“Attack on Titan” meets ogres that’s unfortunately let down by lacklustre core mechanics.
The story of the underdog is one that’s rooted in that of David and Goliath. A timeless story about ingenuity and bravery beating out sheer size and terror, David and Goliath’s influence can be seen in such tales like the famous anime and manga Attack on Titan. Iron Galaxy’s Extinction very obviously takes a number of cues from Attack on Titan, whether it’s the enormous hulking Ravenii and grappling hook-assisted movement to striking said beasts in the back of the neck to kill them. You’d think Extinction would stand on its own merits and have something unique for those interested in battling 150 foot tall ogres. Alas, Extinction‘s core concept is buried under repetitive combat, a boring gameplay loop, one-note missions and uninspired mechanics.
"Not that the world design helps in that regard either. Extinction‘s main hook is the randomization of certain elements like terrain, enemy layout, buildings and so on."
Extinction starts off with Xandra, an orphan of the endless war in Dolorum who is subsequently thrown into a labour camp. She meets Avil there and when the Ravenii arrive to cause havoc, the two are whisked away and trained. Avil becomes a powerful Sentinel that relies on his mobility and combat expertise to destroy the massive Ravenii. Meanwhile, Xandra learns about magic and starts working on a plan that could decimate the ogres for good. You’ll also interact with King Yarrow as you defend numerous towns while learning more about the Sentinels that served to repel the Ravenii.
It all sounds very intriguing but there’s just not much reason to get invested. Avil has the demeanour of a brooding protagonist but plays the staunch hero in equal part, bragging about tearing ogres apart but hiding his own dark past. Xandra is mostly sassy and will often banter with Avil. I’m sorry but that’s all I got from this character who had a rough life, surviving on the streets after her family died. King Yarrow is just kind of there to provide some more dialogues and probably add some urgency. It doesn’t really work. I’m not against Extinction for its static dialogue boxes where entire conversations play out, the lack of story-telling and plot development during the missions or the typical characterization. However, this intriguing world comes across as little more than a backdrop to swing from these trees while slaying ogres rather than actually feeling alive.
Not that the world design helps in that regard either. Extinction‘s main hook is the randomization of certain elements like terrain, enemy layout, buildings and so on. The campaign has its share of story missions set in different locations with a main objective (usually defeating Ravenii or smaller foes) and several side objectives (rescuing civilians, not dying, etc.). At certain points, you can randomize the environment and bonus objective, leading to what’s supposedly a unique experience.
"If the colourful palette and fantasy design, which admittedly looks good despite frame drops (that too when the game runs at 30 FPS) and pop in issues, wasn’t there, I’d think this was just Dynasty Warriors with more flying."
Better examples of this exist in the other modes like Extinction and Skirmish. Extinction is your bog-standard horde mode where you must survive against waves of enemies and Ravenii – dying will end your “run” so to speak and the next playthrough will have a different arrangement of buildings and enemies. Skirmish is more of a challenge mode where you generate a “seed” mission of sorts and challenge others to beat it. Similarly, you can play someone else’s mission and try to beat it as quickly as possible.
The problem is that Extinction‘s environments are fairly typical, bordering on unoriginal. Despite an abundance of buildings that seem to encourage the game’s movement, the environments are little more than spaces for the Ravenii to rampage in. This isn’t like Sunset Overdrive where environments can either provide tactical advantages for assaulting enemies (with the movement itself increasing your speed unlike running on foot), challenging structures to scale or interesting ways to show off. You can scale buildings with the wonky wall climbing to rescue citizens which is done by holding Y near a crystal and maybe kill some enemies. Other than that, they exist to be destroyed.
Sure, there are watchtowers that need to be protected and if you let a Ravenii destroy too much of the city, then the mission fails. But that’s pretty much it and honestly, I’m still peeved that the cityscapes can be ignored completely for the sake of grappling and air-dashing. The movement in general feels nice and fast, implementing an air of fluidity that doesn’t require any real mechanical skill (except when trying to cancel that Rune Strike and dash away from an ogre’s attack). Most of the movement comes into play when fighting the Ravenii but I felt like there was a missed opportunity to have it mesh with the environmental design. If the colourful palette and fantasy design, which admittedly looks good despite frame drops (that too when the game runs at 30 FPS) and pop in issues, wasn’t there, I’d think this was just Dynasty Warriors with more flying.
