The first time I saw one of Extinction‘s giant orcs, called Ravenii, I felt a rush. This monstrosity, which towered above me and took to destroying the generic medieval town I was tasked to protect, could clearly grind my puny bones into dust with one flick of its wrist, but I was ready. I wanted nothing more than to cut down this redwood-sized beast.
By the time I encountered my last Ravenii, I never wanted to see another one again.
Extinction is one of those games that’s dedicated to doing one thing really well while ignoring all the smaller, arguably more important details that make games fun to play. Namely, Extinction‘s main concern is how cool it is to see a massive Ravenii stomping around at the cost of making the rest of the game little more than a place-setting for them. And unlike the Attack on Titan series, which clearly acts as inspiration here, Extinction‘s plot just doesn’t hold the kind of intrigue and intricacy of those anime-inspired games.
In Extinction, you take on the role of Avil, the last remaining member of an elite squad of soldiers known as the Sentinels. As Avil, you must protect the last vestiges of humanity against the Ravenii as they invade the kingdom of Dolorum.
If that description sounds like run-of-the-mill fantasy fare, that’s because it is. But unlike more successful fantasy games, where you set out to explore a vast world and actively pursue the story, Extinction is perfectly content with making you sit around waiting for the action to come to you. Its missions are structured entirely around defense.
Every one of the game’s 34 campaign missions will plop you into a familiar arena and task you with completing one of four different quest types: kill a certain number of Ravenii or smaller monsters known as Jackals, save a certain number of civilians, or protect a fortification’s towers for a set number of minutes. The catch is that each mission is set against a timer of sorts, in that you must complete your objective before the Ravenii can manage to entirely destroy whatever town is serving as your arena for that mission. Because of this structure, the entire campaign feels static and repetitive. Just look at the math. There are four different objectives spread out over the course of 34 missions. Solve for X, and you’ll realize how often you end up repeating the same type of actions and the completing the same type of objectives.
The story, therefore, is just as passive as the mission structure. Instead of going out and finding different quests to embark on, Extinction will feed you the story in dialogue that’s presented by static, cartoon talking heads. The only cutscenes present throughout the game come after every main chapter is completed, and these are well-animated segments that, instead of advancing the current plot, waste time on the less interesting background of the Sentinels and their dark secret, which you can probably already guess. This method of storytelling fails to breathe any life into the already uninteresting and clichéd plot, making the repetitive nature of the mission structure stand out even more.
Fortunately, the actual gameplay is a little more exciting. As Avil, you are equipped with a Rune-powered sword, a whip that acts more like a grappling hook, and acrobatic abilities that include double-jumping, wall-running, and air-dashing. The fun comes from stringing together these different abilities to become a monster-slaying machine. Avil’s standard attack is performed by pressing X or Square. However, you can string together a variety of different combos based entirely on this one button input with careful timing. Pressing X, pausing for a moment, then pressing X again performs a slash and then spinning-slash move, while mashing X performs a simple three-slash attack. Holding X launches one of the smaller enemies, the Jackals, into the air, allowing you to then follow up with another combo and link together some truly devastating, visually exciting attacks.
In addition to these combos, you can also perform Rune strikes by holding down the left trigger or L2 button. Beginning a Rune strike slows down time, allowing you to highlight an enemy. Letting go of the left trigger initiates the strike, and Avil dashes toward the enemy to perform a devastating attack. The trick is that every successful Rune strike lets you immediately go into another Rune strike, so if you plan it right (or not, there’s not much strategy necessary), you can string together Rune strikes in a stylish series of cuts and slashes. The only problem with the Rune strike system is that it makes fights with Jackals way too easy, to the point where I purposefully avoided using it just because I felt like I was neglecting the more satisfying single-button combo system.
The other half of Extinction‘s gameplay is its platforming, and while it can be as stylish and satisfying as the combat, it’s much less polished. Avil can perform a handful of aerial maneuvers to make traversing the somewhat characterless arenas more exciting and engaging. As with the combat, Extinction‘s platforming contains certain tricks that, while not totally necessary to completing your objectives, can majorly increase the game’s fun factor.
Avil can perform a double jump any time after his first jump. He can also mix in an air dash either before or after he uses that double jump to extend his horizontal reach. On top of that, if Avil double-jumps and lands on a bouncy surface like a tree or an awning, his double jump will reset, giving him an extra jump. On top of that, each arena is filled with poles and branches that Avil can use to zip around with his grappling hook tool. Zipping also resets Avil’s jump and air dash. These mechanics can lead to some really cool, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater–style lines that you can use to quickly get across the map.
