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The Actual Definition of a Sandbox.

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    ReCore: Definitive Edition

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    The Actual Definition of a Sandbox.

    (Note: This is a review for the Definitive Edition for ReCore, which released in late August)

    Desert planets are boring. There. I said it. In the giant masses of recently released open-world titles, this is the second time in my most recent memory in which a developer had the bright idea of setting their next open-world title in a desert. The first of course was Avalanche Studio’s Mad Max, and normally I wouldn’t have a problem with deserts except for the fact that unlike in Mad Max, ReCore thought to paint every single grain of sand white for some flying odd reason. The result does not scream "desert" or even desert planet, it screams near partial blindness.

    But I am getting ahead of myself. ReCore is arguably the closest thing we will get to a modern day 3D platformer. Or at least that’s what I think it is. It does a lot of the similar things old 3D platformers used to do: Jump from apparent floating platforms, collect orbs, have sidekicks randomly teleport to your location if you move too quickly, collect orbs and unlock upgrades so you can backtrack to previous dungeons you just liberated to collect orbs.


    ReCore stars Joule Adams, a scientist/explorer that has come to the planet of "Far Eden" because Earth has been hit with a giant dust storm leaving the entire planet unable to have life on it. Her job is to maintain the machines, dubbed "CoreBots" that are responsible for terraforming Far Eden so that the ships up above can wake everyone up.
    That was the original plan at least. Unfortunately, Joule wakes up 200 years into the future, all the CoreBots have gone insane and kill-crazy and there is no terraformed planet. And that was just Monday. She teams up with her Ai companion MA-3K (dubbed "Mack") and travels the giant planet of Far Eden to find out what the hell happened while she was sleeping.

    ReCore does the Bioshock thing, where the clear majority of the supplemental story is told to you via audio recordings. They’re fine, they do a good job in explaining the world, why we are here, what caused the CoreBots to go crazy and more. Although I must mention one character: Violet. Violet is a robot who runs the fast travel stations and she too made audio recordings you can pick up. But for some bizarre reason, Violet talks in complete gibberish. This is further compounded by the fact that when you pick up an audio recording, the thing plays itself out automatically. This means that whenever I picked up Violet’s recordings, all I got was complete audio noise and a deep sense of confusion.

    The thing is translated in the menu, but when the audio recordings play, even when I had subtitles on, the recordings didn’t have any subtitles whatsoever. It’s a shame too, because of all the supplemental story bits, Violet’s is most interesting out of all of them. It’s like the game decided to give you three boring scientists to literally explain everything, but for the one character that has another story other than Joule’s, they decided to redub her in a different language.

    The only reason I put so much attention to ReCore’s supplemental story is that the actual one following Joule is bare bones are best. For the first third of the game, Joule’s motivations are superficial at best. She is only doing this because basically there is nothing else to do. That is until around a third through the game when a CoreBot named Victor sends all of his minions after Joule to take back a orb she collected in the first dungeon. At that point Joule quickly slips on the "Main Protagonist" trousers and we get some character from her. A noteworthy section is when she is talking to a guy named Kai, and they are both relieved that they are not alone on Far Eden, yet pained enough to know the circumstances that put Far Eden here. There are embers of a fascinating world and story here. I just wish the game will spend more time showing it to you.

    I am glad to say that every other character is at least somewhat interesting. Joule’s AI companions all have distinct personalities. Mack is loyal to a fault. Seth is terrified of heights, and Duncan has a deep vendetta against Victor for betraying him. These personalities really help, there is one section in where Seth and Joule are climbing to get to a core analyzer and while you are whizzing to a platform, Joule asks Seth if he’s okay, and Seth responds that he is going to die by literally yelling at her.

    It’s all fun, until you hit that ending. Yes, you do have a confrontation with Victor. But for some reason, the game doesn’t want you to confront him. As I am traversing the final dungeon, suddenly, I got a giant stop sign that smacked me upside the face saying "You need 20 prismatic cores" to proceed. Okay. So, I got said 20, came close to the final confrontation until another stop sign appeared needing 25. Seriously? These things don’t grow on trees you know.

    I won’t spoil the rest, but I do wish that ReCore didn’t utterly insist of getting nearly every Prismatic Core beforehand.


    Like I mentioned before, ReCore is a 3D platformer. Joule has a bunch of toys that are admittedly fun to play around with. My favorites are her jetpack and booster. You get the classic double jump and the fast dash, and as you are progressing through the game, the levels and platforms start to challenge you on how good you are in mixing those two together. For example, you can only do one dash in midair. But if you dash off a ledge, then double jump, you get an extra dash and forward momentum. I personally enjoyed the movement and the darting freedom you get from constantly dashing everywhere.

