Since 2008, Chicago-based Iron Galaxy has largely shirked the limelight, performing contract work for other studios and quietly porting code onto other consoles. But the developer’s own efforts haven’t garnered much attention, with titles like Wreckateer and Divekick earning only light praise from critic and consumers alike. With the release of Extinction for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, Iron Galaxy is hoping to change that, with hundred-foot-tall titans primed to capture the interest of a pedantic gaming public. And while there’s fun to be had, ultimately, a lack of depth and an overwhelming sense of familiarity dwarfs the thrill of downing giants.
As the title implies, Extinction depicts humanity facing annihilation, with hulking monstrosities known as the Ravenii threatening our species. Opposition is rooted in the team of Avil and Xanda. The former is a Sentinel- an agile warrior skilled with sword and grappling hook, who is the game’s sole playable character. The latter brings tools and magic in a supportive role, but mainly serves as a conversational partner to advance sections of exposition. Extinction’s storytelling is occasionally adept, with quality animated scenes that conclude each chapter. But all too often, the accented voiced sounds contrived or the dialog feel a bit formulaic. Sensing a hunger for giant killing, Iron Giant courteously allows players to skip these interludes.
The tutorial begins by sending Avil scampering through the city to wipe out groups of Jackals, orc-like minions of the Ravenii. With missions that revolve around protecting civilians and the requirement to gather Rune energy before taking down the big guys, you’ll be taking on these pesky foes regularly. But fighting these foes doesn’t feel satisfying. While Avil’s arsenal grows increasingly lethal through the purchase of upgrades, there’s no real nuance to these encounters beyond the occasional dodge of an imminent attack. All too often I found myself attempting to bring the civvies to safety, instead of engaging in ungratifying hacking and slashing.
Outfitting with a grappling hook, maneuverability holds promise, recalling the omni-directional mobility gear of the Attack on Titan games. Periodically, when Avil is running through an environment, an icon appears on a structure indicating that he can use that to launch himself forward. But regrettably, the icon doesn’t appear with dependability and when it does, it can often emerge to the side, catapulting the character laterally.
Similar issues emerge when you’re fighting one of the massive Ravenii, which entails locking onto a part of their body or a piece of their armor. Generally, it works as intended, and when you move the game’s camera to focus on a body part, it will glow read to indicate you can hurl yourself toward it, and then slash away at the appendage. But sporadically, a lock-on isn’t achieved, causing players to frantically maneuver or else get flattened by a Ravenii fist.
Here, a few design choice things work in the game’s favor. First, you’ll be warned of an inbound Ravenii attack. Bright red lightning bolts around the player’s head signals an attack, even if the camera isn’t positioned to show the arrival of an incoming bash. Second, the dodge maneuver usually rolls you of out harm’s way. And when it doesn’t work, respawning comes quickly, usually positioning Avil nearby to continue his assault.
Look past the targeting issues, and taking down a massive Ravenii can be enjoyable. Typically, you’ll want to incapacitate the giants, locking on to arms and legs before delivering the fatal blow to the nape of their necks. Beyond the first few Ravenii you’ll find, most have armor to protect their appendages and head, requiring multiple strikes to remove the plating. And when you finally do debilitate the giants, you’ll have to quickly scurry up their backs, as limbs grow back with bothersome speed. Sure, there are the fatiguing moments where you’ll find Anvil staring up at the colossus’s crotch- waiting for the impending arm or leg to regenerate, so you can hack it off to reset the timer. But these instances are counterbalanced by the thrill of a perfectly timed kill, preventing the Ravenii from rampaging through the city, which can be quite satisfying.
And while the glory of giant killing feels good, it’s Extinction’s sole thrill. Everything else, from saving civilians, battling Jackals, and sling-shotting yourself across environments fails to stimulate. As such, the game’s other modes, where you’re given daily challenges or tasked with confronting an onslaught of Ravenii in survival mode, offer only slight deviations from the titan tackling of the story campaign. Certainty, there’s some enjoyment found in Extinction, but not nearly enough to warrant a full-priced purchase.
As Iron Galaxy’s breakout title, and former Sony Interactive Entertainment exec Adam Boyes first effort after expressing a wish to return to software development, Extinction fails to make much of an impression. While it’s visually competent and bringing down powerful Ravenii can be gratifying, the game’s other elements are disappointingly pedestrian.
Extinction was played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Developer: Iron Galaxy
Publisher: Maximum Games, Modus Games
Release date: April 9th, 2018
Price: $59.99 via physical or digital