Earlier this year I penned a list of games that you didn’t want to let slip under your radar. I flirted with the idea of including Extinction on the list, but ultimately it couldn’t force its way into the list of ten and it was cut. I may live to regret that decision. Over the past week I have had the opportunity to go hands-on with a preview build that showcases the first eight levels of Extinction’s single-player campaign, as well as a couple of additional modes. Surprisingly, my time with the Extinction left me excited for the game’s release on April 10, thanks to its hectic-but-fun nonstop action, which includes slaying 150-foot ogres. Despite the game’s fun appeal it wasn’t without its flaws, but hopefully the devs can address these areas of concern before the game launches.
Extinction is a brand-new third-person action hack ‘n’ slash from Killer Instinct developer Iron Galaxy and publishing partner Modus Games/Maximum Games. It follows the story of Avil, the last remaining member of an ancient order known as The Sentinels, and the only one with the skills to save Dolorum and its people from extinction and the Ravenii, a threat that has entered the world through trans-dimensional portals. The Ravenii are no ordinary threat, with their race being made up of goblin-like enemies known as Jackals, winged opponents known as Vultures and 150-foot behemoth ogres.
I’ve seen bigger
For the most part the gameplay is pretty simple. In order to save Dolorum, Avil will need to use his attack manoeuvre, which is disappointingly mapped to one button, to defeat any low-level enemy. This results in essentially button mashing the X (on Xbox controller) until your enemy is slain. Furthermore, Avil will need to rescue civilians, which is done by holding Y near a crystal portal (installed by your side-kick Xandra) until the civvy is teleported to safety. The populous of Dolorum are a rather meek bunch, with all of them just standing still and accepting their fate of certain death until you come to the rescue. Makes you wonder why you’d even bother saving them at times. Alas, a hero’s gotta do what a hero’s gotta do.
The star of the show is by far the grandeur of the epic battles between Avil and the 150-foot ogres. Each ogre fight is different, with the gigantic Ravenii all wearing different armour. Some may be wearing weaker wooden armour that can be broken in one hit, while others may require locks to be broken before you can really do some damage, such as chopping off a leg or an arm. To break a piece of armour Avil will need to use his Rune Strike (LT), which slows down time and allows players to ensure they connect with their attack. To assassinate a Ravenii ogre Avil must play executioner and cut off their head, but in order to do that you have to remove any armour obstructing your coup de grâce, which can only be done once you have fully charged your Rune Strike, and even then you have to watch out for the swatting hands of the ogre.
Unlock the finisher
The star of the show is by far the grandeur of the epic battles between Avil and the 150-foot ogres
Charging your Rune Strike can be done via killing smaller Ravenii, rescuing civilians, destroying an ogre’s armour or severing their limbs. As you progress through the levels the frequency of ogres increases, meaning you could easily get stuck tackling an ogre with difficult armour (such as a lock on its helmet piece) while another ogre crushes the town and its inhabitants. Further urgency is generated thanks to a host of bonus objectives such as completing a mission in a certain amount of time or executing a Ravenii with a number of limbs missing. After a handful of missions the gameplay does start to become a bit repetitive, and although I was still left wanting more after my hands-on (I played through the build twice), I can see a number a people losing interest. To spice up the gameplay, Avil can upgrade his skills by collecting skill points. Skills can be things like increased health, stronger combat and faster teleporting. Supposedly the gameplay is akin to Attack on Titan, but as someone who hasn’t watched the show or played the game I couldn’t tell you. But after a cursory YouTube search there are some similar traits here.
On the flip side, the ogre battles are also where some of the game’s most glaring shortcomings are. Given the speed at which Avil traverses and the fact that you’re constantly on the move, the camera at times fails to keep up, often hindering your next move. Furthermore, if you get right up close and cosy with an ogre the camera has a tendency to get lost inside the beast, causing the player to lose sight of Avil. The hit detection is another aspect that is in need of some tinkering. Avil, is susceptible to being crushed with one hit from an ogre (fair given the size of them), but when an ogre is attempting to crush you it’s easy to become mincemeat even though you feel you’ve done enough to avoid it.
Need a hand?
To its benefit, the world of Dolorum is not an open world, with missions/levels taking place inside relatively large, fully-destructible open environments. As a result players won’t be able to rest on their laurels, with the towns of Dolorum having a destruction limit, which is inclusive of civilian casualties. Each time a Ravenii bulldozes a building or takes an innocent life, your meter goes down, and if it gets all the way down to zero then it’s mission over. Despite the ease of the first few levels, in some of the latter levels I played I found myself having to choose between saving lives or slaying Ravenii, in which I often chose to take down the Ravenii. Traversing Dolorum is also highly-enjoyable. Avil is able to run up walls (sideways as well as up and down), swing and springboard from trees and rooftops as well as use his dash ability. Used collectively, Avil can quickly make up ground on an enemy that is causing destruction within a town.
Visually the game is appealing, making use of a unique art style with lots of bright and vibrant colours, although the towns and their outskirts do kind of blend into one after a while. Story-wise it feels a little cursory, with only rudimentary aspects of the premise explained (such as why Avil is the last of The Sentinels). It doesn’t help its case that the voice-acting is pretty flat and that the gameplay pauses what feels like every time you rescue a civilian. Here’s hoping the latter half of the story can open up to players, as the premise is an intriguing one.
Players will have access to a couple of other modes as well. Extinction Mode is essentially horde mode, with players tasked with killing as many Ravenii as they can in randomly generated levels before either dying or the time limit expires. Trials is another mode that tasks players with rescuing as many civilians as possible. Skirmish will allow players to score the highest score they can by killing a bunch of Ravenii and fight one another on the online leaderboard, and players will have access to Daily Challenges.
Extinction is a game bursting with potential. It’s insanely fun to play, especially the David versus Goliath moments with the giant Ravenii despite its repetitiveness, and its world has an intriguing tale buried beneath its sand-laden topography. Hopefully Iron Galaxy can polish up some of the issues present in the present build, because if they can Extinction could well be a sleeping giant.
Extinction releases on April 10 for PS4, Xbox One and PC.