    That dash will come into handy when Joule gets into combat. Joule has a rifle she uses to fend off enemies. Enemies will often come in different colors. By matching their core colors with the colors on Joule’s rifle, you can do additional damage while firing. Additionally, some enemies may have shields, and you are required to hold down the RB button to fire a charge shot to stun them.

    Upon doing enough damage you have the chance of extracting their cores by pressing R3.
    Once you do so, you literally play a tug-of-war with the machine trying to yank their core. If you succeed, the extracted core can be used to upgrade your CoreBot’s stats. Alternatively, if you decide to up and destroy them, they may drop parts which allow you to customize the CoreBot’s armor. There is also a combo meter that tracks how many enemies you killed in one encounter. If that meter ever hits 10, you can do an Instant Extract, which is basically ReCore’s super bomb. I mean that literally, the instant extract will literally nuke the entire field in a giant explosion basically murdering everything there. It becomes a godsend when you are fighting bigger and badder machines.

    Joule’s companions also help out in combat. Like her rifle, Mack, Seth and Duncan are color coded as well, and as you can guess, they do more damage based on if they can match colors. Yet what makes them unique is something called Lethal Attacks, which is a giant misnomer because 80% of the time they are not lethal at all. Lethals are character based special attacks. Mack can dash into enemies, Seth can fire smart missiles from a distance, and Duncan can pound the ground, creating AOE explosions.

    Outside of battle your companions can help in other ways. Mack can sniff the ground to find treasures. Seth can traverse specific railways, mostly going upward, and Duncan can pulverize rocks that get in your way. You can only bring two CoreBots at a time, and only one of which is "active". Basically, you can switch between the two at any time by hitting LB.

    You can be forgiven if like me, after watching the E3 trailer, you thought that this game will have you switch cores with different bodies. You do get to do that, but not in the way you think. During the last leg of the game you get access to the Flyer. It’s a drone in where you can insert one of your CoreBots personalities into it, so you can use its benefits. The problem is that many puzzles in the over world don’t up and tell you which CoreBots to bring, or which frames to put them in. I often found myself frustrated that I had walked some good distance from a fast travel station, found a puzzle, but then realized I can’t solve it because I forgot to bring the right CoreBots.

    I must mention the upgrade system, because for some odd reason it’s different for Joule and her companions. You don’t really need to upgrade Joule. Her gun will naturally level up over time. You can also find health packs in the real world and the dungeons that will upgrade her max hp. Her companions on the other hand are a different story. When they level up, they don’t get a big stat boost that Joule does. Instead, you are supposed to go to your crawler (your base of operations) and fuse the cores you have been extracting to upgrade your robots’ stats. Red cores upgrade attack, Yellow cores for defense, and Blue cores for energy.

    This system gets more complex when you must do this for each of your companions. Additionally, you can also find armor blueprints in treasure chests. By going back to the crawler, you can forge new armor for your CoreBots. It’s recommended that you constantly remind yourself to do this. I found myself in the second to the last dungeon fighting waves of Spider enemies to find my companions kept dying only to realize I forgot to upgrade them.

    Lastly, let’s talk about what changed in the definitive edition. I am glad to say that this version runes smoothly on my Xbox One. Other than one instance where Joule’s upper torso spontaneously vanished after collecting a core, I had no real trouble with the game or it’s loading times. The only egregious one is the one at the very beginning before the title screen. But after that, it’s smooth sailing.

    There is also Tank. Tank is like the flyer drone. It’s another frame you can insert one of the AIs into. Tank is easily my favorite. The reason being is my biggest problem with ReCore: Far Eden is gigantic. When I said earlier that I found a puzzle but had to backtrack to a fast travel point, the distance is 15 minutes away. As in 15 real world minutes. Joule can travel quickly, but the walking takes freaking forever to go from one place to another, even with the dash.

    Tank fixes all of that. Once you get it, you can ride Tank like a motorcycle which I was yelling at the game wondering why I didn’t get this until halfway through. Tank’s mobility is an absolute godsend. You can even use it to ram unsuspecting machines. I have so much fun with Tank I literally don’t leave the crawler without him.

    Final Verdict.
    ReCore has its flaws. It pads out its story with arbitrary core gathering. Its world is too big and barren, and it’s generally annoying to solve puzzles without the right machines. But when ReCore gets going, it becomes a fun, 3D platformer that I do believe has room to grow. ReCore is a decent game, so if you can get this at a discounted price, I do recommend picking it up.

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