There’s no game better than Shadow of the Colossus when it comes to the sheer scale of enemies. As hero Wander perilously tries to find some way to climb the towering Colossi in front of him, it’s this exact feeling that Extinction attempts to emulate. From developer Iron Galaxy, with former PlayStation executive Adam Boyes at the helm, does Extinction reach the same heights as its inspiration – or is it not quite ready for take-off?
A monstrous horde known as the Ravenii have invaded Earth, and after leaving a path of death and destruction in their wake, the last retreat for the human race lies within the kingdom of Dolorum. You play as Avil, the last living Sentinel, whom along with his sidekick Xandra, arrive in the capital city in order to recruit King Yarrow to their cause. If they succeed, his resources will boost the efforts to construct a teleporter to escape the Ravenii.
Despite a few predictable plot twists, the story at hand is actually far more engaging than you might think. Told through text conversations during missions and beautifully animated cut-scenes that delve into the backstory of the war, you’ll learn of the deceased Sentinel fleet, the Ravenii’s reasoning for attacking Earth, and of a past that many would want to be laid to rest. It’s nothing truly ground breaking, but a surprise or two along the way provides more than enough ammunition to keep you invested in proceedings.
Extinction’s major selling point is of course the gigantic Ravenii that patrol Earth in search of humans, but if you’re planning on taking them out, a bit of prep work will be needed first. The core gameplay loop revolves around building up a rune energy meter, which when full, allows you to deal a killing blow to a Ravenii. This meter is filled by either rescuing survivors within the vicinity or killing the fodder enemies scattered across the battlefield known as Jackals. Once you’ve gathered enough energy, it’s time to carry out a rune strike.
A Ravenii can only be killed from a slice to the back of its neck, but getting up there is the real challenge. To bring them down to a smaller size, you must target their limbs in order to slice them off. And while they do regenerate, removing a leg forces the beast to sit down and in turn forge a much easier path up to its neck. However, things aren’t that simple the majority of the time.
Many members of the Ravenii horde will come equipped with armour that protects their limbs, thus making the act of shrinking them down a much tougher task. There’s simple wooden protection that can be destroyed in a single hit, iron lock armour that requires you to hit a padlock with multiple strikes before it malfunctions, and gold armour that comes equipped with four latches you must take out before targeting the limb. This escalates further with bone armour that has flaming skulls attached which must be extinguished before registering a hit, spiked armour which can only be damaged via the attacks of a Ravenii itself, and bright steel armour which is indestructible.
It’s this mechanic that gives the game its variety, and it’s so much better for it. The different types of armour will force you to switch up your approach consistently as, if a Ravenii covered in wood spawns, then it’s time for an all-out assault, but if another appears coated in bright steel armour, the only way you can even possibly take it down is by farming rune energy from rescuing survivors or killing Jackals. This also makes the act of climbing up a Ravenii all the more satisfying – you know you’ve earned it.
For the most part, the literal act of climbing up a Ravenii is a fairly simple task. You’ll sever its legs to bring it down to a more reasonable height and then scale its back in order to deliver the killing blow – easy peasy. But this becomes far, far tougher when for example a Ravenii is covered in bright steel armour and you have no way of stopping it in its tracks. In this instance, it feels like a lottery whether you’ll successfully make it to the summit or not. With how much the beast moves and the jankiness of your jump, you never fully feel in control, and thus there were far too many occasions for us where we’d actually get trapped in a Ravenii’s armpit. It’s incredibly frustrating to have to make multiple attempts at a climb just because the game doesn’t seem to be able to handle what is needed to succeed.
Outside of the Ravenii themselves, objectives generally revolve around rescuing a certain amount of townspeople, defending watchtowers, or defeating the supporting army of Jackals. Combat only ever plays out on the square button, with combos performed via a certain number of button inputs, or delaying your attacks in order to do something different. It’s very simple stuff, and the skill tree hardly introduces any more complexity later on. This is then worsened by the fact that you can’t lock-on to the standard enemies, which coupled with the speed that Avil moves at means we regularly missed our initial sword swings.
This is all probably painting a rather grim picture of Extinction. Its combat is far too simple, to the point where it feels like a button masher, the lack of a lock-on button makes engagements even tougher, and attempting to scale a Ravenii in motion is a fool’s errand. However, when everything falls into place and clicks, the sense of satisfaction gained from slaying a Ravenii is unmatched. There’s nothing quite like scaling the 150 foot monster and taking its head off with ease, after slicing off each of its limbs to render it defenceless. There a number of flaws in its gameplay, but when Extinction works, it shines.
Outside of the 10 hour campaign, a fair few modes will have you coming back for more. A daily mission will serve up something new every day, a horde mode also named Extinction tasks you with surviving with just one life, and Skirmish brings with it a random battlefield and a set of objectives, which can then be shared with your friends afterwards as you all compete for the high score.
The entire package is also presented within a beautiful art style that reminded us of the hand-painted art of Okami. The bright and vibrant colours help to make the desolate world a little more positive, and even the Ravenii themselves scrub up well with the deep greens and glistening oranges of their skin really standing out within the arena. All isn’t perfect on the technical front however, as during our time with the game we encountered terrain you could get stuck in which results in an entire mission restart, and a full crash of the product that sent us back to the PS4 dashboard.
Extinction had the potential to be something special, but a few too many flaws and frustrations hold it back from true greatness. Despite that, we still think this adventure of epic proportions is very much worth a purchase if the grand scale even slightly grabs your interest.