The hack ‘n’ slash genre has given us some of video games’ finest series and experiences. Devil May Cry, Bayonetta and God of War are just three prominent series that have etched themselves into video game history thanks to their slick, fast-paced gameplay. One game that is hoping to capture the hearts and minds of hack ‘n’ slash fans is Extinction, a brand new IP from Killer Instinct developer Iron Galaxy, which is all about taking down 150-foot ogres and saving the world from…extinction. But can Iron Galaxy fuse the inspiration from the aforementioned titles with its fighting genre prowess to deliver an action-packed adventure?
Hello big boi
Extinction puts players in the ogre-slaying boots of Avil, who is the last remaining member of an ancient order known as The Sentinels. Avil, along with the help of his companion Xandra, must work together to ensure the survival of the Kingdom of Dolorum and its inhabitants from the threat known as the Ravenii. The Ravenii are not your typical gun-toting invaders though, with the subjugator army made up of varying ground and air-based enemies. However the biggest threat to the Kingdom of Dolorum and Avil are the Ravenii themselves – which are 150-foot ogres. The Sentinels have already exiled the Ravenii once before, but the Ravenii have found a way to open portals back to the land where they were once banished in order to extract their revenge.
The story and campaign are spread across seven chapters and 34 missions, with the narrative told through short cartoon-esque cutscenes after each chapter’s completion and voiced on-screen dialogue boxes at the beginning and end of each mission. The premise itself is relatively interesting and there’s a nice twist that gives it an extra kick, but the execution is so lacklustre that it’s hard to stay invested in the story. The cutscenes are done well and I wish there were more of them, but it’s the voice acting and writing that drags it all down. Despite his nobleness, Avil isn’t an overly likeable character and his flat and inconsistent voice acting made rooting for the last Sentinel a chore. It was like feeling a morsel of empathy for Professor Snape in the early Harry Potter books; you felt dirty rooting for a bloke that rubbed you the wrong way.
Put your hands up for Dolorum
While the game promises vast open areas, don’t expect an open world. In fact, the sand-capped Kingdom of Dolorum is rather generic, despite its bright and lush palette and randomly curated layout. Towns feel barren and lifeless, and even though they’re randomly generated they all feel and look the same. The missions are played out in large open individual levels, with each mission having a specific objective that Avil must complete, such as killing x amount of Ravenii, rescuing x number of civilians or defending a city’s watchtowers for a certain period of time. While it does sound a bit humdrum after a while on paper, Iron Galaxy has spiced it up by adding bonus objectives to each mission, with some of these randomly generated. It sounds good in theory, and it does add a modicum of variety, but often the bonus objectives are variants of main objectives. For example, your main objective might be to kill 20 jackals, but one of your bonus objectives could be to kill two Ravenii. There are unique bonus objectives though, such as complete the mission with no deaths or in a specified amount of time, which add a good challenge to the missions. Completing these objectives will give you extra skill points to spend on skill upgrades, but more on that soon. Furthermore, each level has destruction/civilian threshold which means if you let too much of a city get destroyed or too many civilians perish you will fail and have to start again.
The gameplay is where Extinction shines the brightest and it’s clear Iron Galaxy’s fighting nous has helped craft the game’s combat system. Thanks to his specialised training, Avil is a more than capable fighter with several tricks up his sleeve. The combat system is rather simple, with two primary buttons for your attacks. One for light attacks, which can be chained together to create combos and another for your Rune Strike attack, a move that slows time down, allowing greater probability of hitting the target. Players can also dodge and cancel any attack, should they be required to. Once Avil’s combat skills are upgraded you will have access to more advanced combos, which gives Avil’s battles a bit more style and the combat system a bit more substance. Combat isn’t limited to the ground either, with Avil able to knock his opponents into the air to before unleashing a devastating combo.
The view from above
Poetry in motion
The gameplay is where Extinction shines the brightest and it’s clear Iron Galaxy’s fighting nous has helped craft the game’s combat system
Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?!
Off with their head!
Lesser enemies such as Jackals and Vultures can be defeated using a mixture of the two attacks, however the David vs Goliath inspired battles between Avil and the 150-foot Ravenii are really where the game excels. In order to take down a Ravenii, Avil must fully charge his Run Strike so he can deliver the coup de grâce and slice off their head. Charging a rune strike can be done by eliminating lesser enemies, rescuing civilians and destroying Ravenii armour and dismembering their limbs (which grow back over time). The best thing about these epic battles is that no two fights are the same. The Ravenii can come in many forms thanks to different armour combinations, some a lot more difficult than others. Some armour can be destroyed with a single hit, armour with locks can require a couple direct hits, some require the Ravenii themselves to weaken the armour while other types of armour simply cannot be destroyed, meaning you’ve got to be tactful about how you approach each battle. Depending on your mission your priority could be to kill Ravenii or save civilians, Extinction does a good job of creating internal confliction. Do you save the civilians that are under siege or do you sacrifice them to take down the big boy? Whichever path you take there is nothing more satisfying than slaying an ogre whose been causing you grief or wiped out half a village.
I will admit that chaining together a number of combos is extremely satisfying and addictively fun, but the combat system can start to feel a bit repetitive after a while. Furthermore, I found myself abusing the more powerful slow-motion rune strike in order to eliminate enemies as fast as possible to charge up my rune strike and take down a Ravenii that was causing havoc. The game can also be a tad unfair with where it places the Ravenii, especially in the watchtower defending levels where they often spawn at other sides of the map. If you’re having trouble taking down one Ravenii due to its armour or finding enough minions to kill to charge your Rune Strike you’re almost guaranteed to fail if the other Ravenii is allowed to roam free and destroy everything in sight. There were several times where I failed missions due to multiple Ravenii at opposite ends of the village. Lastly, the hit detection still seems a bit iffy. Several times I perished when I thought I was in the clear from a Ravenii attack.
Along with the combat, traversing Dolorum is also a joy. The key to Avil’s survival is to keep moving and this is done by springboarding from treetops and rooftops as well as using his grappling hook and dash maneuver. Traversal methods can also be upgraded, which allows Avil to jump higher and further as well as wall run (which is bizarrely only unlocked once you finish the game). Other upgrades allow Avil to rescue civilians faster, absorb more damage and to deal more damage. It’s not an overly deep system, but it gives enough incentive to earn skill points.
Technically the game performed well running on the Xbox One X and looked good thanks to its colourful visuals. The only annoying element is the camera, which can often get lost inside Ravenii or buildings if you’re too close, meaning you can’t see where you’re running or attacking.
If the 10-12 hour campaign isn’t enough for you, Iron Galaxy has included a couple other modes that will let you cut off more Ravenii heads than you could ever dream of. Extinction Mode is essentially a timed level where you have to kill as many Ravenii as possible. Trials is another timed mode which requires you to rescue civilians as fast as possible, while Skirmish
You don’t have a leg to stand on
At its core Extinction is an insanely fun game. The combat system has enough nuances to provide a unique hack ‘n’ slash experience, and the battles against the colossal Ravenii are some of the most intense and fun combat moments I’ve had with a game in recent times. Where it all starts to come apart is in the level design, which ends up becoming quite repetitive and in the lack of execution with the story, where any potential was squandered with flat voice acting and an unlikeable protagonist. Extinction does enough right to warrant a recommendation, just maybe not at full price.
Reviewed on Xbox One X | Review code supplied by publisher