Revisiting Recore: Xbox One’s Lost Gem
Recore’s always been a title that’s fascinated me, as it’s clearly a game that never fulfilled its potential for whatever reason. It’s filled to the brim with bugs and glitches and yet, despite that, still managed to charm many who played it. It’s the first game that I wanted to feature on our new In Depth section and hopefully, you’ll enjoy reading, watching or listening to this tale. Enjoy.
If I was to reveal a brand new game to you and said that it was from an experienced producer who had worked on some of the industry’s biggest franchises and contained developers who worked on one of the highest rated video games in history – as well as being backed by a first party studio – you’d think we were onto a sure-fire winner.
Before you read the title of this section, you might be surprised to learn that the name of this highly ambitious game, is Recore.
First revealed on Microsoft’s E3 stage back in 2015 by none other than Phil Spencer himself, Recore’s initial trailer revealed that it was being developed by Keiji Inafune (of Mega Man fame) and a team who had worked on the highly thought of Metroid Prime series. Within the opening few seconds of Recore being shown to the world, it was clear that its creators had a strong background, and that Recore, was in safe hands – or so it appeared.
Released in September 2016 to fairly positive reception, Recore was a ‘good’ if not ‘great’ game. It centred around Joule Adams and her three corebot characters, each of which would accompany you through various parts of the game, helping you to fight, explore and solve puzzles. Recore isn’t set on Earth though. Our home planet has been ravaged by the ‘dust devil plague’ and now, 200 years in the future, the world of Far Eden is being explored.
After spending the journey to Far Eden asleep in a cryo-pod, Joule and her first corebot wake up and explore the world that they’ve found themselves in. And thus, Recore begins …
It’s a tale that’s been retread before. Earth’s dying, we need a new place to live and you’re the ‘chosen one’ who is sent there to explore, only to find unanswered questions and danger at every turn on your arrival.
Upon its reveal though, Recore felt like it had something different; not just the aforementioned development team with major hits on their mantlepiece but also a lead character and a story that had the potential to deliver. This is a tale about a game that failed to live up to its undoubted potential and despite that impressive first showing, things tailed off from there …
Late Problems and a Shaky Start
Recore’s early promise slowly faded between its 2015 reveal and eventual release in September the following year.
However, that September release date was only following a delay, with the game initially slated to release in Spring of 2016. The announcement of Recore’s new date came at the turn of the year, and up until that point, actual gameplay of Recore had failed to materialise. The game was still clinging onto the names of those involved as its main selling point, as well as a trailer that was quickly becoming a distant memory. It rapidly lost traction to the likes of Fallout 4 and Halo 5 which released in late 2015 and in general, Recore just wasn’t garnering the attention it once did – and quickly started appearing on the periphery of everyone’s radar as news on the game became scarce. Recore went from a game that many were curiously intrigued in seeing more of, to falling off the video game news cycle completely.
A few months before launch, the release date for the game was finally revealed alongside an extensive FAQ which revealed that the game would feature an “Innovative blend of exploration and combat” as well as “A mysterious and dynamic world.” Bold claims indeed.
More intriguingly though was the sudden mention of the game’s budget price: $40 in the US and £29.99 in the UK. A quarter off of the normal price for a physical retail game; at the time, it was a nice jolt to the life signs of many a wallet or purse that regularly purchased games, but you had to wonder: was Recore going to be less of a ‘game’ than people first imagined?
That thought process was solidified further in the FAQ for the game, signifying that players will enjoy “12 hours of gameplay.” Still a decent amount but considerably less than many had hoped for.
With expectations firmly in check before launch day, Recore’s release couldn’t have gone much worse.
Shortly after launch, complaints from players began to mount up, from animation issues to load times that lasted well over a minute and even a glitch that makes unplayable areas of Recore accessible. It appeared that beneath the thin skin of Recore was a whole host of problems and issues that never had the chance to be fixed.
Kotaku said that Recore had “Bugs and inconsistent design make exploring the world frequently unpleasant.” Eurogamer’s Recore review perhaps nailed its issues best though, stating that it’s sabotaged “by a litany of technical problems. Loading times are absurdly long … [there’s] characters getting stuck in doorways forcing a reset, or the fast travel map rendering itself completely useless thanks to a crosshair going AWOL, forcing you to backtrack on foot at an agonisingly slow pace until the problem magically rights itself.”
In fact, our own review of Recore stated that it was “a throwback to adventure/action titles of the PS2-era, a type of game that is sadly not as frequent today and ReCore does well to fill a decreasing video game niche, even if it does feel a little unpolished in places.”
Despite the problems, it was clear that there was something about Recore that elevated it above just being another average game that just wasn’t good enough to resonate with the majority of gamers.
Recore’s Glitches and Bugs
As you’ve no doubt already guessed, Recore’s biggest issue was its constant (and we do mean constant) problems with bugs and glitches.
From falling through the floor, not being able to shoot, Achievements refusing to unlock, extremely long load times after a death and even an infinite time glitch which actually made some of Recore’s challengers more attainable. To say that Recore had some problems at launch would be a severe understatement.
