Off with its head...
I've played my fair share of bad games; mechanically broken ones, or those that are barely capable of keeping your attention. I've played numerous titles that have cumbersome controls, countless glitches, and stories and voice acting so bad you have to wonder what publisher would want it being associated with their brand. Extinction is one of the few games in recent memory that hordes every issue that can be wrong with a game; half-effort visuals, horrendous controls, cheap instant deaths, awful voice acting, a forgettable story, and a camera that can't make up its mind where it wants to go. This is a game that should be avoided at all costs, no matter what bargain bin you'll eventually find it in.
It's no secret that Extinction has been getting scathing to poor reviews; It deserves it. While the trailers and screenshots have painted a fantastic looking action game with a Shadow of the Colossus meets Attack on Titan vibe, it never at any point delivers any sort of fun or even attempts to surpass its inspirations. What Iron Galaxy has created here is a mechanically unbalanced game that relies on its Kill Monster/Save Civilian system over and over again. You'll be berated by your companions one second and then have your praises sung the next, all while attempting to take down Monster after Monster in procedurally generated worlds that are devoid of any life or reason to save them. Extinction feels like a free-to-play mobile game in every aspect of its design but chooses to retail at the standard AAA price.
You play as Avil, the last in the line of an ancient sect of warriors called the Sentinels. You, along with your companion Xandra, attempt to reach out to the last remaining Kingdom in an effort to save it before it is wiped out by the Ravenii, a race of giant Ogre's that can level a town in seconds. Throughout the campaign, and apart from the mid-mission cutscenes, you will only meet and talk with two other characters, the King, and a soldier named Abner. While yes, you do interact with a few of the townsfolk in a few missions, but these are mostly a line here and there, nothing substantial or attention-grabbing. While the premise of the game can sound exciting, it rarely is. The characters, the story, and especially the dialogue, comes off as cliche, boring, and far too predictable. The King and Xandra will constantly be yelling in your ear about your progress, screaming "We believe in you!" and "What are you doing!?" in the span of a single breath. Apart from the painfully delivered dialogue, each character has four or five soundbytes that the game will spam at you constantly during your play.
The game attempts to shake up the variety of the missions by leaving certain things to chance. You may have a certain objective to complete during each encounter, but several missions use a randomizer to keep things interesting, or at least, that is their intent. Extinction boils down to completing the following mission types; Kill the Ravenii, Save the Civilians, Protect the Watchtowers or kill the Jackals, which are the random minions that litter the mostly on-ground battlefield. These random objectives pack in additional things to do, but considering most of your time is attempting to survive the cheap one-hit kills delivered by the Ravenii, you will often ignore these objectives and just attempt to complete the core mission. And it's worth mentioning that in most cases, especially with that of the timed Watchtower missions, that taking out the Ravenii is all you'll have time to do.
As you attempt to take down each of the towering Ogre's, you will have to watch out how much of the area it has destroyed. In the top right of the screen, you will have an extinction gauge, alerting you to how much is left for them to destroy before it's game over. I've completed missions with only 1% left, scrambling up the back of the Ravenii to chop its head off while it was in mid-swing, an effort that would have failed my mission. The Watchtower missions became the bane of my existence when I would chop the legs off a Ravenii to have him crash to the ground, with 15 seconds left to go on the timer. Now, those 15 seconds would prove to be pointless as, while on the ground, he would slam his fists just within reach of the watchtower and fail my mission. I've beheaded one such Ravenii that was about to drop the final tower when another would spawn on the other side of the map. I would get about halfway there and then suddenly another Ravenii would appear, but this time he would spawn directly in front of the previous watchtower, swinging his fists into it and instantly failing the match. The randomness is what kills this game; there is no handcrafted joy of a game here and it can lead to wildly inconsistent encounters.
Due to how random your objectives are and how you end up recycling several aspects of the game over and over, you never feel like you are working towards anything. Whether it's mission two, sixteen, or twenty, the world never feels different or change to adhere to the current narrative. While there is a plot designed around the efforts to save what is left of the population, you never actually see any of it until the final cutscene. Each Town, Village or Kingdom feels lifeless and hollow. You'll have small croppings of people surrounding teleportation crystals that you'll use to transport them to safety, but eventually, you'll just bypass them on the way to the Ravenii as you'll often not have the time to save them. Eventually, you'll have to start saving civilians that are trapped on top of cliffs and areas surrounded by 'instant death' thorns, to which I would often say "sucks to be you." and then I would turn right around and abandon them to go save those on the ground or a nearby rooftop.
