When a reporter asked George Mallory why he wanted to climb Everest, he replied: “Because it’s there”. This is the spirit that DeadCore brings to its gameplay. A combination FPS/Platform game, you are tasked with climbing a series of towers over the course of five levels, just for the fun of it. There are ‘logs’ scattered around each level, but these are almost completely redundant. They don’t shine a light on why you must climb, but often just give a brief bit of flavour text to the abilities you acquire. The fun is in the challenge.
The levels are giant, geometric structures, floating impossibly in the skyline. Among these structures, there a laser grids, rotating puzzles, turrets and floating sentries to make things a bit more difficult. A key point, however, is that only the laser grids are lethal. Turrets will shoot energy balls at you that will knock you to one side, and the boxy sentries will try and shunt you off course, but will not kill you. With a bit of clever timing, you can use this to your advantage at times.
To help deal with these obstacles, you are provided with a rather lethal looking gun. This shoots little energy bolts that temporarily activates or deactivates obstacles as you run through the levels. It also has a little display on it, timing you, like a gun/stopwatch hybrid.
The purpose of the timer is for speed runs. DeadCore is built with speed runs in mind. As you progress through the “story” (using the term very loosely), you unlock levels for Speedrun mode, where you try and complete the levels as quickly as possible. You know, the usual speedrun stuff. Looking at some of the times posted on the worldwide rankings, however, I think it’s safe to say I won’t be joining them any time soon!
DeadCore places a high emphasis on skill and precision. Movement always feels precise and measured, and it’s hard to fault the controls, even when you fall to your doom for the tenth time. Sorry, but if like me you’re terrible at these quick reaction and precise movement kinds of games, there’s no-one to blame but yourself!
This can lead to some very frustrating moments, where, for me, it felt more like luck than judgement that I got through a section. To help alleviate this, there are very frequent checkpoints set through the stages, so usually there isn’t much progress lost.
A nice little touch in DeadCore is the soundtrack. It has a suitably upbeat and pulsing score, with the bonus of hidden tracks scattered throughout the stages. DeadCore allows you to make your own playlist from these tracks, so you can customise your experience for repeat playthroughs and speedruns.
Deadcore seems to have set itself a goal of being a sleek, stylish FPS/platform hybrid, and it seems to meet those goals. Crafted in Unity engine, it is certainly an excellent demonstration of what the engine can do. You can look around and see the entirety of the world rendered in all it’s smooth, shiny wonder. And it is huge! Having jealously watched some speedruns, I was as impressed at just how much of the world is rendered at a time as I was with the speed!
For all its style, however, DeadCore is missing some substance. The platform puzzles, while tricky to navigate, are not mentally taxing. The solutions are a matter of timing rather than having to work something out. It’s the “because it’s there” mindset that left me feeling a little disengaged. I’d could pick it up for a quick 15 minutes, then go and do something else. There’s no real driving factor beyond the challenge. For me, that is not enough. Some kind of narrative incentive would go a long way to making the journey through DeadCore worthwhile.
A fast, fun game, DeadCore offers plenty for those seeking a stylish challenge, but lacks for those looking for engagement.
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