We at Gamereactor can't exactly decide what Recore is. On the one hand it wants to be a visually impressive sci-fi adventure in which heroine Joule tries, together with her small army of robot helpers, to shed some light on an incident that happened a few years ago involving her father. On the other hand, however, it wants to be an action platformer with puzzle elements, giving us plenty of spectacular fireworks and different power weapons to go with it. Even after the presentation at Gamescom 2016, in the presence of famous co-producer Keiji Inafune, we still couldn't work out what they were going for.
The legendary Japanese dev Armature Studio is working with Comcept to create the game on behalf of Microsoft, and when they were asked if there was more adventure or more gameplay action involved with Recore, Inafune replied to us in an interview that he wanted to combine both. We raised an eyebrow at that response and started to wonder whether all of this would come at the expense of focus and balance.
In our brief 30 mins playing Recore we found the gameplay incredibly convincing. The mix of platforming and shooting works smoothly, and the player sees and feels the influence of its spiritual predecessors. We played with two companions at our side, one being a robotic dog called Mack and the other a spider-bot named Seth, both of which can be used to help in fighting. One button press changed the companion in a Tag Team style action, so that one entered its cool-down phase while the other kept attacking. In this way these little helpers seem to play a key role.
In Recore you are tasked with finding energy balls and turning some sort of network back online, and it has been offline for decades. In this Joule's father plays a central role and the story is told using beautiful, post-apocalyptic images and scenes that clearly bear the signature of Inafune. These visuals are breathtakingly beautiful, but perhaps this is not that important considering the amount of other things going on.
If you're into shooting stuff Recore provides some of that too. Players can level up Joule's weapons as well her vitality and companions, but the heroine herself cannot be upgraded. You can equip the companions using a somewhat confusing and overpacked menu in a hub, and it was in this demo that we saw a new gorilla robot called Duncan. Players can find blueprints for the six different types of these robots and can then use them to create arms, legs, heads, torsos and augmentations, although the necessary materials need to be found if you're to do so. Finding and building a complete set grants additional bonuses to attack and defence too, and players can use energy cores in the companion, which can be also improved.
In the action-packed battles you can use the d-pad to access four types of ammunition, with colours assigned to each. Red ammunition is stronger against red enemy types, blue to blue, easy stuff, but it's always necessary to use these. There is no cover in the game, however, and the shooting action is always built around dodging and jumping. Joule occasionally needs to stop and solve simple puzzles, however, giving some respite from the more action-filled parts of the game.
In terms of the game world, it is quite large even if it isn't an open world as such. You can still explore and search areas that you've previously visited at a later time, for instance, as the new companions can be used to access various extras. Duncan, for example, can crush rock piles and this then reveals special opponents.
The developers promise eight to ten hours of gameplay although those completionists out there who want to collect all the bonuses may have to add some extra hours to see everything. Not all treasure chests can be found immediately, and rare equipment will only be found by experienced adventurers. There still remains questions about the focus of a game that tries to balance story, action and RPG all at once. We have been told that they want to find a good balance so they can integrate everything at once, but it remains to be seen whether this is actually achievable in time for the final game which hits Xbox One and Windows 10 PC on September 13.