Game name: Extinction
Release date: April 10, 2018
Price: US$ 59.99
Available on: Steam
Developer: Iron Galaxy
Publisher: Modus Games
When Iron Galaxy revealed Extinction last year, most of us instantly thought about Attack on Titan, possibly the most popular “light footed human versus ten feet tall giant” media franchise in the world. The first PC game set in the Attack on Titan universe was serviceable but not definitive, so the gaming world had reasons to hope for a new take on that concept, and one helmed by Iron Galaxy, a proven studio known for the quality of their smaller releases, and their contract work for many well received AAA titles.
Sadly, as I found out after a few hours with Extinction, their expertise wasn’t enough to create a smashing hit, and the game that occupies our time today isn’t exactly the definitive word on giant hunting thanks to a number of problems we’ll discuss below.
We play as Avil, a gruff looking man who happens to be the world’s last Sentinel, a kind of specialized soldier highly trained and perfectly prepared to deal with the gigantic Ravenii that have invaded humanity’s birthplace. This means that we must not expect any help when facing the beasts that will stand between us and victory (so no cooperative modes, which were a highlight of both Attack on Titan games). A story told through barely animated cutscenes and opening conversations between Avil and his handlers will act as our motivation to carry on from level to level, eliminating Ravenii of all sizes and types, as well as smaller enemies that scurry along the ground or descend from the skies with murderous intent. I won’t spoil the story, as usual, but it’s as safe and formulaic as they come, and each twist and turn could be seen from miles away.
Every mission opening will start with Avil talking to someone, and though we can fast forward most of the dialogues at the press of a button, we can’t really skip them (and there are some that will even resist that magic button, forcing us to sit through the same lines over and over again should we fail at our task). This kind of scene would have been fine ten years ago, but nowadays we are used to small quality of life improvements, such as convenient skip buttons, mid mission checkpoints (which don’t exist here) and so on. The cities that we are supposed to care for look all the same and are invariably empty, with the exception of helpless civilians that won’t move from their portal stones, even when they face certain death at the oversized hands of a Ravenii. Extinction‘s presentation screams “budget release”, yet once we get to the checkout screen, we find that it costs the same price as any AAA release, US$59.99.
Of course, a flawed presentation doesn’t necessarily mean that we are facing a poor title, as many gems released over the years can confirm. Sadly, Extinction‘s issues carry over to its gameplay as well, with repetitive missions, awful platforming sections and all sorts of irritating quirks rearing their ugly heads after a few hours of play.
The game’s main selling point is its “man versus giant” theme, which pits the fleet footed Avil against lumbering beasts that tower over city walls. As expected from a highly trained soldier, our character can soar above treetops and swing from certain branches and structures, moving faster than a normal human, and engaging in wall climbing from time to time. So far, so good, but for some reason, Iron Galaxy chose to limit our swinging skill to specific places, so we’ll often find that our theoretically agile protagonist can actually be slower than the Ravenii he hunts, thanks to weirdly designed maps. This restriction becomes incredibly annoying during rescue missions, which task Avil with saving a specific number of civilians before the horde can murder them. Later on, these missions become even more annoying as insta-kill obstacles get added to the mix, surrounding towers full of helpless citizens and asking for a level of finesse that our hero simply does not possess. Death does not result in a game over screen, thankfully, but it does reset our position to the beginning of the level during platforming sequences, forcing us to navigate treacherous terrain over and over again should we fail (and that lost time can be the difference between success or defeat, since the Ravenii will keep hacking away at the city, triggering its extinction meter once enough buildings have been reduced to rubble, or murdering the civilians we are supposed to rescue before we can get to them).
Aside from the aforementioned rescue missions, Extinction also offers a few more objective types across its campaign, such as eliminating Ravenii before they destroy a number of watchtowers, or simply exterminating a specific number of hulking beasts. During these scenarios, we’ll also have to care for the overall health of the cities we are defending (should it reach zero we’ll be facing a game over screen), as well as the helpless civilians mentioned above, since they act as fuel for our blade’s special strike, the only way of getting rid of the Ravenii for good. This powerful attack move can also be charged through other means, such as killing the weaker foes that appear from time to time, or cutting off the giants’ limbs one by one.
Extinction‘s combat is fast paced and stylish, letting us get rid of smaller creatures with a few well placed blows, and even chain together combos through the use of a dash cancel mechanic. Sadly, as with almost every aspect of the game, there’s a caveat here, which is that using the rune strike move designed to take out Ravenii armor/limbs we can quickly eliminate most minor foes in a strike or so, completely bypassing the flashy but ultimately inefficient melee battles.
Fighting Ravenii is definitely Extinction‘s strongest aspect, as we watch Avil expertly dashing and slicing under our control. Hacking away at a lumbering giant’s armor before cutting off their limbs one by one is always thrilling and doesn’t get old anytime soon. Sadly, the game’s weird traversal restrictions and a camera that seems to have a life of its own will often threaten to ruin the experience, though not with the level of success they have during other gameplay sequences. The “civilians=fuel for superweapon” mechanic is interesting, and helps us care for entities that would otherwise be ignored thanks to their lack of personality (or even motion, since all they do is act scared and thank us once we’ve sent them through the rescue portals).
Once we are done with the campaign (which lasted eight hours for me, though YMMV, as usual), we can also play randomly generated missions, or a special permadeath mode that pits Avil against the whole Ravenii horde, and ends once our hero is defeated, unlike the main campaign. These extras add some value to the overall package, but it’s still very hard to recommend this game at full price, considering everything else.
Overall, Extinction‘s dated presentation, repetitive mission objectives and clunky gameplay mechanics conspire to bring down what could have been a decent alternative to Koei Tecmo‘s Attack on Titan games. There’s fun to be had with Iron Galaxy‘s latest release, but not at its current price point, so most gamers would do well staying away until it’s on sale for at least 50% off MSRP.
4.5/10 – Average.