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Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Maximum Games
Developer: Iron Galaxy
Release Date: April 10, 2018

About Phillip Moyer

I majored in journalism because I wanted to use it as an excuse to play video games, but I accidentally got a real job along the way. Now I write reviews in my free time for WorthPlaying.


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PS4 Review - 'Extinction'

by Phillip Moyer on April 17, 2018 @ 12:45 a.m. PDT

Extinction is a fast-paced action game where you'll fight massive ogres and their minions across a sprawling countryside, defending cities and rescuing native villagers torn from their homes.

When Iron Galaxy's newest game, Extinction, was announced last year, a number of media outlets started talking about how it was taking inspiration from Team Ico's 2005 masterpiece, Shadow of the Colossus.

The question evolved into what the game would emulate about its inspiration. Would it emulate the large and somber open world? The puzzle-like approach to battles? The straightforward narrative that told more through action and implication than through dialogue?

As it turned out, Extinction did none of these things. Instead, Extinction takes its inspiration from Shadow of the Colossus by being a game in which you fight big things.

Well, it's one big thing that's been copied and pasted multiple times — and you defeat it the same way every time.  OK, that's not entirely fair. Sometimes, the big things that you fight wear tougher armor and have different skin colors.

Extinction involves controlling Avil, one of the last of a warrior group called sentinels, in order to defend cities from the Ravenii, which are garden-variety ogres that have been scaled up by 1,000x or so. Avil can jump high, climb, fly for a bit, and use a grappling line that's suspiciously reminiscent of Attack on Titan's vertical maneuvering equipment.

Avil also has a sword that can slice through the limbs of the Ravenii in one blow — and it's this mechanic that makes up Extinction's main gameplay hook. When you're near one of the towering wannabe colossi, you can slow down time, aim a reticle at one of their limbs, and lop the whole thing off in one go. Usually, the Ravenii wear armor, which first has to be removed before you can amputate. This is accomplished through one of two imaginative ways: hitting it with your sword or hitting it with your sword in specific weak points.

If you cut off an arm, the Ravenii can no longer attack you with that arm. If you chop off a leg, the Ravenii falls on its butt, using the exact same pre-canned fall-on-your-butt animation every time.

The goal is to expose the neck and slice off the big guy's head, but the utility of chopping off the other limbs is questionable since arms and legs grow back in mere seconds. Climbing up the back of a Ravenii is so easy that it'd be a cinch to make a beeline straight toward decapitating your foe — if the game let you do so. You need to fill up a meter before you can land a killing blow, and the most straightforward way to fill that meter is to remove enough limbs to re-create the Black Knight scene in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." It all feels like a forced way to show off the game's one mechanic, all because the developers couldn't be bothered to make the mechanic actually useful.

You're not just fighting the Ravenii, though. There's a handful of smaller enemies as well, including a small green ogre, a small purple ogre, a slightly-less-small red ogre, and a flying guy.

These smaller enemies pose almost no threat to Avil. They rarely leave the area they spawn in, and they attack so infrequently that you could run through a crowd of them without taking a single hit, as though they're standing around and contemplating whether clawing at the protagonist would be worth their time. It's hard to blame them, since death in the game has almost no consequence. If Avil dies, he re-spawns nearby with no progress lost, save having to refill his meter before he can kill another Ravenii. This approach to death was probably done as a way to counteract how easily the Ravenii can squash Avil dead, since they move rather sprightly for being thousand-foot-tall abominations that laugh in the face of all our understanding of physics and biology.

Unfortunately, the result is a game where the character's well-being is never a concern, making all battles feel trivial regardless of how often you die trying to slay one of your titanic foes.

The smaller enemies could be ignored if not for the fact that they attack civilians. If too many civilians die, it's game over, so it's imperative to make a token effort toward rescuing them. Seeing how little they do to defend themselves, however, it's difficult to take any civilian deaths to heart. The citizens stand there as they're being brutally slaughtered by the invading creatures, never once considering that they should, say, move away from the monsters that just killed everyone else around them.

This system would be obnoxious enough if not for the fact that the monsters literally appear out of thin air right next to the helpless civilians. There's no way to ward off the enemies and strategically, you  have to charge into the fray and hope you can kill them all before the civilian death count grows higher than the game permits. It's all the tedium of an escort mission, but this time, you're apparently trying to protect a populace without working legs.

The combat system used to protect the civilians was occasionally billed as being like Devil May Cry, and it's certainly clear how Iron Galaxy tried to emulate Capcom's brilliant battle system. The game features a fair number of timing-based combos that often involve launching your target into the air and then striking him while airborne. It's a serviceable combat system, but it's ill-suited for a game where the primary concern is crowd control.

For a game about defending the last vestiges of humanity from an existential threat, there's no sense of weight. The deaths of civilians and the destruction of buildings should feel like terrible losses from an unrelenting foe, but instead, they feel like inconsequential happenstance that holds no inherent value beyond your need to complete a level. Any difficulty that the game provides feels less like a battle against a formidable foe, and more like a battle against frustrating mechanics.

The game has some decent voice acting and music, but Extinction's art design is its redeeming factor. While the graphics aren't as detailed as other titles in its price range, it's clear that a lot of thought went into making sure that each building, creature, and environmental feature was designed to fit into its aesthetic. When technology marches on and all the hyper-realistic games of this generation start to show their cracks, Extinction will still look pretty dang good. There's more to graphics than fidelity, but that's a lesson that only ever seems apparent in retrospect.

As a whole, Extinction is a game built around plenty of promising ideas, but the execution fails to live up to its promises on almost every single point. It's hard to shake the feeling that Iron Galaxy didn't provide the game with the resources it needed to come close to reaching the heights it was aiming for. That's a shame, since all we're left with is a massive skeleton of a game that could have held some real meat. Ultimately, Extinction is not worth buying, especially at its absurd $60 price point.

Score: 4.2/10

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