Size isn’t everything.
If you set out to pay homage to both Shadow of the Colossus and Attack On Titan, but never figured out how to truly capture what made either of them special, Extinction would be the result. That’s not to say there isn’t a decent amount of straightforward, excitingly-animated hack-and-slash enjoyment to be had – I just wish it had borrowed more of the atmosphere, variety, and sense of discovery from its muses.
The stars of the show are the Ravenii, towering ogres on the warpath to wipe out every last human for reasons that become clear across the roughly 12-hour campaign. They can only be killed with a blow to the back of the neck, which usually involves an acrobatic sequence of jumps and slashes to remove armor pieces and sever limbs.
While that final killshot is always satisfying, especially if it’s just in time to save a group of civilians by mere inches, getting there isn’t always so rewarding. For one thing, climbing up the Ravenii often feels frustratingly imprecise. It’s really easy to fall unexpectedly – or worse, get stuck in places like crotches and armpits, turning the camera into a surrealist nightmare. Nobody wants that. It’s no fun, even when I’m not imagining the horrendous stench of monster sweat I’m subjecting our poor hero Avil to.
That final killshot is always satisfying.
Your objectives in a given level can vary between saving a certain number of civilians by activating teleport crystals, killing a certain number of Ravenii or their man-sized minions, or keeping key structures intact until a timer runs out. Civilian deaths and demolished buildings tick down the extinction meter, which causes you to fail the mission if you take too long. For the most part, I enjoyed the pacing and sense of tension this added.
The combat on the ground is very floaty and arcadey in a Dynasty Warriors kind of way, as are the various glides, ziplines, and bounces off of awnings Avil can use to navigate levels vertically and horizontally. I don’t think every game needs to be Dark Souls, but when it seems like any encounter with a pack of human-sized jackal minions is best solved by button-mashing and hoping I’m hitting dodge and attack with the right ratio to do damage while not getting hit too often, each fight starts to feel more like a chore than a rewarding challenge.
The jackals themselves also don’t show a ton of variety. Other than one species that can fly, the special baddies are just larger, tougher versions of the smaller ones with more damage and hitpoints. You fight them all basically the same way, and even the abilities you can purchase and upgrade for Avil don’t do much to change up the combat.
I wasn’t especially impressed with the variants of Ravenii.
Because of that, the rescue missions are probably my least favorite type. They often involve chasing down and tediously attacking a dozen jackals at least once so they focus on me instead of the civilians, then drawing them away to take them out. Without crowd control or an area-of-effect attack that can distract multiple jackals at once, that got old quickly.
I also wasn’t especially impressed with the variants of Ravenii placed in my path. They’re all slow, lumbering, bipedal ogres at the end of the day. Some have armor that takes more hits to break. Some have weapons that can deal more damage to you and surrounding structures. Some have thorn-shrouded gear that has to be hit in a small target area or you’ll take damage. But none of them feel especially inspired or creative, and few force you to significantly change how you approach them. It’s just slight variations on the same basic process.
And when they do force you to change, it’s sometimes for the worse. The spike- and bone-armored Ravenii are especially a pain because you have to bait them into using a certain type of attack which compromises their own defenses. But I never got to a point where I felt like I could get the enemy AI to do this reliably, so a battle against one of them usually breaks down to a lot of flailing, jumping, and hoping while I watched the extinction meter tick down in frustration.
The story does have some interesting twists and turns, though Extinction’s bright colors and action-heavy, horror-light tone never really sold me on the idea that I was in a race against the clock for humanity’s survival. The cast is likable and fun to listen to, with the exception that one of the main supporting characters is played by a person inexplicably doing a junior college community theater-quality fake British accent. That unnecessarily distracted from her otherwise respectable performance.
If you’re not into watching NPC heads talk to each other for several minutes between missions, there’s also a daily challenge mode with ever-rotating objectives and Extinction mode, in which you have to see how long you can defend a town from endless waves of jackals and Ravenii. It’s these modes that I could see myself coming back to over and over, as they offer just the right dose of Extinction to not highlight its repetitiveness and overstay their welcome.