If you check out the various trailers and numerous PR screenshots that preceded its launch, you might see a vibrant and colorful world packed with lush forests and detailed environments, but those are specially shot and framed to grant you that illusion. Often, the tree's are wildly spaced out via a randomly generated path, and the buildings themselves are just randomly placed around with no rhyme or reason. When you complete the game you will unlock the ability to wall-run, but due to the inconsistency of how each structure is placed, I don't see how it could ever come in handy to do so, let alone the camera working in your favor. While the game can at times have a decent cartoony look to it, the Ravenii themselves greatly disappoint. As is the case with the environments, the Ravenii themselves are also randomly generated and extremely generic, thus lacking any true sense of character. There is no big bad top dog Ravenii leader either, just mindless procedurally generated goons.
There are a few different types of Ravenii, but taking them out tends to still rely on lopping off their head. Each Ravenii will act the same way, attack in the same manner and the only gameplay differences between them is in their armor. At first, you'll encounter those that wear very fragile wood armor, making it extremely easy to lop off a foot or arm; but take too long and it will regrow. Eventually, the game will toss harder materials at you that are somewhat more resistant to your strikes. This type of armor is usually accompanied by pad-locks that you will need to bash off. It's never explained why you can't simply chop at the exposed areas or just pick off a few Ogre toes, but I digress. The only material in the game that is completely safe from your attacks is a silver steel or iron type material, and it's puzzling why their entire force isn't just coated in the stuff. These are the only Ravenii in the game I actively tried to avoid by reloading into another random match.
The final few forms of Ravenii come in thorns, bones, and spike variations. The thorns have very easy targets to hit that dismember the armor, but it's the bones and spikes that can prove to be the most annoying to encounter. The Ravenii covered in bone armor will have red flaming skulls active that grant complete invincibility against your attacks. The only way to deal any damage is after the Ravenii has attacked; turning the skull from red to white. The spiked Ravenii are similar in that you must provoke it to attack first before you can strike. The difference here though is that they need to progressively shatter their armor on each subsequent strike. Provoking them came with inconsistent results where the Ravenii would often ignore me, despite dancing in front of it and giving their toes a little smack. There were several times where the Ravenii would punch the ground a great distance away and yet kill me instantly, and given that most checkpoints are on the other side of the map, it can cause the Ogre to have a solid head start on bashing the town into a pulp.
While it is very common to encounter Ravenii that are composed of a complete set, you will more than likely come into contact with those that like to mix and match their outfits. I even found a Ravenii in the final mission that only had a bone wristguard, and that was it; nothing on its legs, head or its other arm. While having these targets on the monster may seem like an easy win, the painful controls and camera will work against you during almost every single encounter. I found numerous times that the targets would be just out of reach or at an angle that the target marker wouldn't register the limb, and there were dozens and dozens of times where I would be lined up perfectly and nothing, no target, no indicator, nothing. This would often end with me puzzled for a second and then be presented with a giant fist smashing me into the ground.
I've mentioned the cheap deaths, but I want to stress that I can understand when a death is my fault. I can own up to that. What I can't stand however is when the slightest nick or brush of their hand has me instantly die. I've climbed up a Ravenii's back to be brushed to the side by their shoulder armor only to die instantly, or pushed out of the frame by their toe as they slowly move their foot around. If I am directly in front of them and take a club to the face, ok, that's on me, but there seems to be something programmed in the game that has you instantly die should you make any sort of contact with certain parts of the Ravenii.
Unlike Shadow of the Colossus, there is no grab button or something that allows you to remain constant on the Ravenii. I've attempted to bounce up the creature by rapidly pressing the jump button, only to have it bounce me off for no reason. It is beyond easy to overshoot your target and jump out in front, causing you to either fight with the controls and the camera to get back, or land on the ground and risk another cheap death. There are instances where the controls work, and the game can almost seem to come together, but it is so incredibly rare that it feels far more like a tease than any sort of 'almost' potential here. The number of times I've landed to the side of the Ravenii only to be slammed, kicked or stomped into oblivion that it didn't matter how much health I had. The camera itself can often make it really difficult to see incoming attacks and there really isn't any visual identifiers to avoid them. The instant deaths in this game will enrage you to no end as Extinction is by far the most frustrating game I've played in years.
