Extinction Review

By Mark Delaney, 6 months ago
It was about a year ago, just before E3, when out of nowhere a game announcement arrived to beat the rush. That game was Iron Galaxy's Extinction, and its David versus an army of Goliaths gameplay piqued the curiosity of many. Since then, we've heard little about it until it hit stores this week. As is often the case with such games, the reason for that quiet pre-release period becomes clear once you play enough of it. Extinction isn't all bad, but its failure to evolve its level and objective design over the course of its several modes makes it a forgettable experience.

1

Extinction is an action game with an emphasis on platforming and melee combat. Players take on the role of Avil, one of the last remaining warriors trained to do battle with the Ravenii, the towering ogres invading your native cities at the start of the story. The narrative is told alternatingly through animated cutscenes that look quite nice, offering some impressive hand-drawn art, and with brief introductory dialogue that takes place with text boxes and stationary drawings of the characters, which feels quite dated and done likely as a cost-saving measure. Such delivery is forgivable for a game of this stature — it's sort of a AA experience, neither indie nor owning the deep pockets of top-tier development — though the end result still feels more at home 20 years ago.

The game starts slow and introduces you only to the lesser villains at first, human-sized creatures that act as minions for the greater beasts. After a few levels, the game begins to open up. Once it does this, and the Ravenii begin to pour into your cities often several at a time, its greatest attribute comes into view. Extinction plays at a breakneck pace that demands you keep up or suffer swift defeat. Each mission has main and optional objectives and abundant XP rewards await those who can run the gamut of a mission's tasks. It won't be easy though, as the Ravenii tear down the destructible cities while they and the minions crush or otherwise destroy the innocent survivors waiting to be rescued.

It doesn't take long before the loop of Extinction hampers what fun could've been there. For starters, each level looks far too similar to every other. Sometimes a bit of different terrain can mix things up, but only a little. The mindless AI survivors have few different models as do the buildings across what's meant to be several different cities. It's as though a single architect designed an entire nation. There's a stark lack of diversity among mission types. Saving X survivors, destroying Y Ravenii, and outlasting the onslaught for Z minutes are the basic structure of most missions and often these tasks make up the optional objectives when they're not mandatory. It gets old in a hurry to keep doing these same things over and again.

The scale is impressive but it usually feels too easy to topple these beasts.The scale is impressive but it usually feels too easy to topple these beasts.

On top of that, the game's greatest problem is that it's never as cool or as challenging as it should be to take down the Ravenii. The game's scale is impressive at first, as Avil is made to look like the mosquito on the limbs of these giants, but the formulaic way by which you eliminate them soon turns these would-be dramatic showdowns into a rote process that more tedious than terrific. Different kinds of Ravenii bring different tactics and armor, though generally, their tactics don't stand out too much across their race. The armor does add a welcome wrinkle, at least. Early giants will have simplistic wooden armor that can be hit off with one special attack. Later on, you'll need to first detach locks from their armor or hit certain pieces multiple times, or even avoid them entirely as some kinds are unbreakable. The point is to remove their armor, then their limbs (which regrow if you're too slow), then ultimately their heads. It's meant to be the highlight of the game but due to the formula not impressing over the long term and persistent camera problems, it's ultimately not that interesting to defeat the Ravenii after you've done it a half dozen times — and the game expects you to do it upwards of 100 times.

Other modes exist to keep you involved after you beat the eight-hour story, like a horde mode and another that lets you create custom challenges for other players. But because you can only work on the playground the game has provided, you essentially just become the one making the all too familiar levels and missions in place of the studio.

The combat is very simplistic to start and only gets a bit more involved by the end of things. It's almost entirely done with one button, but where it's salvaged is in the game's traversal system. Taking clear inspiration from Sunset Overdrive, you're able and often even meant to stylishly move about a city for long periods of time without ever hitting the ground. It certainly doesn't work as well as its inspirator, as you'll often make moves that are meant only to adjust what went wrong with your previous move, but when you've upgraded your character a lot in the latter half of the game, things start to get more fluid and fun. Jumping from the minions to buildings to Ravenii can be a highlight of the game for those who stick with it. Just know that you'll essentially have to grind out the copy and paste story missions to earn enough upgrades before that fun kicks in.

With the right upgrades, the Jackals can be totally ignored — and that's a problem.With the right upgrades, the Jackals can be totally ignored — and that's a problem.

Despite these issues, Extinction remains playable, and if your expectations are held in check, it can be enjoyed for what it is. If you happen to appreciate old-school action games more than most, Extinction doesn't offer the combat depth purists will want, but its dive-right-in presentation and fast-paced action feel like they're brought to us from a gaming era many years ago that some surely still think of fondly. If you don't mind the repetition and just want to try out a new IP with some retro flourishes, Extinction can assume that role.

On the achievement front, you'll have to try out all of the game modes, including seeing the story through to the end. Earning a high score in the horde mode will prove difficult until you have upgraded your character quite a bit, and even then it'll take skill. Several other unlocks come naturally with story progress, like defeating different types of newly introduced Ravenii every few missions. At the time of writing, no one has completed the list but that's due in part to the daily challenge time periods not having been exceeded just yet. These daily challenge missions are also liable to be deactivated someday, so if you start the game and mean to complete it, definitely don't sleep on those. Completionists will also have to accept the prospect of playing levels multiple times to earn any objective they may miss, but levels don't typically take too long.

Check out our Best Xbox Action-Adventure Games Available in 2018 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

Extinction isn't what it could have been. The story is a complete afterthought but in its throwback sort of way, it doesn't feel out of place. In fact, the game may be most enjoyed by those who haven't moved on from the presentation of games from generations past when 3D first came to consoles. The problems mostly lie with the levels and objectives failing to evolve. After you beat the story you're invited to go do more of the same tasks in other game modes, but by then even the story will have worn out its welcome. Frequent camera problems get in the way of battling the Ravenii, and overall Extinction fails to deliver on the one thing it must get right, its man versus beast moments. They might be giants, but they're definitely boring.
3 / 5
Positives
  • Retro inspirations will feel nostalgic for some
  • Easy to pick up, fast-paced action arcade gameplay
  • A good mix of different Ravenii keeps you on your toes (or under theirs)
Negatives
  • Defeating Ravenii is never as cool as it should be
  • Persistent camera problems
  • Fails to evolve its level design or environments
  • Throwaway story
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 10 hours standing on the shoulders of giants -- and chopping their heads off. Along the way, he unlocked 9 of 27 achievements for 225 Gamerscore. A review copy was provided by the publisher and the game was played on a standard Xbox One.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is one of three voices on the TA Playlist Podcast. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his family. He almost never writes in the third person.