Going into a game like ReCore raises questions. “So what's this one about?” “Isn't this the one with the robot dog?” “When is this coming out on PS4 again?” Arriving on the tail end of a summer of ups and downs in gaming and being Microsoft's first exclusive since the release of the Xbox One - this new IP has a lot to prove.
Making your way across the epic landscape - which looks great, but not exceptional - is helped by the use of classic fast travel stations, but sadly they aren't spread very evenly, meaning you can run into three and then not see one for a while.
Since popping back to Joule's crawler (where she's been sleeping for the past 200 years in suspended animation) is a key part of the game, as it allows you to upgrade your corebots, it can be frustrating to find yourself easily able to warp back there, but unable to return once your tinkering is complete.
...a fun action platformer which executes the simple, and sometimes familiar, ideas it has very well, but there's not too much more to it than that.
This leads us to possibly the worst element of ReCore - the loading times. Moving between two areas, even a fairly straightforward door, triggers a 30-60 second loading screen and often stays black for much of that time.
Of course, the experience could be different on PC, something you can do easily thanks to Xbox’s Play Anywhere programme, which allows you to play the game in full on either platform.
The structure of the game feels most similar to something like The Legend of Zelda, though that endearing quality and personality you get from particularly the locations in those games doesn't show itself here, as ReCore offers you either a sandy plain or a grim dungeon.
The fact that the game does describe them as dungeons is to its credit though, there's no overly-forced slew of technical terms to translate here. The dungeons themselves share the game’s love of simplicity, challenging you with only a few rooms and the odd frantic, timing-based platforming element.
ReCore doesn't outstay its welcome though. At around 8-10 hours the main story wraps itself up fairly neatly and there's not too much more to discover by returning to some of the earlier locales.
At its core then (well, you know there'd be one…) ReCore is a fun action platformer which executes the simple, and sometimes familiar, ideas it has very well, but there's not too much more to it than that. Those looking for sweeping cinematics or an incredibly deep plot will be disappointed, but if you've got a free weekend and you want to hit a game hard, ReCore is certainly a good bet.
Have you played the game yet? Are you still too busy with No Man's Sky? Let us know in the comments, and don't forget to watch the video review as well (and subscribe, naturally).
Children of Arkham bizarrely excavates a lot of the groundwork laid in the opening episode, only to relay new foundations in favour of pursuing an altered path. The result is a second episode that's full of exposition and not conducive of an engaging series narrative arc, but one that will likely benefit those to come.
Some scenes don't do Batman’s intellect justice, and further pulled us out of the experience, whilst continued technical issues and unimpactful decision-making didn’t help the situation. Telltale have stated that they don’t need to innovate, due to already having a winning formula on their hands, but if this form continues they’ll soon be flirting with a stale one.
Throughout the episode’s course, even seasoned fans will continue to be surprised by subversive twists and turns that ensure they'll remain eager to see how things progress, despite the slight misstep. So many potential narrative strands are severed, however, that we aren’t left with much to keep us guessing in the meantime.
Upon booting up The Final Station on Xbox One for the first time, it became immediately clear that there is an issue with the game’s main menu. What should be a simple gateway into the action quickly became a mini game in its own right, as unclear button highlights led to a language change and almost a deleted save on a couple of occasions.
At first the greyish block dominating the bottom half of the screen feels a little intrusive and uninspired, but as you explore new areas the grey gives way to more detailed spaces. Blacked out buildings reveal a network of rooms, attics and secret tunnels, the honeycombed structures breathing some much needed life into the world.
It’s gameplay where The Final Station shines, at least one half of it anyway. The enjoyable exploration of desolate towns and stations is interspersed by the quite literal on rails parts, where players are tasked with keeping their locomotive and any passengers who happen to be accompanying them at the time in working order.
