Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Iron Galaxy
Publisher: Maximum Games
Review code supplied free of charge by the publisher.
If Pacific Rim, Godzilla and Cloverfield have shown us anything it’s that we really like giant monsters smashing buildings. And why not? It’s awesome. As a kid giant monsters destroying stuff was like the greatest possible thing in the universe outside of raiding the sweet cupboard and being kissed by that cute girl. It’s also something Extinction wants to capitalize on by tossing together destroyable buildings and huge beasts that have an appetite for destruction.
You play as Avil, the last of the Sentinels, beings who have the incredible powers of being awesome with a sword, able to jump really high and being able to glide through the air like a leaf on the wind. As Avil your job is to protect the cities and citizens of the kingdom from the incoming Ravenii assault, the Ravenii being massive beasts capable of leveling buildings with a single swing of their giant arms. They’ve come from a different world and are close to bringing the human race to extinction, thus while you fight the beasts on the ground your friend Xandra is working on a way to save everyone using the very same portals that the Ravenii utilize.
It’s an intriguing premise, and the story gets told through back and forth dialogue at the beginning and end of the missions, with the occasional cutscene thrown in for good measure using a Saturday morning cartoon style that I really liked. Sadly, though, the story doesn’t really hold up, largely because Avil is a bland character. To be fair, he’s meant to be reserved, stoic and even distant in his mannerisms, but it’s hard to care about him or the narrative when he reacts to everything in the same, flat tone, even when his portrait shows him yellowing. Character’s like this are always difficult to write. The saving grace could have been Xandra who provides a bit more levity to contrast Avil’s dryness, but she gets little screen-time and they’ve never properly together, rather she’s just a voice in his ear.
Getting around the partially randomized maps is a speedy affair thanks to a high running speed, the ability to bound up buildings, a whip for pulling yourself into the air and even a glide ability so that you can gracefully float to your next objective. In short, once you get the hang of it you can scoot around very, very quickly, but it does come at the cost of accuracy. Using the whip to propel yourself into the sky, for example, can sometimes be a royal pain in the backside because there’s no way of aiming it, instead you just tap the button when a white circle pops up but that can often result in you going the wrong way, or grappling onto a flying enemy rather than the tree because it happened to move into range at the wrong moment. Likewise, you can run up a building with ease, but attempting to get to a balcony half-way up can result in a frustrating couple of moments where you fight the game’s design to have Avil run up or slide down the building.
Every mission shares a basic fail state, along with a few mission-specific ones; if the incoming Ravenii do too much damage to the town or city it’s game over, so to stop their advance you’ll need to execute them, and to do that you need Rune Energy. The first way to build up your Rune Energy is to save the various citizens scattered around the map who gather around special portal crystals you have to activate. Standing in your way are the smaller Jackals who always target the civilians, giving you a prime opportunity to test out your combat skills. Basically, you hammer the attack button to unleash a string of strikes, but you can mix things up by leaving pauses between hitting the button, letting you use special wider attacks. You can also launch the little buggers into the air before slicing them up, and a purchasable upgrade adds new combos based around using the dodge button. It’s a basic system that rewards button mashing more than anything else, but it’s still reasonably fun, although it could do with an audio or visual cue for attacks coming from off-screen.
You can run out of people to rescue quite quickly, though, so the other primary way of building up energy is to attack the Ravenii themselves. By wrecking their armor you can gather energy, and that’s done by simply holding down the Rune Strike button which activates slow-mo and then releasing it to launch the attack. You can smash through basic wooden armor with a single blow, and once the armor is gone you can sever the Revenni’s limbs, though they do grow back after a short while. That doesn’t make it any less satisfying to slice off both legs in a single, fluid assault, though, since you can merrily launch into a few Rune Strikes in quick succession with upgrades even letting you ignore gravity for longer. Plus, if the beast is wrecking too much of the town slicing off their legs or removing the arm holding the club is a damn good way of stopping them for a while. More advanced armor requires you to hit a series of padlocks to remove it or to land several blows, or in the case of the flaming bone armor you need to wait for the Ravenii to attack, dodge it then destroy the armor while the flames are extinguished.
Once you’ve charged up your Rune Energy you need to start climbing toward the beast’s head. Now, this can be a bit troublesome because while running straight up a Ravenii’s back is pretty straightforward, trying to go up the arms or chest can be awkward due to the controls simply not being all that accurate. Once you’ve clambered your way up, and made sure to dodge the Ravenii’s attempts to swipe you away, you can leap into the air and chop its head off. This is the game’s single best moment; the first time you scale a Ravenii and lop its head off feels oh so good. Sadly, though, because you kill a lot of them throughout the game that feeling vanishes quickly.
As you might have guessed the game’s biggest issue is that it’s very, very repetitive. Missions don’t really stray from the same formula, so you spawn in, save some people, build up energy and kill the towering Ravenii that are laying waste to the town. Rinse and repeat through the entire campaign with only the occasional chunk of light platforming thrown into the mix or slightly differing objectives, like rescuing enough people or defending some watchtowers. Daily challenges, leaderboards and a slow injection of new enemy types all try to help keep you playing, but again they all come down to doing the same things over and over. There is also the Extinction mode, but it’s essentially what you’ve already been doing, tossing you into a neverending series of enemies to see how long you can last. As for skirmish mode it lets you create a randomized map by typing in a seed, which you can then share with friends if you want to compete.
Saving folk and killing giant beasts all earn you upgrade points that you can use to purchase handy new skills and abilities. There’s not a heap on offer, but you can upgrade yourself with more health, faster activation of portal stones for rescuing citizens, even slower slow-mo when using Rune Strike and more.
The game’s graphics are a positive, too. Sure, they aren’t the most impressive on a technical level but the style catches the eye. The randomized nature of the buildings does mean towns and cities never actually manage to look like towns and cities, but you don’t tend to notice that while bouncing across buildings or dodging a Ravenii that’s just put its fist through a tower. It runs well, too, easily maintaining 60fps. However, there’s no proper 21:9 support, so if you’re like me and have a widescreen monitor you have to put up with black bars at the edge of the screen. This goes along with the fact that there isn’t a lot of graphical options either.
The audio is quite reasonable as well. Again, nothing that’s going to blow you away but for a budget title there’s some good music accompanying the action and the destruction of the cities is solid, even if it does lack the rumble you’d really expect of a building that’s just been punched into oblivion.
Here’s the big problem, though; for a game that looks, plays and feels like a budget title it’s hard to swallow the full triple-A asking price of around of over £50, which is the publisher’s recommend amount. I’ve said before that the price of a game doesn’t affect my final opinion since pricing is always a subjective thing, so as always my closing thoughts in the next paragraph will just be about the game, but that doesn’t mean I won’t talk about the price and in this instance I just don’t see the justification for price-tag. If the game appeals to you, consider waiting for a sale or a drop in price to something more sensible.
Extinction is a simple, enjoyable action game that you can get a lot of fun out of provided you don’t go into it seeking anything with depth, variety or a strong storyline. It is a button-mashing, brain-turned-off dash of fun that’s best experienced in short sessions. Perhaps with more emphasis on a deeper combat system and a more fleshed out system built around scaling the massive Ravenii it could have been even better. But if you want to live out those childhood fantasies of watching humungous monsters wrecking cities before slicing off their limbs for fun then this is the game for you.