Last September, Comcept Games’ ReCore launched on Xbox One and PC to poor reviews. While the game showed promise prior to release, the final game was simply not finished: Its narrative went nowhere, its enemy design was homogenous, and whole sections of the game seem to have been scraped together using whatever art was just lying around, so to speak. One of the robotic companions that protagonist Joule was supposed to befriend was left out of the game, even though he’s clearly visible on the game’s cover art. Though developers Comcept and Armature Studio plan to correct some of these issues via downloadable content later this year, it’s been six months since the game went on sale, and it is still broken.
So I was shocked to find that, though the game is still unfinished, the developer is planning to take another pass at selling the game. According to a German Rating Board, Microsoft plans to publish a “Definitive Edition” of ReCore, presumably later this year. Should it be published, the game will mark an incredible low-point for Microsoft. By elevating of one its worst games in recent memory, Microsoft is publicizing a moment when it failed to meet players’ expectations.
Microsoft would be wise to put ReCore in the rearview mirror.
The “Definitive” or “Game of the Year” edition release of a game, is usually reserved for good games, or at least well-received ones. Generally released nine months to a year after the game’s initial launch, the new version offers modern, well-patched version of the game, as well as its paid post-release content. For players who passed the first time, it is a second chance at a first impression. For die-hard fans or collectors, it may offer slivers of new content that bolsters the experience.
ReCore, which ends with a resounding “thud” and spends its latter half making players backtrack through nearly every area as a means of disguising its lack of meaningful gameplay, doesn’t need to be bolstered. It needs to be overhauled from the ground up. It doesn’t need DLC-style content that gives its story “context,” it needs a story. Its paper-thin narrative included in the game at the moment offers almost no incentive for its hero, Joule, or the player to trudge through its monotony. It doesn’t need a new coat of shiny paint. It needs foundational work to expand on what’s already there, not to mention systemic improvements to eliminate its odd checkpoint bugs and infuriating loading times.
These aren’t “extras” that fans should be paying a premium to receive. They are what we should expect of a video game, especially one with a AAA publisher, Microsoft, and created by legendary talents like Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune and Metroid Prime’s Mark Pacini.
Perhaps my anger is unwarranted. It’s rare, but not unheard of, for developers to add meaningful changes in a definitive re-release. Ori and the Blind Forest, another Microsoft-published game, added new areas, new mechanics, and new artwork. Should Microsoft choose to release the additional robot – the T8NK – and the previously unfinished area as free DLC before publishing Recore’s definitive re-release, it could at least show that there’s a commitment to improving the game, rather than merely reselling it.
Even if they do everything right, though, framing a new version of ReCore as the “definitive” edition suggests that the original game was somehow worthy of a re-release. It suggests that the game even remotely met the lofty expectations of players, who had been waiting years for a successor to the Metroid Prime series. The promise of “more ReCore” isn’t going to get fans excited. It will simply remind them of the game’s failed potential, and the hours they wasted as they dared to hope that the game might improve after launch.
Microsoft would be wise to put ReCore in the rearview mirror. It exemplifies everything the company has done wrong in recent years. It not only failed to match Xbox’s high publishing standards, but paled in comparison to the offerings from both PlayStation and third-party publishers. You can tweak and improve certain aspects of a bad video game after release, but without fundamentally changing how it was designed and removing the filler, it can only be improved so much. It takes more than a few words to make a bad game into something “definitive.”