What could have been an interesting feature nestled between the on foot sections can quickly descend into chaos, where technical malfunctions continually plague the engine and passengers’ health and hunger levels require near constant monitoring if they are to survive the journey. The unclear design of the main menu also makes an appearance here, turning crafting supplies such as med kits and ammo into hopeful button mashing.
While they may be a pain to keep alive, each passenger offers a reward for their safe delivery, and with limited med kits and scarcely enough food to keep more than three or four in good health at one time, sacrifices will have to be made in order to get the best return for your investment. For the achievement/trophy hunters out there, this may get a little frustrating as delivering a full carriage of healthy passengers (or at least ones that are still breathing) is required on a couple of occasions in order to 100% the game.
A big chunk of the game’s narrative is delivered from listening to these hitchhikers, but between the veritable plate spinning of keeping the train in working order and making sure you don’t end up with a carriage full of corpses, there’s little chance to pick any of it up.
The Final Station’s redemption comes in the form of its explorable areas mentioned earlier. After arriving at a new station, players need to find a four-digit code in order to open the rail blocker and continue progress towards Metropole. It sounds simple enough, but more often than not some hapless station employee has left the code deep within an infected area, meaning you’ll have to go searching for it.
Stepping into an eerily silent and hostile area for the first time is suitably atmospheric, and approaching a closed door and the blacked out area beyond it does a good job of creating some nervous excitement. You’ll quickly learn to enter a new room with caution, as charging in all guns blazing is not only a waste of precious ammunition but also a sure fire way to get yourself killed or severely wounded, taking up equally important health packs.
When things do go wrong, while it can be costly, it can sometimes lead to epic set-piece like events where you find your back against the wall, desperately trying to take out the five zombies bearing down on your with only a few rounds left.
Standing between you and the precious codes are the areas’ corrupted former inhabitants turned flesh eaters. Theses zombies do not resemble the usual shambling and rotting hordes, instead their silhouetted bodies and lamp-like white eyes are more akin to LIMBO’s silent protagonist than your classic undead (although for someone who is a coward when it comes to all things zombie, this wasn’t a problem!).
This being a computer game, zombies naturally appear in a few varieties which require different strategies to take them down. There’s the standard walker, who’s melee attacks deal a fair amount of damage but are easily dodged and killed with a few punches of your own, the small speedy buggers that will make you quickly distrustful of any closed doors, armoured zombies, an exploding type that charges when attacked, plus a few more that help mix things up towards the end of the game.
The melting pot of enemies keeps The Final Station from becoming a predictable slog, and actually makes you carefully consider the best way to clear a room or hallway, especially when faced with numerous enemies. The lack of ammunition and supplies also keeps things interesting, forcing players to risk clearing an area while on little health in order to save the last med kit for that wounded passenger with the big reward, or taking on enemies with melee attacks as you only have four bullets left and you just know an exploding type is going to be lurking up ahead somewhere.
When things do go wrong, while it can be costly, it can sometimes lead to epic set-piece like events where you find your back against the wall, desperately trying to take out the five zombies bearing down on you with only a few rounds left. Surviving such a situation is a pretty good rush, but generous checkpoints mean dying isn’t so much of a problem. The frequent checkpoints also mean it’s easy to quickly learn a building’s layout and enemy locations, allowing you to chain kills together and speedily make up progress, sometimes without taking damage.
At just over eight hours’ completion time, The Final Station offers good value for the relatively low asking price, and although the tricky menu and tedious train sections are a bit of a buzzkill, if you’re willing to forgive the game’s flaws and a few rough edges now and then, there is a decent 2D action adventure to be had for your money.
Mount & Blade: Warband sets off on the wrong foot. A direct port of the 2010 PC release, it boasts appalling visuals and an initial lack of direction that will likely have you ready to throw in the towel before you’ve even gotten started. Fighting past that urge, however, allows the game’s deep and tactical systems to blossom into something quite compelling.
