Sponsored By: Iron Galaxy
Time Hacking: 68 Minutes
Cutting them off at the knees review
I love power fantasies, and Iron Galaxy has certainly delivered a doozy here.
Head and shoulders above the rest review
Extinction is a game that poses the question “Hey, what if Shadow of the Colossus was directed by James Cameron instead of M. Night Shyamalan? And we mean Terminator 2 James Cameron, not Titanic James Cameron.”
To which I answer, “I don’t know what that would look like, but I’m interested in finding out!”
It turns out, what it looks like is a character-action game in which all of the levels have one of those escort meters that you have to keep from hitting zero. Monsters are destroying the town, after all, and it’s your job to protect the town. So get out there and protect that dang town!
Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of that sort of thing, but the execution in Extinction has me feeling motivated to perform better, rather than simply frustrated. They key is that the game doesn’t actually care how much of the town you save, provided you don’t lose all of it. Sure, some missions have optional bonus objectives where you need to keep the town’s health above thirty percent, but if you miss that one, meh. What really matters is the main objective, which is usually killing some number of giant monsters.
This is where the power fantasy shines brightest, and where the developers did a great job of balancing power and challenge. You can’t just go kill the monsters right away. Before you can kill a giant monster, you need to charge your kill-the-giant monster meter. That’s not a monster health bar, as you might expect, so don’t think you can kill the giant monster by just hacking away at its left big toe until it bleeds out. No, you need to be heroic to charge that meter.
So rescuing civilians, which is done by activating teleportation crystals to evacuate them, charges your meter. Defeating smaller mobs, which look like human-sized versions of the giant monsters you’re tasked with defeating, charges your meter. Finally, breaking the giant monster’s armor and hacking off their limbs charges your meter.
Do you see the brilliance? In order to get to the big power fantasy (decapitating the giant monster in one expert slash) you need to engage in a lot of smaller power fantasies first, which just serve to whet your appetite for the final blow. It’s a great way to balance an overpowered character with just enough challenge to keep things interesting. It’s also a dopamine-hit loop like you wouldn’t believe.
A quick word about dismembering the giant monsters. Apparently, they were evolved from Starfish, because if you cut a monster’s limbs off, the limb in question will just grow back in a few seconds. This lends a certain amount of urgency to climbing up to deliver the final blow, but also provides the player with an option to recharge the death-blow meter if necessary.
don’t be behind a monster when you cut its leg off. If it falls on you, that’s instant death, and nobody wants to have to say that they were killed by a giant orc butt.
Now, the mechanics aren’t flawless here. Sometimes it’s difficult to get the camera situated so that you’re climbing up the monster. In my case, that meant I spent a lot of time getting stuck in monster armpits before I got the hang of things. Also, the character-action portions of the game, where you’re fighting the smaller mobs, feel like they belong in a different game. Every attack carries you forward, which means that a good combo might lead you a fair distance from the civilians you’re supposed to be protecting. Also, you can only fight one smaller mob at a time, which makes things especially difficult when there are three or more enemies to keep track of and only one human to protect, because while you’re killing one of them the other two are killing the civilian. Fortunately, as I mentioned, the game doesn’t usually care how many civilians you actually save. They’re really just one more way to charge your hero meter, and there are usually more to help if you mess this one up.
I suppose that could be considered a bad thing, since there don’t seem to be a lot of stakes in the game’s story. But playing a game like this for the story is like drinking Colt 45 for the bouquet and the notes of hickory and chocolate: That’s not why you’re here, and the game knows it.
Graphically, the game is legitimately gorgeous, if simple. The art style reminds me of Fortnite – which isn’t surprising since it’s built on the Unreal engine – and it serves the subject matter well and runs smooth as butter, which is important for a game where the main character has to be mobile and agile. Also, as in Battleborn and Agents of Mayhem, I’m a sucker for games with that Filmation cutscene style.
Will I keep playing?
I’m a little less than halfway through the game, and that’s at 68 minutes in. I’m sure the later levels will get more difficult and longer, and the game already has a built-in random-mission generator to extend replayability, so if I run out of campaign mode before I run out of the desire to dismember giant monsters, I’m covered.
At the very least, I plan to finish the story, and I’ll probably do some score-chasing, because I love score chasing. So yes, I’ll keep playing.
Is it the Dark Souls of Attack on Titan clones?
Extinction has an excellent difficulty balance, and a nice smooth learning curve. Also, there’s a character-progression system where you can improve various abilities (like making you jump higher, for example) which mean either the game will get harder or easier later on. As a Dark Souls equivalent, though, it falls short. Extinction is a power fantasy, and Dark Souls is more of an impotence fantasy.
Now, the last thing I want to talk about is the price point, and since this is the end of the review, I guess I’ll have to talk about the price point. For the amount of content in this game, sixty dollars seems a little steep. That price might have been justifiable ten years ago, but we live in a Steam-sale world. I’m sure there was some business reason why charging $60 made sense, but in 2018 this game would probably be better reviewed, and sell better, at $30.
Which is a bit of a shame, really, because Extinction is a game that deserves to be played, and I don’t think it will find the audience it should have at this price. But hey, we also live in a post Wildlands world, which means development is never truly over. Maybe this game looks different in a year.
Any takers on betting whether it will get a battle royale mode?