However, the platforming does have some weird quirks that can make it less than enjoyable. Wall-running utilizes a frustrating mechanic that breaks up whatever flow you’ve built up while bouncing around the arena. While running up a wall, Avil stops after a few moments and begins to slide down the wall. In order to keep running up the wall, you need to press the jump button again. You’ll need to do this several times to climb up a single wall, and it can become increasingly frustrating when you’re trying to climb up a Ravenii’s back to decapitate it.
Equally annoying is the fact that some walls just aren’t climbable, leading to some annoyingly precise platforming moments that Extinction‘s loose controls just are not built for. Even running on the ground can sometimes cause issues when Avil gets stuck on the roots of a tree. That’s right: Avil can swing around an arena like Spider-Man in the air, but somehow stepping over roots is a skill he apparently never acquired.
You must utilize all of Avil’s combat and platforming skills to take down the real stars of the show, the Ravenii. Using Rune strikes, Avil can target a Ravenii’s limbs and chop them down piece by piece until it resembles a Monty Python knight (which is even referenced in one of the game’s achievements). However, it’s not as simple as just going into Rune strike mode and taking out all the limbs. First of all, a Ravenii’s limbs grow back after a brief period of time, so you have to work fast. Secondly, Ravenii wear different forms of armor, each that require a certain action to destroy.
Wooden armor is the weakest and can be destroyed in one Rune strike. Metal armor, however, is a little more complicated, in that it requires you to target locks on the armor. Taking down these different types of armor is the only sort of variation (besides their visual designs) found in the Ravenii, and some armor can be truly frustrating to deal with. The more proactive armor—wood, metal, bronze, and barbed wire armor—is usually pretty fun, in that it requires you to do something to take it down.
On the other hand, higher level armor—bone and spiked—is reactive, in that you have to trigger an action from the Ravenii to do something in order to be able to take down the armor. Bone armor, for instance, is protected by fiery skulls, but the shockwave from a Ravenii’s attack will briefly snuff the fire out, giving you a brief window to attack the skull and break that particular piece of armor. Spiky armor works similarly, though I honestly couldn’t figure out how to break any spiked armor besides the critical neck piece. Then there’s steel armor, which isn’t breakable no matter what you do.
These more reactive armor types can be a pain to deal with, especially the spiked armor. The game is never super clear about how to deal with spiked armor, and it can lead to some frustrating moments where a Ravenii basically crushes an entire town with you only being able to cut off its legs to at least slow it down before you’ve stored up enough Rune power to kill it. It doesn’t help that climbing a Ravenii, especially one with stronger armor, becomes increasingly frustrating as the camera whips around, making it often difficult to judge where you are or why you’re getting crushed, tucked in a Ravenii’s armpit.
In order to finally kill a Ravenii, Avil needs to cut off its head, and in order to cut off its head, Avil needs to have a full Rune meter. You can fill your Rune meter by either killing Jackals (which gives you a little Rune juice), saving civilians (which gives you a decent amount of Rune juice), or by destroying a Ravenii’s limbs and armor. The problem with this Rune meter system is that it only adds a sort of artificial difficulty. It doesn’t make taking down Ravenii harder; it just gives you more busy work to finish before letting you deliver the fatal strike. It also means that, no matter what your objective is, you’ll be performing the same actions repeatedly: saving civilians, killing Jackals, chopping up Ravenii.
Thanks to this monotonous structure, the brief 10-hour campaign feels twice as long. There are some more modes you can play besides the campaign, but they basically all boil down to the same exact formula, and by the time you’re down with the main story, I’d be incredibly surprised if you wanted to do more of the same.
Extinction is a game that just doesn’t seem to push itself far enough. Where there could have been more interesting mission structures and more varied enemies, Extinction simply relies on its one main hook—that is, killing big orc things—and copy-and-pastes the rest.
Extinction shows a lot of promise, and it sometimes delivers, like when it comes to the engaging, acrobatic combat or the sheer scale of the Ravenii. Unfortunately, the repetitive mission types and gameplay and a clichéd fantasy tale make it feel like a shell of a game. Far from feeling like a full retail release, Extinction feels like one good idea run into the ground until you’re checking your watch, waiting for it to end.
M – Mature
|Extinction is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Modus Games for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of one to five stars.|