the game. It’s all done with your rifle, with 4 different coloured beams to switch between to take advantage of enemy weaknesses. It never really changes, and there’s only about 4 different attacks you need to learn how to dodge by mindlessly dashing and jumping. When an enemy is weakened you can pull out its core with a mini-game involving the right analog stick, which almost feels like fishing. I found that satisfying at first but it gets old real quick too.
ReCore is worth playing for the interesting scenario and fantastic movement, if you’re willing to put up with inevitable flaws and frustration. The controls are so great they allow advanced platforming with complicated level design and make it feel easy. That’s a big accomplishment and an unusual strength for this type of game. Everything else about the game is either bad or average. Go in with low expectations and you’ll find a fun playground on another planet. Feels good when you get there, but then you can’t wait to get off.