One of the major early discoveries was Recore’s infinite time glitch, that allowed players to take on time-based challenges with ease – essentially nullifying some of the hardest parts of the game just days after Recore launched. It wasn’t long until players found other ways of triggering the glitch, with later methods even going as far as to access unfinished parts of the game and then warping back to Joule’s Crawler.
Essentially what would happen is that after warping back to Joule’s Crawler, the timer for the dungeon will still tick down, however, when it reaches zero, it remains on screen – allowing you to then go into any dungeon and complete it before the timer runs out. Giving you free reign over Recore’s tougher challenges.
Recore’s problems and issues so soon after launch didn’t just harm the game for people who had already bought it, but also give justification to those who had decided not to pre-order the game. Despite many identifying that behind the curtain of problems, Recore was a good game, it was too late and the press coverage that highlighted these early issues stopped the game ever being able to pick up any positive promotion.
But why was Recore left in such a state? A game that just a year previously was given prime time on Microsoft’s E3 stage. When you consider the names attached to the project, something must have happened within the walls of Recore’s development for the game to not only be released with a discounted price, but also a number of problems and issues. Maybe Microsoft lost faith in the project? In truth, we’ll never know. Despite the unfinished nature of Recore when it launched, there were a few redeeming features of it that many found despite the problems.
Joule In The Crown
“Joule is emblematic of this conviction, and we hope she’s a character who stands strong and stands out in a market filled with male heroes.” Joseph Staten
Recore and Joule are intertwined, you can’t have one without the other. However, Joule wasn’t originally planned to be the lead character for the game.
According to Cliff Schonewill, who worked on the game, Joule and her exosuit were originally intended to be used by another character.
“I was asked by Armature studio to create the main characters for Recore.” Chris says on his ArtStation page. “At the time there was a style change underway and I was working on the then main character. During that process, another character was being made at PSYOP for the advertisement who then became the main character, Joule. Much of the high poly was made at PSYOP, and I created the game res and textures for her. I also created the Exo suit she uses, though it was made for the cut character and retrofitted to her.”
You can see the cut character’s legs below. It’s easy to speculate but these appear to suggest that the previous main character of Recore was male – although, again, it’s difficult to even confirm this.
Despite the poor reviews, many critics mentioned that Recore had a heart and a character to it that, under the right circumstances could have been fleshed out. While we can only speculate on the factors that caused Recore’s problems, there’s no denying that the main character, the world and many other factors of the design of the game could have been part of something more.
Main character Joule is one such character which upon the game’s reveal, resonated with many and again, if the game had been given the time needed to blossom, Joule – who’s name is derived from a unit of energy of the same name – could’ve been the Xbox platforms replacement for Joanna Dark. Recore’s Lead Writer Joseph Staten (who worked on both the Halo and Destiny series) had high hopes for Joule, hoping that she would be “a character who stands strong and stands out in a market filled with male heroes.” While she and her vibrant world stood out when Recore was first revealed, there’s no mistaking the fact that the problems Recore faced at launch put any questions over her and the series future in no doubt whatsoever.
Recore’s Second Chance
All was not lost for Recore though, as almost a year after its initial release, it received a Definitive Edition, an update that would also be free to players who had already purchased the original game. The update promised to not only add a new chapter in the shape of ‘Eye of the Obsidian’ – that came with a new area to explore and a new corebot to run around with – it also came with numerous glitch and bug fixes and was also set to reduce some of the game’s infamously long load times from 60 + seconds down to 5 seconds or less.
The update was a step in the right direction and was further proof that, for whatever reason, the game was shipped out the door earlier than it probably should’ve been. Again, we can only speculate as to why.
What the Definitive Edition did though was not only give the game some nice additions but also gave some closure to those who have picked it up. Whether or not the Definitive Edition is the way the game was meant to have launched we’ll never know, but releasing it as a free update was certainly a nice touch and one that shouldn’t have been taken for granted.
The update was all a far cry from the game’s triumphant unveiling though and still smacks a little bit of a missed opportunity. Especially when you consider the fact that the Definitive Update still left Recore with problems that will never be cleared up, in fact, upon going back to play Recore recently, we still encountered issues, including one that saw us lose the cursor, become invincible and also get stuck trying to open up a box.
The Future of Recore
We reached out to Armature studios while putting this together and while they were gracious in talking to us about Recore, they were unfortunately unable to give us any solid information regarding the game’s development or the series’ future. When you go back and recall all the issues that Recore has had from the moment it was delayed right through to now, it’s hard to imagine anything resembling a Recore 2 happening; especially when you consider the extensive list of IPs that Microsoft has let become stagnant under their tutelage.
Recore was paraded to the world after a Halo game; it shared the limelight with Microsoft’s biggest exclusive. After the world had its eyes on it, its light dimmed and sadly, Joule and her Corebots weren’t given the time or resources to grab it again. Perhaps, if given the chance again, Recore could join Xbox’s staple of giant franchises.
Unfortunately, it’s more likely that it’ll join Joanna Dark, Banjo and Fable, on the Xbox sidelines.
Maybe one day, Joule will explore the desert once more in the form of a Recore sequel.
We won’t hold our breath though.