"There is a certain appeal to avoiding a Ravenii’s monstrous strikes, since they’ll effectively one-shot you, and mounting its back for that final epic decapitation."
Then again, Dynasty Warriors had more compelling combat. Extinction‘s combat isn’t bad per say but there’s not a whole lot of variety to it. When fighting enemies on the ground, which have some neat varieties like projectile types, flying types and heavies that can’t be juggled, you’re really only mashing X to slash and B to dodge. Altering X button presses results in different moves like a circular slash for crowd control. Holding X will let you launch enemies into the air for combos. And…that’s more or less it. You can also dodge attacks and be forgiven for thinking there’s more to the combat than that. There is this satisfying degree to just hacking and slashing enemies but most encounters are just bouts of slashing, dodging and slashing again.
Fighting the Ravenii is a different matter. First off, there’s no hacking and slashing here. Instead, you hold down Left Trigger for a special Rune Strike, where time appropriately slows down, and hack off an ogre’s limb. Go for its arms and it can’t smash you into next week. Cut its legs off and it’s stopped dead in its tracks. The end goal is to build up enough of your Rune Strike meter for a killing blow. You then climb on the monster’s back, hit LT and – you guessed it – slice its head off from the back of the neck to kill it.
Over time, Ravenii will start to wear armour to protect their limbs and depending on the material, you’ll either have to cut through them once or break a number of locks. Some armour could be made of Brightsteel which can’t be broken. Killing enemies, hacking off exposed Ravenii limbs, saving civilians and so on will help build up that meter and you can thus take down Brightsteel wearing enemies as well. There is a certain appeal to avoiding a Ravenii’s monstrous strikes, since they’ll effectively one-shot you, and mounting its back for that final epic decapitation.
"It’s just a shame that this system of randomly generated elements feels so limited and safe. Objectives never really boil down to more than “kill this, rescue that”."
The climbing mechanics aren’t always the most intuitive – there are cases where you’ll try to Rune Strike a limb or piece of armour and instead scamper up a beast’s leg. There will also be times when a Ravenii will suddenly catch sight of you and suddenly bring its fist down, killing you instantly. You respawn some distance from your last target, thus losing some precious time but that’s about it. Overall, when missions devolve into various Ravenii, scrappers and Brightsteel wearers alike, at your door as the city collapses around you, it is possible to ignore the entirely repetitious nature of the combat and tedious objectives to engage in an epic battle.
It’s just a shame that this system of randomly generated elements feels so limited and safe. Objectives never really boil down to more than “kill this, rescue that”. If combat against the Ravenii felt more dynamic and the random elements expanded upon this with more interesting side objectives, Extinction could have stood on its own even without a campaign. However, every bit of gameplay just feels so one-note and mind-numbing. Even the upgrades don’t really offer much aside from increasing the slow-mo of Rune Strike or increasing damage when the Rune Strike meter is full.
Extinction was never going to win awards for its concept but it could have appealed to many with a fully realized world that was fun to explore and fight in, recreating those David and Goliath moments across a larger fantasy battlefield. Instead, we get little more than movie sets that garner little sympathy when destroyed and characters that are filling roles as opposed to being real people. As Avil says at one point, it doesn’t matter which king he served since they were beheaded and replaced before their bodies were cold. It’s kind of fitting that the Ravenii, the biggest deal in Extinction, should garner the same level of apathy from the player. Keep in mind that Extinction isn’t an outright broken experience but the lacklustre core and repetitious gameplay effectively waste what could have an interesting concept.
This game was reviewed on Xbox One.
Interesting aesthetic and character designs. Combat feels decent and fighting against Ravenii feels appropriately larger than life. Extinction mode is good for some general horde-mode fun. Movement feels fluid.
Randomized aspects feel too limited and ultimately unimaginative. Boring characters and story-telling overall. Flat world design that doesn't mesh well with the movement. Repetitive combat as a whole. Small variety of upgrades that don't exactly break the combat scale.
When Extinction presents its large ogre titans, you get an inkling of what could have been. Instead, randomization and procedural generation rule the core gameplay and feel to really liven up what's a generally below average story, combat and world.