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Extinction Review

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Right now video games are in an interesting shift. Multiplayer titles are coming under more scrutiny, so simply throwing a bunch of people into an online situation without a solid gameplay foundation will likely fail. Single player experiences have an even larger problem in that the high price point of a game requires these titles to be a difficult balance of length, story depth, and mechanics. Then along comes a game like Extinction, a mechanics-heavy single player action game that mainly focuses on taking down massive ogres called Ravenii that are trying to destroy your kingdom. Gameplay is king and the goal is to get you so enthralled in mastering the task at hand that you are compelled to return on a regular basis. If this is starting to sound similar to various mobile titles that have hooked us all over the years, it’s because the same concept is employed here. Whether or not that’s substantial enough to justify a full priced game is definitely going to be in the eyes of the beholder.

Comparisons will surely be made between Extinction and Attack on Titan, especially considering the way you take down massive enemies is essentially the same.  You will target various limbs, removing any armor present first, and eventually fill up a gauge that allows you to decapitate a Ravenii.  Beyond that the comparison doesn’t really hold up because Attack on Titan was all about a catapult mechanic that was the central focus in movement as well as attacking the large titans.  In Extinction you are given more of a puzzle that requires you to juggle outside factors during your battle.  There are minor enemies on the ground that can be dispatched, citizens that can be saved, and a town that you must try to keep intact all while keeping the one, or multiple, Ravenii at bay.  This is in addition to the different ways in which to combat the armor they wear, some of which is very straightforward to destroy and others that I have yet to figure out.  Armor is one of my larger gripes about this game because it does such a great job at introducing you to many of the different types and then just throws the most difficult your way without so much as a hint of what to do.  The game is also kind enough to tell me what I’m doing wrong, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what I’m supposed to do right.  This isn’t a deal breaker – although I will concede I’m two missions away from completing the 50 mission campaign – but I really hate when a game gates your progress for arbitrary reasons.  Beyond that developer Iron Galaxy definitely employs the “keep it simple, stupid” mentality of streamlining both controls and the skill tree.  This was a welcome change of pace when compared to the over-complicated mechanics I experience in many games of late, especially the larger scale indie titles.  There’s not much more to the game beyond that, it’s an endless series of skirmishes between a talented warrior and a bunch of big ogres, but man is the combat so enjoyable that I keep coming back.

You have the choice between a campaign, skirmish, and extinction mode along with a daily challenge.  I’ve already mentioned the campaign, which is broken into 7 chapters for a total of about 8-10 hours of gameplay.  This is the ideal starting point as it does an excellent job of walking you through the basics before starting to test your skills and allowing you to earn points that unlock your skill tree.  These skills are as important as they are beneficial and I was able to unlock all of them through the course of the campaign, but not without getting stuck a few times.  You can always replay a mission and grind for more points, allowing for more skills earlier into the missions, but I never found that specifically necessary.  Early into the campaign you’ll get a mission that is procedurally generated in almost every way.  The main task remains consistent but the side tasks for bonus points, the map terrain, and overall layout will be created on the fly.  This provides a seemingly endless number of possible levels for you to play in and reinforces the goal of consistent challenges for you to face and overcome.  Skirmish mode allows you to generate levels based on a coded system that you can challenge friends and compare leaderboards for high scores.  Extinction mode is a horde mode, but you are alone and only given one life.  You also get a daily challenge for score comparison, which to me serves as the hook to get you booting it up every day.  While the tactics employed are transparent, they are also effective.  Extinction isn’t trying to get you to spend more money, there are no microtransactions or “loot boxes,” it just wants you to play it on a regular basis.  Given that each mission or skirmish will only last you about 5-15 minutes, this can be a quick way to unwind after getting home from school, work, or in my case when the rest of the house goes to bed.

I can see the concerns that no doubt are in other reviews.  It’s a small game, coming in under 3 GB in size.  It’s a single concept repeated indefinitely due to levels and tasks created on the fly.  It’s like a mobile game, complete with the known hooks, brought to mainstream consoles and PC at a big box retail price.  These are all accurate statements, but what I don’t understand is why any of these things are necessarily negative.  I find that highly effective mobile games keep me coming back more often than console titles and they aren’t nearly as tempting or fun to play as Extinction.  It’s not a perfect experience, I’ve already vented about the armor, but there are other factors like when you scale a Ravenii the traversal is clumsy at best.  I find that the way this title handles distance is inconsistent – it doesn’t seem to allow me to lock on to armor that is largely in my field of view but then allows a club swinging across the landscape to hit me at incredible distances.  I’ll admit that when you get stuck on a challenge and repeat it over again it accounts for some of the most aggravating moments I’ve had with a game in a long time.  Also the story is throw away at best and most of the time I found it an unnecessary introduction to levels that I was ready to leap into, but the cutscenes are great examples of hand drawn animation.  These frustrations may have hindered my experience, but they never swayed me from playing the game and I never rage quit, vowing never to return.

It’s a tough value proposition: a game that employs the most effective strategies of mobile games applied to a home console release.  At the same time games focusing purely on gameplay that keep the player hooked is the very foundation for which video games began as a medium.  It will be hard to determine based on written reviews and gameplay videos if Extinction will dig its hooks into you the way it dug its hooks into me, which begs the question why this game doesn’t have a demo.  I also can’t fault you for thinking it just lacks the density, variance,  and scale you expect out of a $60 game today.  For those that it does connect with and those tired of playing essentially the same corridor shooter, team deathmatch, and story heavy title with really nothing to say, this could be that breath of fresh air you’ve been waiting for.  There’s something special, albeit very specific, about Extinction, but it definitely falls short in both complexity and density up against the likes of the competition it shares a shelf with.

Final Score:  3 out of 5  (review policy)

A review copy was provided by the publisher and played on PC.  Extinction is available on Steam (Windows only), Playstation 4, and Xbox One for $59.99.  Performance was rock solid with around 110-120 frames per second at 2K resolution (1440p) using an i5 quad-core at 3.5 ghz and a GTX 1070.  A 60 frames per second target is expected from console versions.  The reviewer has played this game approximately 15 hours for the purpose of this review. 

Written by Fred Rojas

April 10, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in PC/Mac, PS4, Reviews, Xbox One

Tagged with , ,

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