The idea of taking on 150ft ogre’s in relentless, end of the world battles is something that sounds pretty cool, and at first… it really is. Scaling up a towering Ravenii for the first time to cleanly slice their head off after tactically disembodying their limbs makes you feel pretty awesome. In fact, this feels pretty good for a while. But unfortunately, like all good things, this must come to an end. With little imagination and some questionable level design, once the novelty of slaying these titanous ogre’s wears off then Extinction feels kind of…extinct.
You play as Avil, one of the last Sentinals left in the world. The Sentinels are an ancient army who have the ability to wield some pretty powerful attacks, most notably the Rage Burst. Seeing as you’re pretty much the last of your kind you’ve also picked up the added responsibility of acting as the last protection against the giant ogre race known as Ravenii.
Unfortunately, that’s really about it for a story, which is one of Extinction’s biggest flaws. The campaign mode is merely a set of arcade arenas pieced together with some very vague dialogue at the beginning and end of each stage. At the end of a chapter, we are treated to a very nice looking cartoon cutscene which genuinely provided some intrigue into Avil as a character, but very little intrigue into the world as a whole.
The stages will challenge you to complete a set objective to progress, but these objectives very rarely steered away from either rescuing refugees or killing Ravenii. To add to the confusion of whats really going on, most maps you’ll play in the campaign are randomly selected, meaning that in this ‘end-of-the-world’ war there’s no real sense of survival. You’re not trying to push the Ravenii back from a larger objective, neither are you trying to protect a larger objective. All the game cares about, or makes you care about is the randomly selected map you happened to land on for that stage.
This lack of player interest is only stretched further when it comes to the Ravennii. Although the towering Ogres look to be the star of the show, they’re actually the most two-dimensional villains I’ve seen probably seen this generation. We never really find out who they are? where they come from? why they’re attacking us? why we’re involved in this war? This lack of depth to the intriguing Ravennii means that every once of emotional connection to the small narrative in the game is completely redundant.
Now, you can argue that a lot of people who will see Extinction for the first time will compare it to the great Shadow of the Colossus, which is a very unfair comparison. Shadow of the Colossus is an emotional and dramatic adventure game whereas Extinction is more of an arcade hack n slash with the with the added addition of the Ravennii fights. As an arcade brawler, the game does offer some fun. When you start a stage you’ll need to build up your Burst metre in order to take down a Ravenii, to do this you can either help save refugees or take on the smaller goblins know as Jackels. These more grounded mini-battle actually offered quite a lot of enjoyment, with combat feeling like a dampened down DMC. Playing on PlayStation you can only attack with the square button, but the order and rhythm that you press the button in offers a variety of attacks and combos, all of which fell slick and powerful.
So you’ve saved the refugees, killed yourself some Jackels and charged up your Rage metre, time to take on the Ravenii. These titanous bouts are possibly the most disappointing aspects of Extinction. Every Ravenii will be wearing the armour of some kind, to take them down you’ll simply need to destroy the armour, chop off a leg, scale their back and lovingly decapitate them. Every one of these stages is performed with just one button, by simply holding down L2 you’ll slow down time and be able to choose the area of the Ravenii you wish to attack.
What these fights are really missing is any sense of loss, as you can never lose through death, only objective failure. If you’re pummelled to the ground under the brutal blow of a Ravennii’s fist then you’ll simply respawn a few hundred feet away. This approach to the gameplay meant that I really didn’t care about what risks I was taking when fighting a Ravenii, knowing that I couldn’t lose through death took almost every sense of challenge away, putting these what could’ve been iconic fights on the same importance level as taking on the smaller Jackels and saving the refugees.
The only way you can fail a stage is by having the Ravenii destroy all of the maps or it’s civilians. As you approach later stages the difficulty of the Ravenii does ramp up a little, with their armour often require more attention, or even better, the completion of several mechanics. My favourite of these was the bone-armoured Ravenii who’s armour can only be broken after you’ve lured them into an attack. This is the only Ogre in the game that offers a risk and reward objective as if they kill you you’ve lost your opportunity to break their armour.
Completing tasks throughout a stage will reward you with skill points to be used on classic action-adventure skills; you can jump higher, clear objectives faster, make time slower and so on. Although these skills are pretty generic, they are also well designed as when I did choose to level up a certain area the difference was easily notable in the quest. Another thing I liked about the skill points is how they carried over between different game modes. Outside the campaign Extinction also offers Skirmishes, Daily Challenges and an Extinction mode. Although these modes offer almost no difference to what you’ll experience in the campaign it was nice knowing that no matter where you choose to take on the Ravenii, your rewards will carry over.
There’s no denying there is some fun to be had in Extinction, the first time you jump over a Ravenii’s head to destroy a helmet lock or fly through the sky to chop an arm off mid-air all feel great. But these actions soon fall victim be the classic ‘been there, done that’, and with no real narrative or reason feeding you and a real lack or risk when taking on these stereotypical ogres, Extinction feels like it may have released a generation too late.