Unfortunately, some weapons shatter balancing to the point a single unconsidered blow will lay out almost any competition. When combined with poor artificial intelligence, combat becomes exploitatively easy. Given the right setting - say, a narrow pathway that forces enemies to approach in single file - you can just about take on entire armies single handedly. Similarly, most units become superfluous when you realise cavalry possess a huge advantage; the horses essentially double each unit’s health, meaning they can simply charge in headfirst and win most any fight. The difficulty can be bumped up to somewhat remedy the problems, though it won’t eradicate them.
By now you’ll have earned the renown not just to converse with nobles, but to be sworn into the service of royalty. Choosing to do so grants a weekly wage, as well as a village to rule and the associated income from its rents. It should be a pivotal moment to breathe a sigh of relief with more coming into your purse than going out, but thanks to the aforementioned exploits they were dealing in small change. When you’re powerful enough to ransack enemy villages without needing to fear the repercussions, money is an almost endless commodity.
It’s recommended you remain in a king’s service until you’re recognised as having a sufficient right to rule, only then making strides of your own, lest everybody unite to come down on your little uprising like a ton of horse cakes. Accruing that right by finding a fitting spouse and schmoozing with bigwigs just felt like obligatory busywork that hampered the pacing when, militarily, we could have realistically conquered their castles and taken them prisoner.
The gravitational pull of Warband dragged us through the dark hours regardless, defying we put it down like the best strategy games do, before finally rewarding us with the juicy bits we signed up for.
Now a law unto ourselves, we set about inditing large-scale siege warfare to claim swathes of land. It certainly makes you feel like a badass, storming strongholds tapping into a love nurtured by some of the most iconic scenes in cinema, despite in this instance looking like two bags of potatoes being poured into a toy castle.
If you manage to claim and hold everything as your own, which will take some considerable time and dedication, you’ll have done what many thought impossible in uniting the fragmented land in an era of peace. See, you can justify all the bloodshed in the name of prosperity.
Should your cup begin to runneth dry, there are additional wars to be waged in the custom battle and multiplayer modes. Naturally there’s no politicking here, just a range of deathmatch and objective-based game modes that run smoothly on dedicated servers.
Through offering an unprecedented - even intimidating - level of freedom to the player and populating the world of Calradia with abundant emergent gameplay events, TaleWorlds Entertainment bottled an addictive formula that will enthrall for countless long play sessions should you give it the chance. At a budget price, Mount & Blade: Warband provides immense value for money that goes a long way to excusing the archaic AI and presentation, as well as the balance and pacing issues.
Since Awesomenauts’ original 2012 release the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre has become big business on consoles. Despite its flourishing though, many remain reluctant to get involved, intimidated by the complex mechanics and unforgiving communities the games are often known to harbour. For that subset of people, the Awesomenauts have assembled to provide an accommodating and accessible alternative that - in time - also offers a similar level of tremendous depth.
Stunning, Saturday morning cartoon-styled presentation takes you back to your younger years and fills you with a giddy, long-forgotten excitement.
As you eliminate droids, turrets, and enemy Awesomenauts, you’ll pocket some Solar for yourself to spend on upgrades. When recalling to the store you’re spoilt for choice, as offerings are uniquely catered to the character in play, meaning you can’t really create a stinker of a build and spoil the fun. They’re each described in clear and concise fashion - there aren’t separate stats for physical, magical, penetration and critical defences, for example - so you’ll soon be back in the thick of it whilst sure of your new boons. As purchasable items are the only way to improve your character, forgoing a conventional levelling system, that’s very much welcome.
Ideally, you’ll want to buy items that counter the enemy Awesomenauts - like extra health and defence if they have high damage output, or increased movement speed if they’re constantly getting away - though some fights are always best completely avoided. Certain ‘Nauts hard counter others, which can be frustrating when you’re on the receiving end.
It’s easy to call balance into question in these instances, especially when some offenders are only available through paid DLC, but ultimately it comes part and parcel of the genre. Just amend your playstyle and be safe - not dying is the name of the game, as it can significantly tip the scales.
