Games Review: Extinction (PS4, 2018): A Giant Disappointment

Extinction offers up an interesting premise that I was personally drawn to. Being a fan of The Shadow of the Colossus, which this game seems to borrow elements from, it seemed like a no-brainer. What we get however, is an underdeveloped pot of mediocrity that pulls off a few neat tricks, while ultimately crumbling under the weight of its overwhelming flaws.

Extinction puts players in the shoes of Avil, one of the last Sentinels and sworn protectors of the land, equipped with an array of special abilities allowing for an enhanced sense of combat and manoeuvrability. At its core, Extinction revolves heavily around these skills and mechanics rather than a dense and emotional story, which seems to provide the foundation for Extinctions demise. You’ll be swinging your sword, flying through the air, and most importantly, killing various Ravenii; giant ogres in which you are tasked with taking down. When Extinction is moving at full pace, it works, and I mean really works. There’s a sense of moving gracefully and with such ease that the controls almost become intuitive as you climb buildings, glide through the air and use your trusty whip to zip from location to location. Unfortunately, this is as good as it gets for Extinction, as the remaining mechanics are functional, but as underwhelming as they are repetitive.

Combat hinges on a single button in which combos can be performed with timed delays between button presses, in which nothing feels complex enough to be rewarding in the long run. Although combat perks can be unlocked, they fail to make combat any deeper than that single button, which is a shame, as moves look great as they are being executed, but feel unrewarding and undercooked in the palm of your hands. Enemy variety is scarce, in the form of smaller goblin-like characters that plague the inhabitants of each town, in addition to the Ravenii, the aforementioned giant ogres that serve as the final boss-ish encounters for each mission. I say boss-ish because these Ravenii are unbalanced, uncoordinated, and when exploited, inexplicably easy to defeat. You defeat the Ravenii by scaling their bodies in order to cut off their head.  Firstly, you begin each mission by fighting the smaller goblin like enemies, and activating crystals which transport the townspeople to safety. While this keeps you on your toes, the repetitive nature of this section turns into an all out bore very quickly, dampening any of the emotion you’re meant to feel when townspeople are killed. Once you’ve saved enough civilians, your sword will charge in order for you to be able to take on the Ravenii, and deal that sweet decapitating blow. The Ravenii are varied enough through armour placement, but provide little challenge, as they only have one weakness. Cut off the head. Sure, you can decapitate limbs which slow down the beast while providing easier access to the head, but after playing for a few hours, I found myself darting straight for the head and immediately landing the killing blow.

Through all these frustrations, presentation is strong. Extinction looks great and runs even better. Although locked at 30fps on consoles, the PlayStation 4 version ran incredibly smooth, free from any bugs or crashes. The seemingly randomly generated open worlds are colourful, topped of with a light cartoon style that slightly dampens the gorier moments, but looks great. Voice acting is a little hokey, but serviceable, as conversations are played out through dialogue boxes, which feels a little strange and out of place, considering I couldn’t understand how Avil was communicating with people miles away, in a medieval fantasy setting. Secret radios perhaps? The presentation begins to slip from here on out with a forgettable score and repetitive towns that pass as fresh with what seems as the slightest repositioning of a single building.

The campaign is light on story, separating its missions into 5-10 minute bite sized portions, which proves to work when jumping in for short periods of time. Additional modes are available in the form of a survival mode, where you can pit your high score against that of your friends, and various daily challenges, which aim to keep you coming back, but miss the mark, failing to add any depth to the experience. The issue with Extinction is its lack of depth and variety, especially being priced as a AAA experience. Repetitive level design and simplistic mechanics hold Extinction back from being a solid title, doing little to hold your attention even before the campaign has reached its underwhelming end. Tonally speaking I couldn’t help but feel an imbalance, as the cartoonish visuals and simplistic mechanics market themselves to a younger audience, while the over-the-top violence markets itself towards adults. It’s hard to pinpoint a target audience, which really damages the staying power of the experience.

Overall, Extinction does a few things right, but is ultimately marred by repetition that sets in quicker than I’d like to admit. The simplistic mechanics are functional, and the repetitive environments look great, however it’s not enough to save Extinction from a being a mediocre experience at best. What seemed an epic tale of David and Goliath has resulted in a colossal disappointment that I really wished would shed its frustrating simplicity and ridiculous AAA price tag, and show some of its admittedly decent aspects.

Score: 5.0 out of 10
Highlights: strong, consistent performance, neat, colourful visuals and smooth movement mechanics.
Lowlights: lacking story, repetitive gameplay and level design, overly simplified combat mechanics.
Developer: Iron Galaxy
Publisher: Maximum Games
Available: Now
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC

Review conducted on PlayStation 4 with retail code provided by the publisher.