Of course, games taking influence from other games isn’t a new idea, or even a negative. But I wanted to see for myself if these comparisons are justified.
For full disclosure I'm yet to get my hands on Returnal, so my knowledge of this title comes entirely from game clips and Twitch streams. For this reason, I won’t begin to claim to know which game is more fun to play. I have watched rather a lot of the Twitch streams for Returnal as I do find the concept and aesthetic of the game fascinating. Being a big fan of dark H. R. Giger style Sci-fi.
I played Recore for a short while a year or so ago, when Game Pass had a lot less to occupy me. I had been vaguely interested in it on release but never enough to pull my wallet out. Maybe if I had bought it back in the day I would have played more of it, if there is one small negative of Game Pass it’s that my willingness to commit to a game, I’m not fully loving, is reduced by not feeling the need to get my monies worth.
Loading it back up after this time I’m happy as I always am to discover my save point right where I left it. I can run straight back into the thick of it. The problem with this, it turns out, is having forgotten what the plot and goal of the game is. While I am yet to remember the actual narrative, assuming there is one, I was quickly back into the gameplay mechanics.
Now, here is where the comparison to Returnal does actually seem fair.
The pulled back distance from my character as she jumps and dashes away from enemies or their patterned fire looks strikingly similar. Jet booster on my back creating much the same dash animation. The steady laser fire from my carbine rifle. Even inside the ‘dungeons’ the aesthetic is somewhat similar, in a dark with glowie bits kind of way.
It’s also somewhat harder than I remembered. The average mobs pop with a single shot. But then the worming robots and other such mechanical beasts prove a challenge that killed me more than once.
One thing I'd say makes Recore better for a gamer without the patience of a saint such as I, is that death means starting from moments before the fight. Not all the way back at the start. Yes, I know this is the concept of Returnal, and I even quite like that, but for the previously mentioned patience problem I have it’s off putting to actually play the game.
The enemies' projectiles are also similar. In Returnal, one of the design choices I am not a fan of is the blue energy balls that shoot at you in a very deliberate pattern. I feel this ruins the organic feel of the rest of the in-game world. But it’s also eerily similar to Recore’s. Rather than blue balls of energy it’s spikey balls of metal. Yet they come at you in the same deliberate pattern. Which narratively does make more sense to me in a mechanical world.
I really can see why the two are compared. However, in other ways they are very different.
The gameplay style of Returnal is 'bullet hell'. This is the first time that I've seen this madness creep into the high detail, high profile showcases of gaming. Which is great. Variety in games is always welcome. While Recore projectiles do have some similarity to those in Returnal, in Returnal they fill the screen, dodging these IS the game. Recore doesn't feel nearly as intense.
The narrative. Or absence of a clear narrative. I’m sure there is a mystery to uncover somewhere in Recore but I'm buggered if I have a clue what it is. This might be more down to me picking up the game over a year later, where I've played at least fifty other games between. But I did find myself leaving the dungeon I was in with no real clue where to go.
The openness of the map. Recore is a desert, there is plenty of set dressing dotted about. But it certainly feels more open, to its detriment. The time I spend running between things, while not outrageous, feels laborious. This could also be down to my general fatigue of open world games I have developed over the years of watching games get bigger and bigger but feel less and less focused.
Polish. I’ve seen recently that Returnal isn’t actually native 4K. And while I'm always a little suspicious of a game set in the dark with fog covering everything that might threaten to be a detailed texture. It’s hard to argue that Returnal doesn’t look more polished than Recore.
With Recore releasing at a low price of £29.99 back in 2016 it’s safe to assume the production budget wasn’t huge either. This does compare to current Returnal price of £79.99 (more at some stores), so the polish level of Recore should be at least somewhat forgiven.
Still, I'd have liked to see Recore get the AAA treatment. From my short time playing it again I do think it’s a fun game with some great designs and game play. Game play good enough to be worth borrowing it seems. Recore won’t be remembered by many, but I doubt Returnal will either once a more regular flow of Next Gen games come out. While Returnal does seem to imitate Recore in its base game play, it arguably does it much better. A convincing argument at that.
Style I'd personally give it to Returnal, but that is personal preference. The Recore robots would benefit from having the more realistic style used by Horizon Zero Dawn. (Hang on a minute, is this another influenced by Recore game?)
Given a higher budget to give the design a deeper, less arcade look, and a more present narrative, I do believe Recore would have been a great game.
As it stands a remake of Recore would now probably catch flack for copying Returnal. But I would still love to see it.
This may seem like I'm bashing Returnal, I’m not, I really do think I'd enjoy it. Once they put in the saving your game feature. What Recore did first, Returnal did better. As is to be expected of a game from the next generation. Taking influence from other games isn’t a bad thing. One of my recent favourite games is Immortals: Fenyx Rising. Which catches flack for being a Breath of the wild clone. But I love it.
I would just like the community to be open to the suggestion that it’s got a lot in common, and tip their hat to those that came before.
Recore stumbled so that Returnal could fly.
As for Recore itself. It's a fun game. Lacking in focused narrative and released incomplete. Improved or remade (sequel maybe) it could be something awesome. I plan to keep dipping back into it every now and then, but do not find myself in desperate need to go back.
Keep an eye out for our Returnal review by comrade Dan later on this weekend.
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