When I first saw the cinematic trailer announcing Extinction at E3 2017, I was right stoked to play it! It seemed to have amazing potential and I was so very excited to be able to review it.
Let’s first have a quick look at that trailer again and then dig into the Review:
You play as Avil, the last surviving Sentinel. The Sentinels were an ancient order of warriors with special skills that allowed them to slay the gigantic ogres that now threaten to annihilate humanity. This is not a war you’re fighting, it’s just you against an army of the 150 feet tall Ravenii so there is no hope of winning. Your only goal is mankind’s survival.
The plot itself seems fantastic, but there are a few major issues with how it’s delivered. In stark contrast to the pretty awesome trailer above, you’ll only be told the story through static dialogs and a few animated cartoons. There are no CG cinematics and not even any ingame cutscenes in the ENTIRE game.
What adds insult to injury is that there are only 5 distinct characters in the entire game with some kind of story involvement:
- Avil himself, the last remaining sentinel
- The old sentinel, his trainer (only seen in the flashbacks)
- Xandra, the woman who helps you by stealing the enemy’s technology
- the King
- Abner, the commander of the army
This method of story telling quickly lost my interest and I found myself skipping through some of the dialog as it felt as repetitive as the game itself: The king, Abner or Xandra come up with a plan of some sort and Avil just fights the Ravenii. There is no one particular antagonist to speak off, the Ravenii are just there to be killed and their motivation is only revealed near the end of the game.
Visuals & Audio
Visually the game doesn’t fare that much better. The animations shown in between chapters don’t feel adequate at making me fear or respect the Ravenii as much as CG cinematics would and the only characters for which 3D models exist are Avil and the enemy ogres themselves.
Avil and the Ravenii seem to be the only assets that received any amount of detail though as the other assets you’ll see in the starting city are simply re-used 33 times in all the other levels. Visually, if you’ve seen one environment you’ve seen them all and this is just a damn shame.
Luckily the five story characters are all voiced and they do a good enough job of transferring the urgency of their plight to the player. Especially Avil delivered a few impressive lines with “LET. THEM. COME.” being my favourite. As for the music, most of the background tracks are just some rhythmic percussion instruments, so it won’t stand out unless you pay attention to it. Sound effects are so-so but the dismembering slice of Avil’s blade cutting of a Raveni’s limb is at least one that I never grew tired off.
During gameplay you’ll often have to use your rune-strike (but more on that later) to target specific armor or body parts and this slow-down does look immensely cool. It even highlights the destructible part of the armor or the limb you can cut off and this visual queue is a much needed element when facing such giant monsters.
It’s just such a tragedy that this crucial gameplay element doesn’t always work. To use your runestrike you have to hold the Left Trigger, but sometimes the game didn’t want to register me pressing down on this button. VERY frustrating as your entire strategy will revolve around jumping around on the Ravenii’s body and using the triggered slow-motion to be able to pinpoint their weak spot. Other times the attack will trigger but your target doesn’t light up red and Avil will not launch his attack towards it, even though you’re well within normal range.
The runestrike itself can’t quite kill the Giants from the get-go, you’ll first have to get it charged by saving civilians through teleportation stones or killing the smaller enemies called Jackals (they only come in 4 forms: regular, slightly more powerful ones, winged vultures and bigger red ones that take more hits to kill).
The most reliable way to charge your runestrike besides rescuing civilians is to destroy Ravenii armor or cut of their limbs. Since everything but their head grows back a few seconds later, a viable strategy is to just keep cutting off the limbs of weaker giants to farm the resource and One-shot the more armored ones at the neck.
What makes the game so challenging is that you lose all your runestrike energy (unless you unlocked some skills to keep a certain %) as soon as you decapitate the big bullies. So you’ll have to find more civilians to save before fighting the next one. This can be hard to achieve in certain levels as you’ve either saved them all or the Ravenii/Jackals have killed them.
The Ravenii also spawn with ever improved armor as the game progresses, so you won’t be able to easily get the much needed charge up. Some armor will have 4 locks to hit, some will have barbed wires around them damaging Avil if he touches them, some can only be hit right after the big guy attacks you (with a tiny window of opportunity) and some will be flat-out indestructible. The armor they wear is generated randomly for the most part so the game could sometimes screw you over by generating two overpowered ogres which are tough to climb.
You see, if you want to slice their head off, there is really only one way to do so: by climbing up their backs. If you’re lucky they’ll have a pouch on their belt at which you can grapple, but if this is not present you could find yourself hopping at their feet for quite some time before you manage to scale one. Meanwhile his partner in crime is going loose on the city.
The city itself is often used as a time-limit as you’ll get a gameover when the exinction level hits zero. Some of the harder levels require you to keep specific watchtowers safe for 8 minutes and judging by the completion rate of some of the achievements, these kinds of levels were hard for my fellow reviewers to get past. (I struggled as well, but stubbornly pressed on). Note: the Ravenii can one-shot kill you and this will happen A LOT. They don’t always telegraph their next movements or you’re just too small yourself and not fast enough to dodge their giant swings.
Two things can help you though: saving civilians and destroying armor and such gains you some SP to be used to power up Avil’s skills. You’ll be able to jump higher, stay in slow-motion longer or increase your radar so you can spot targets from further away. The other element that could help you is pure luck; not only are the Ravenii randomly generated so are some of the levels. You’ll only have main targets like “Kill 25 jackals” and the rest of the requirements AND the environment itself is completely random. Saving 20 civilians can be a breeze if they are close together in an open field, or difficult if they spawn in a multi-storaged city, spread out with only one person per portal.
For the other gameplay types, I can understand this random level generation, but for the main 34 levels it didn’t make a lot of sense. Speaking of which, once you’ve beat the main story you can play a few other gameplay modes but they are all basically more of the same: Save civilians, kills jackals, slay Ravenii. The Extinction mode shown above is perhaps the most interesting, pitting you against wave after wave of enemies (though no more than 2 Ravenii will ever be present at the same time, during the entire game). There is also a Skirmish, which randomly generates a level that you can share via a code with friends so they have exactly the same “build”. Time trials in which you have so save as many civs as fast as possible and also a Daily Challenge, which you can only attempt once each day.
None of these earn you SP though, so you’ll be forced to replay the story missions if you want to Max Out Avil’s skills. I wouldn’t see why you would be driven to do so however, as the game is massively repetitive beyond imagination.
NOTE: You unlock the wallrunning skill AFTER beating the game. In a game all about verticality and fighting giant monsters. *Facepalm*
At least the sense of mobility is pretty great; Avil can quickly jump, float and grapple himself across the cities and when this works it feels amazing. The problem is that climbing the buildings and Ravenii doesn’t always seem to go as planned, especially if the camera decides to turn against you. It will always focus on the nearest Ravenii, even if you were actually trying to scale up a building to save the villagers on top of it. Even when climbing the big guys, it really wants to you to do so from their backs as the camera slowly moves towards a rear view while you keep running up their sides into their armpits…
The actual giant ogre-slaying gameplay is a lot of fun, but it’s not enough to carry an entire game on its shoulders. Repetitive gameplay and a boring story keep the game from being any fun beyond the first few hours. If the developers had spent an extra year creating different environments and characters we could feel some sympathy for, than we might have had a more than decent game on our hands. The current product feels like you’re replaying the exact same level over and over again so I simply can’t recommend getting it at full Retail Price.