You might fend off the reaper in this situation by entering the jungle to kill some neutral creatures for health, though you never know who might be lurking out of sight whilst plotting an ambush. Jungle control is definitely important as a result, but it generally won’t decide the outcome of your average match. Interestingly, jungle placement changes between the game’s five maps, in addition to the introduction of environmental hazards, manual droid spawn points, neutral bosses, and teleporters to keep players on their toes, whilst also remedying the fact there’s only one game mode.
Besides the annoying technical issues, Awesomenauts is a unique, accessible and immensely charismatic MOBA that’s easy on the eyes, ears and thumbs.
Outside of the aforementioned character DLC, there’s an absolute glut of transformative cosmetics that don’t just reskin characters, but also give their abilities a relevant makeover. In keeping with the game’s wacky verve, you’ll be sorely tempted to open your wallet in aid of transforming Froggy G into a pimp, Voltar the Omniscient into a disco dancer, Clunk into a chick that fires eggs, or one of many more. With games like Evolve lambasted for releasing with a similar amount of additional paid content, it’s important to remember that Awesomenauts has been around for a while and built its library gradually on other platforms. Regardless, if you take into account the fact that the main game will only set you back a measly £7.99 and provide hours upon hours of entertainment, it's hardly egregious.
It’s just a shame that, presumably due to a slow adoption rate, we’ve at times struggled to find players and been lumped with the wildly inconsistent bots. Some are godly strains of code, whilst others (usually our teammates, naturally) stand on the spot and fire at the wall. Thankfully the game will prompt you if a slot opens up in a match with more human players, though be prepared for a lengthy spate of loading if you accept the offer, effectively killing any momentum you might have. What’s more, there’s a chance you’ll regret it once you’re in, as connections can be almost as inconsistent as the AI. Hopefully it’s safe to attribute it to launch window jitters.
But whatever you do, don’t let that put you off. Besides the annoying technical issues, Awesomenauts is a unique, accessible and immensely charismatic MOBA that’s easy on the eyes, ears and thumbs. I’d end by saying Awesomenauts is awesome, because it is, but then I’d have to break my own fingers for typing it… Wait...
For information on an upcoming character, how to enter an Awesomenauts Assemble! raffle, and which DLC you can currently claim gratis, click here.
It’s plain to see that Oceanhorn was a transparent attempt to capitalise on the popularity of the Legend of Zelda series by bringing a clone to the burgeoning mobile market. Whilst it’s certainly uninspired as a result, taking game design cues from the absolute best is enough to carry the experience, even on home consoles.
A range of vibrant locales conceal hidden treasures that beckon your attention, aided by a soundtrack that arouses a sense of adventure.
Puzzles are, for the most part, incredibly simple and comprised of pushing blocks to build paths and bridges, as well as depressing switches to open doors. Whilst there’s very little variation on the formula, they’re enjoyably nostalgic in their simplicity and satisfying to solve nonetheless.
On occasion you’ll require an additional tool or spell to complement your smarts, though the game won’t overtly point that out, instead letting the player get stuck until they decide to move on and come back later. It’s a brave approach in today’s watered-down market that doesn’t go unappreciated as the world unfurls at your increasingly powerful hands, even if it does make for a lot of toing and froing.
These upgrades also lend a hand in combat, though it’s unlikely you’ll be in any great need of their help. The stamina-based, sword and shield system lacks nuance, as a majority of enemies can be defeated simply by running up to them and spamming attack; for a few exceptions you’ll simply need to block incoming blows and counter on repeat, no exact timing necessary. Once you have the ice spell and are able to stop foes in their tracks for an easy one-hit kill, any semblance of challenge disappears.
Oceanhorn was already a bit of a mixed bag, but some bizarre inconsistencies really cement the impression of a muddled development process.
