I’m going to admit something to you: I was pretty hyped about developer Iron Galaxy’s apocalyptic monster slayer Extinction. It looked to me like an Attack on Titan anime meets Dungeon Defenders game with a little Dynasty Warriors thrown in. It’s essentially giant orcs rampaging to destroy the last human city on earth, a setting rife for some serious potential for awesome confrontations. Sadly, the results do not match the potential.
You play as the last sentinel of the world, Avil. A super-fast, seemingly superhuman dude who jumps, grapples and climbs while dispatching foes with supernatural speed. Avil has various skills at his disposal that enable this, including gravity-defying dodges and incredibly powerful attacks called rune strikes that are capable of severing limbs on even the largest of the enemies you fight, the Ravenii.
The Ravenii are the large beasts that roam the country. Armored and sometimes carrying cudgels, Ravenii are Avil’s biggest threat. Alongside the Ravenii are more person-sized enemies called Jackals which act as the bulk of the forces for the Ravenii. The Jackals are mostly generic enemies, with several variations that are mostly just changes in colors and health with the most extreme difference being the winged Jackals. The Ravenii, essentially the headlining foe, should be the scary and incredibly impressive then, right? Unfortunately, they’re equally unimpressive. Most of their variations are between different armor types and skin color. Sometimes they carry a cudgel, but that’s mostly it. Their incredible size, and the fact that they’re often the focus on the gameplay would lead you to believe developer Iron Galaxy would have put time into making them feel like huge lumbering creatures, something to be feared on sight. They are not, instead resembling Orcs from World of Warcraft with just as much fidelity. They are absolutely uninteresting to look at, and equally uninteresting to interact with.
The combat in Extinction is rough. It’s extremely barebones, with only a few attacks and combos at your disposal. Most of the time I found myself using Avil’s runestrike to dispatch even smaller foes due to its time-slowing nature, leading me to completely eschew most other attacks due to their uselessness. Fighting the monstrously large Ravenii consists of destroying any armor they have and severing their limbs until you can deal a killing blow. Limbs regenerate though, so the only way to keep them down for good is to sever their head—this requires enough “rune energy” to have been built up, which feels like a needlessly annoying mechanic. Luckily, you get rune energy from killing enemies and removing Ravenii armor. Unlike Shadow of the Colossus, these giants aren’t unique in how you defeat them–instead, their armor comes in different varieties and must be broken off of them in different ways.
Though sometimes fun, armor removal becomes one of the main mechanics of Extinction and it starts to feel absolutely tedious, especially since some of the armor types can’t be removed without hassle. Wooden armor can just be broken off, while other armors have small weak spots that must be focused on first. It’s a neat concept that utterly fails in execution. Sometimes I dispatch a Ravenii in a way I think the developers meant me to: quickly removing armor and exploiting weaknesses in a ballet of slow-motion runestrikes and perfect timing. Most of the time, reality did not meet this experience. Climbing Ravenii often doesn’t work. Instead of dancing a ballet of death while dispatching larger foes, I feel like an annoying bug trying to find the weak spots.
Most everything in Extinction suffers from a sort of weightlessness. Nothing feels like it has impact, or meaning—not the combat, movement or story. Running around the various locations feels like ice skating as Avil doesn’t really touch the ground, instead gliding above it. The cartoonish art style does not do Extinction any favors, but it isn’t a major detractor. The story is told with voiceovers and a few neat, fully animated cutscenes. The voice acting is extremely uneven, ranging from passable to downright awful. Also, there just isn’t enough of it, as you’ll hear characters repeat the same few lines throughout your entire playthrough.
There are seven chapters, with each chapter being broken into numerous missions. Each mission takes place in a procedurally generated area, with sometimes even the objectives being randomized per playthrough. This sounds like it would lend itself to replayability, but the reality is that there is so little variation between objectives and locations, it will feel like you’re doing the same thing for the short 5-6 hours it takes to beat the story. For most missions you will either have to save a set number of civilians, kill a set number of enemies, or hold out for a set amount of time. Yep, that’s it. There are also challenges you can attempt per each level, and even additionally challenge gameplay modes. These too find you fighting the same types of monsters in the same few locations with very little functional difference from the story campaign.
I’m not entirely sure what would help Extinction save from a completely overhaul of everything from the games’ systems and mechanics to voice acting and art style. It’s just a failure on so many levels that holds little value to any gamer, especially for its asking price. A great concept with a flimsy, barebones execution, Extinction does not live up to its potential. Available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows.
A copy of this game was provided for review purposes