I do like it when small developer teams aim high and go big after being inspired by other games or franchises. There are times however when this can go wrong by the small team either trying to do too many things and failing at executing them or trying too hard to compete with bigger developers and forgetting the fundamentals. Extinction is an example of taking inspiration from elsewhere and trying to put a new spin on that inspiration but sadly results in a flawed game that frustratingly undoes its own good intentions.
The game puts the player in the role of Avil, the last of the Sentinels and only warrior equipped to protect the realm from the dangerous Ravenii, 150ft tall monsters capable of destroying cities and towns and the deadliest threat to humanity. Charged with protecting the kigdom, Avil must put all his skills and courage to the test to stop these monsters as others work towards using the Ravenii’s own technology of portals to rescue the remaining humans. Sounds pretty awesome right?
Immediately it is very clear that the inspirations for Extinction came from Shadow of the Colossus and Attack on Titan which takes the strongest aspects of each one and blends them together. The story of giant monsters attacking humanity is lifted right from Attack on Titan as is the movement and style of the combat whilst the ability to climb the monsters and to locate the weak spots comes right out of Shadow of the Colossus. The similarities from both games could even be argued that they are more than simply inspirations for the dev team behind Extinction but there some new tricks added that on paper and at least at the start of the game that make it stand out on its own.
Visually I really love how this game is put together with some great animation in the combat that makes it all rather epic once you have started a fight with the giant Ravenii and especially when you are facing multiple ones. I like the art style which makes all the visuals pop off the screen nicely combined with some great audio effects which help bring the world to life. Rushing around the constantly changing environments whilst trying to track down and stop a Ravenii can be thrilling but can also be so frustrating but will come to that a bit later.
So the gameplay is really two fold with the first being on the ground moving around the city rescuing the innocent humans by charging up portal crystals, technology/magic stolen from the Ravenii and now being used against them. The crystals need to be charged up before the portal is activated and can be interrupted by the attacks of the little cousins of the giant Ravenii who will go straight for the humans. Completely charging the crystal will then transport those humans to safety and you can then move on to the next one. There is a mini-radar in the bottom right of the screen which will show the nearest crystals. Now some can be on the ground but some will also be on top of buildings which will require some wall climbing and jumping about to reach. The ground game can vary depending on the size and type of the map you are on with the distance between groups of crystals and people to rescue making it a chore to get across too at times but it does help provide the needed energy required to take on the real challenge of the game, the giant Ravenii.
Fighting the monstrous Ravenii is really the highlight and true challenge of the game but also when all the components that makes up the combat and gameplay starts to fall apart sadly. Like Attack on Titan, the large Ranveii are capable of destroying everything before them and as Avil, your job is often to either take them down or prevent them from destroying the town in order for humans to escape. This is accomplished by targeting limbs in order to build up enough energy in order to land the killing blow which is always to cut off the head. Limbs will grow back so targeting the legs for example will slow the monster down but it will grow back allowing it to continue. The difficulty comes in the form of the varying degrees of armour that some Ravenii will begin to wear as you progress further through the nine chapters that make up the campaign. The armour starts as simple wooden armour which can be taken out with a single Focus Strike attack making the limb vulnerable but soon increased to steel armour which will require breaking the padlock with two strikes in order to remove the armour and make the limb vulnerable.
But the armour really does become an annoyance factor as the difficulty spike at times before you have had a chance to level up Avil’s skills can really kill progress. For example the first time the Gold Variant was introduced, which has multiple padlock clasps to hold the armour onto the arms and legs, it was a real nightmare to handle which forced me to replay previous chapter missions to update some skills in order to make it more manageable. Due to the random generator aspect of the game, no two Ravenii encounters are the same and some will begin to appear which feature a mixture of different armour types, including the unbreakable metal armour which is often worn on the legs making the tactic of “sweep the leg” useless. Some missions will require you to defend the town for a set amount of time by slowing down the attacking giants but when the first one appears wearing the strongest armour it can often at times forced me to have to exit the game and reload that mission in order to have a more manageable giant to fight.
The biggest issue for me is the camera when you go into Focus strike mode, which by holding the left trigger activates a slowed down almost Matrix style moment where the camera will come in close and you have a small amount of time to target a piece of armour or limb to deliver a strike by releasing the left trigger. For the majority of the time this works really well but sometimes and most often when a critical strike is absolutely necessary that camera is more of a hindrance then an aid. There were moments when the camera would mess up so badly the view would put me right inside the monster or to even miss the target despite locking on because of a slight movement by the giant. It can be such a nuisance at times that the fight with the camera is the biggest battle going on in the game.
The second most annoying issue are the dialogue pop ups from side character to either praise you for doing well or and far irritatingly, to pretty much just give you a verbal bollocking for getting something wrong. When the camera is playing up making it a real chore to do what needs to be done, to have characters who are not even prepared to pick up a weapon and get into the fight themselves, tell you off for failing to handle four giants or for not messing up an attack is beyond annoying. There were times that I even shut the game down due to the camera and these dialogue pop ups just completely killed the experience for me.
Mission variety can also be a pain past chapter 4 which saw me having to rescue an increasing number of humans on maps that had me running aimlessly around searching for portals to then only find a single person to rescue when the mission objective was to save 20-30 humans. Portals are placed around the map on the ground or on building but then you question how the humans managed to get to the portal on the highest of towers without the same skills you have to use to reach them. I found myself repeating the same mission styles which just became rather tedious.
There are times when Extinction delivers truly thrilling arcade action and I really appreciated the story being told in cut-scenes with 80s animation art style. But the issues this game currently has with camera problems, difficulty spikes and annoying elements just takes the shine of what is a very ambitious title. It is a real shame that the pricing of this game is an instant £54.99 on console which is mind-boggling. It is certainly punching above its weight but to make it more expensive to buy than the digital deluxe version of God of War on the PSN store is ridiculous. If the pricing had come in at the £25-30 mark then this would be a fun purchase to have in your collection but for the asking price, it just has too many problems to recommend it as it is.
Extinction aims big and I commend the developers for trying to do as much as they have with it but the glaring problems with the camera make this an unpolished final release that still requires some updating to work out the kinks that the price tag does not justify. Fun but very flawed makes this title worth waiting till it lands in a sale and though it does take inspiration from Shadow of the Colossus and Attack on Titan it never manages to really do either justice.
Spawned from a lot of good ideas but sadly the execution is just not on the money.