Bashing enough baddies - preferably the ugly goblin-things that sound like Gruntilda from Banjo-Kazooie - and completing enough objectives will net you the experience to level up. The process is automated, taking choice out of your hands and resultantly offering rewards that are just as often pitiful as powerful. If we’d been able to unlock the ability to fire beams of light from our sword earlier, the combat might have done more for us.
Oceanhorn was already a bit of a mixed bag, but some bizarre inconsistencies really cement the impression of a muddled development process. You can’t fall long distances, except when it’s convenient to the game’s design; swimming usually leads to drowning as your stamina drains rapidly, except when the game wants you to swim somewhere; on occasion certain blocks can’t be pushed over certain tiles, despite identical ones having just done so without issue. Perhaps most annoyingly, fishing presents an insane difficulty spike that literally makes attempting to catch a botfish more deadly than battling the titular Oceanhorn.
Despite its many nagging flaws, we ultimately had a lot of fun with Oceanhorn. When you stand yourself on a pedestal by drawing direct comparisons to one of gaming’s premier attractions, you invite scrutiny, and whilst FDG Entertainment’s adventure doesn’t quite stand steadfast in the face of it, it doesn’t fall.
We never thought the day we’d spend hours harvesting the feces of a gelatinous species would come, but thanks to Slime Rancher, that fantasy has become a reality. Currently available via Xbox Game Preview, we’ve wiggled our way through build version 0.3.5c to let you know if it’s currently worth investing in.
In Slime Rancher, you harvest the feces of a gelatinous species for profit...
Once you’ve successfully captured a few different breeds of slime, it’s a good idea to grow some crops and rear some chickens in order to bypass the need to forage. With a self sufficient set-up established, it’s possible to devote more time to venturing further out into the world and discovering its nuances.
If you hadn’t already, you’ll quickly discover largos, the doubly-sized result of one slime eating another variety’s plort (nice...) to produce a hybrid of the two. Whilst these bulks are difficult to manage as they can’t be sucked up with the vacpack, they do provide twice the messy reward for each feed. They also carry a significant risk, however, in that getting their chops around a third strain of plort will turn them into the evil Tarr - black, jack o'lantern-faced slimes that will infect healthy slimes in the vicinity, whilst also attacking the player. An outbreak on the ranch can be devastating, so you’ll need to be exceedingly careful when handling largos. Segregation is key… just don’t take that quote out of context.
If the unruly Tarr, or another of the game’s threats, happen to get the better of you, you’ll simply sleep it off whilst losing the items on your person. You should never be carrying large amounts of plort, other than to take them directly to the market, so you won’t much mourn the loss as wild slimes and foodstuffs will have repopulated during your nap, ripe for recollection.
As you continue to explore further from the ranch’s safe perimeter, you’ll uncover huge stationary slimes that can be fed, and fed, and fed, until they explode. You’re rewarded for doing so with the rarest of items; teleporter pads that open up shortcuts, and keys to open doors that expand the play area. Unfortunately, it’s as you reach these peripheral expanses that the value proposition of Slime Rancher's preview build is brought into question.
It took us but a day’s play to get through everything, which would be fine if it were a linear experience with a defined endpoint, but it isn’t. We’ve bought all of the upgrades and have nothing to use them on; earnt buckets of money and have nothing to spend it on; captured all of the available slimes and now have no reason to own them. What was an incredibly enjoyable and moreish gameplay cycle came to an all too abrupt end - we want to play more, but there just isn’t anything here for us, even with an additional challenge mode. New areas are being worked on, so fingers crossed they’ll help combat the issue.
When you couple the lack of content with technical issues that see frame rates plummet and fail to recover, as well as chugging to a complete stop on occasion, we just can’t recommend purchasing Slime Rancher in preview.
With these significant kinks being worked out as you read this, we would, however, heartily recommend checking up on the final product when it releases later this year. If developer Monomi Park are successful in expunging them, they’ll have something special on their hands.
Pick it up in preview
Wait for final release
Avoid it either way