When you are running from location to location either to try and save some civilians or trying to run the clock out by lopping off a leg of a Ravenii and then doubling back to do the same to another, which is a tactic I highly recommend due to the game rarely spawning in more than two at a time, the camera itself will auto-target various things and this will cause you to constantly be at war with what YOU want to focus on and what IT wants to show you. The camera would start to play the Hollywood tour game and start spinning around wanting me to focus on a teleportation crystal or attempt to zero in on the Ravenii I am trying to run away from. Had there been a setting to remove the auto-targeting, then maybe some bouts would have created some sense of excitement, but I had to fight with the camera almost constantly.
You can upgrade Avil between missions by spending an upgrade currency you earn by tackling missions, completing objectives and so on. You can jump higher, attack harder and be granted a bit more health; but the latter is mostly against the Jackals as the Ravenii will still stomp you with one hit, or just jump in the air and sit on you. While the upgrade that allows you to transport people faster comes in handy, the teleporting of its civilians is an inconsistent story element. After maxing out my teleporting speed, I started to encounter missions that would slow the teleport down should any Jackals be nearby, but this never comes into play away from these certain missions. I've normally just flew in, teleported some peeps and bounced to the next portal. These moments work against those upgrades that I spent so much time on and require you to defeat the enemies before the portal will work. Had there been some sort of reason for this, then ok, but it never explains why suddenly you need to defeat everything around you.
Combat for Avil is based on some standard hack and slash tactics and a dodge that pulls you too far back for it to really be effective in active combat. You can slow down time with a Sentinal Focus move that is typical to video games and anything highlighted in red will have Avil automatically snap towards with a strike, but it can be a tad inconsistent in its use. As you save civilians, kill Jackal's, or remove a limb or two from the Ravenii, you will earn the energy required to attempt a killing blow. Killing the smaller enemies will reward a very tiny amount whereas lopping off a foot or breaking down various armor pieces will fill the meter in no time. There is also an upgrade that will always keep a certain amount of energy in reserve that I highly recommend putting points into it.
You also have a whip, but frankly, it is wildly inaccurate to use as you never know exactly what direction you'll end up. I've snapped to a tree and then had Avil spring into the direction I was coming from and considering most missions require speed and efficiency, it can also seem counterproductive to even use the whip for traversal. Avil also has a jump, dash, and glide mechanic that is good for getting around most areas but can be a bit too lose when trying to maneuver around cliffs and thorns.
Apart from the story campaign, which should take you around 8-10 hours, are a few modes looking to add some additional value, but it's hard to say if that's truly possible. You have daily challenges to take part in, a horde mode where there are no respawns, and a Skirmish mode where the game will create randomized levels that you can send to your friends. Had the game shipped with a full-on level creator kit, then maybe they would have had something here. I don't honestly see this game having any sort of an active community and the thought of sending any of my friends a map or two sounds more like torture than anything enjoyable.
When I first saw the trailer for Extinction, I was really impressed with what I saw. It featured a vibrant and colorful world with a man vs monster mechanic that looked intriguing. A few hours in, I debated whether or not I even wanted to finish the game, to put out a review. But the game ended up being something I really wanted to talk about. It is also the job of a reviewer to play and review games that are not always 'good' or the 'industry best'. Sometimes you do need to put in the time and review something that isn't going to enjoyable. It comes with the job. I also wanted to ensure that I completed the game before I finished this review, hence why it was not day and date with everyone else's.
Extinction is painful in its execution and rarely enjoyable. Sure, you will get a small amount of satisfaction from taking down a Ravenii or two, but since each execution is exactly the same animation, it loses its charm fast. I also found it frustrating that you cannot skip important lines of dialogue, so replaying some levels after dying can result in a few minutes of unskippable dialogue. The animated cutscenes are a few frames short of being something really great. They do stand out as some of the game's best ideas, but they vary in quality from one clip to the next. The still image character art during the conversational bits are well done and make no mistake about it, the game has some nice designs for its human characters, I just wish the Ravenii had a bit more attention given to them.
Extinction has a cliche story with bland and uninteresting characters and follows the most basic and predictable plot given the situations it puts its characters in. Its gameplay is undermined by mechanics than rarely inspire, targeting systems that rarely work as they are intended, and a camera that would rather invest time in getting stuck in an Ogre's crotch or armpit. The sloppy and inconsistent controls just pile onto a game that has few things going for it. Extinction is one of the most disappointing games I've played in years, and I still can't believe I beat the damn thing.