Extinction is an action-adventure game published by Maximum Games and developed by Iron Galaxy. The premise of the game is relatively simple; you play as Avil, one of the last members of humanity who is able to repel the Ravenii, loathsome monsters bent on destroying humanity. You’re charged with using your sword and acrobatic abilities to conquer both your enemies and the environment, gliding through the air and scaling buildings and terrain to gain an advantage in combat.
If any of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone; this game attempts to draw heavily from other source material like the phenomenal Shadow of the Colossus and Attack on Titan. Unfortunately, that is really where the similarities end and the differences really begin to show. But how does it hold up?
As Avil, you are humanity’s last hope in stopping the evil Ravenii on their destructive path and putting an end to their conquest once and for all. In standard action gameplay, you have a button to deliver a “regular attack”, using variations in timing to perform different combos. For my own playtime – roughly seven missions or so – simply mashing the square button was adequate to defeat most of the normal enemies, using my evade (circle button) to dodge out of the way. The dodging as it currently exists in the game doesn’t really help you very much, as enemies still seem to lock on to you and adjust to your dodge trajectory, hitting you regardless of your timing. I tried for an hour and couldn’t get the evade window quite right. I don’t claim to be the most skilled gamer, but I’m pretty good and this should’ve been a simple task. Similarly you can hold the dodge button (circle) while falling to glide, though sometimes on the ground the glide would attempt to activate and I was stuck falling through the terrain.
The combat itself isn’t entirely awful, however, as I felt that the core design was really enjoyable. I love hack and slash games like this, and I came away feeling as though the core mechanics were all there, but they are arranged in such a way that they constantly trip over one another. This would be akin to piling pasta, beef, tomato sauce and ricotta cheese onto a plate and claiming to have cooked lasagna; you have all of the pieces, but they have not been prepared or executed in such a way as was intended.
Running and traversing the environments of the game were similarly hit and miss; it was great fun when it worked, but this was only about 10% of the time, with the other 90% seeing me stuck to terrain objects, falling through the ground or simply having the controls not heed my commands. This is a high-speed, fast-paced game that would require intricate commands and tight timing to master; in fact, many of the additional goals in the game seem to demand this. Instead, what I ended up doing was attempting to compensate for the terse controls and my score and gameplay experience both suffered for it.
Extinction adopts what has become a very familiar art direction for it’s in-game assets and menus, using the incredibly popular (read: overused) painterly aesthetic. Character models exist on the wrong side of cartoonish, though they don’t precisely look “bad” – I can see what the developers were trying to accomplish. If you were to take a step back and examine the visual design of the world and it’s various level elements, you would see a rather good-looking picture that fit the narrative. I was immediately reminded of Orcs Must Die, though in a continuing trend it seems to have borrowed all of the style and none of the substance.
The camera is something that is entirely too frustrating during the heat of combat, often becoming physically lodged behind terrain and obstacles, meaning that you’re unable to rotate it until you move your character in such a way as to free the actual camera. I really can’t imagine what was going through the mind of the developer when this decision was made, as most developers will use hit location/detection and Ray Cast to determine when the camera has collided with an object. Other games, such as the wildly successful Monster Hunter: World use a brilliant camera system that creates a dissolving orb around the camera that fades terrain and objects away so that the player can see. You can still end up jammed against a wall, but it ends up being your own fault most of the time. With Extinction, however, I was able to proclaim without bias that the camera killed me several times during a mission.
The camera continues to be a problem when you engage the largest Ravenii enemies, towering monsters adorned with armor that must be chopped off. You’re able to do this using a Rune Strike, which gains a charge from a) defeating enemies in the level, b) removing pieces of armor from large Ravenii, and c) rescuing the civilians via the crystals scattered around the map. As this camera pans up to show you the creature, it doesn’t care what you were doing previously; it will pan up to the monster despite the fact that you are fighting other, smaller monsters; consequently, you will die to no fault of your own.
Challenging versus Unfair
One of the main objectives you’re given during the game is the saving of civilians; each map has a number of civilians that you can save. They will huddle around a large crystal, and you are able to teleport them to safety by holding down the triangle button. This awards you points, prevents the citizens from dying (which reduces your score), and charges your Rune Strike ability.
The game doesn’t allow you to forget this fact, either; the incredibly frustrating AI companion will constantly interrupt whatever it is you’re doing to do any of the following:
- Remind you that a citizen has been killed, usually while you’re trying to save that civilian
- Remind you that a building has been destroyed
- Insult you for taking damage
- Witless banter
I found this to perhaps be the most frustrating portion of the game, as most of the time these dialogues will completely remove you from combat and any ability to control your character. Further, whenever the larger monsters show up, you’ll get a notification and camera pan for that as well, even if you’re already fighting a monster. This means that your character will stop everything he is doing, fall (if he is in the air) and continue to take damage from enemies while the cut-scene plays out. This is infuriating and results in a guaranteed loss of civilians, structures and points; it feels as though I’m being punished because I cannot skip the cut-scene. There is an option to speed up dialogue, but this feature is absent from some scenes and present in others. The result feels disjointed and confusing.
Conclusion and Thoughts
Extinction isn’t exactly a bad game, and I think that the people who made it truly believed in what it was supposed to be. It’s always hard to tell if budget was an issue, or the development times-table, or scheduling, but in the end the result is always the same – a game that feels entirely rushed, underwhelming and very poorly designed and executed.
In the future, the development team would benefit from a very basic understanding of how things like camera and terrain collision work in Unreal Engine – which the game is developed under – because there are any number of titles that do what this game attempts to do better and more soundly.
Many have come forth calling this an Attack on Titan clone, and they aren’t wrong; this feels exactly like that game, with none of the charm, execution, attention to detail or tight controls. In essence and in summary, this game disappoints at everything it attempts to do. I would be willing to revisit this game in the future, but I’m afraid that an entire redesign from the ground up would be necessary. Sadly, there are some things that a patch simply cannot fix, and for a retail price of $69.99 US dollars for the season pass edition, this level of amateurish design mistakes is simply intolerable.
This is, rather sadly, the first epic failure of 2018, and is perhaps one of the most unpleasant experiences I’ve had on my PlayStation 4 to date.