A mix of inspirations make a very unique whole.
At a glance, it’s easy to draw connections to Extinction from things like Shadow of the Colossus and Attack on Titan. You climb and kill giant ogres that are sieging cities hiding behind high but ineffective walls. But when I actually got my hands on its first few missions, Extinction played closer to games like God of War, with lightning fast, combo-filled combat that’s surprisingly deep.
Each mission in Extinction puts you in charge of protecting a city from waves of demons, trying to save as many people and buildings as you can. While ogres may be the main course, there are also hordes of smaller enemies terrorizing citizens on a more personal level.
It’s fighting these opponents where Extinction’s combat mechanics really shined as I hopped between targets and strung moves together midair. Button mashing is cleverly discouraged by linking the timings of your attacks to different kinds of moves. A slight pause between presses will change your basic swing into an AOE attack, while a longer press will knock an enemy up into the air. This made combat feel engaging instead of mindless.
Figuring out how to get to your objective can be a challenge in itself.
That stretches into Extinction’s movement mechanics as well, which let me speed over rooftops and across its cities in a way that’s much faster and more nuanced than parkour systems in games like Assassin’s Creed. You can move extremely fast, especially when taking advantage of its amazingly fun grappling hook, but you still have to move smart and can’t just climb straight up walls for too long.
Figuring out how to get to your objective can be a challenge in itself, and certain levels in Extinction have explicitly designed jumping puzzles that test you in a different way than hacking at monsters does. There are combos to the movement too, like climbing up a wall as far as you can, hopping backwards off of it, then using a big slash attack to fling yourself just a little bit higher.
Those movement techniques become vital when facing down the big bad ogres. Fighting them isn’t a climbing puzzle disguised as boss fight like in Shadow of the Colossus, and they aren’t the semi-scripted quicktime event sequences a lot of giant monsters tend to be in other games.
Killing an ogre still wasn’t nearly as complex or imposing as I was expecting.
To take one down you have to charge up a special attack meter, make it up to the top of their back, then use a special slash attack to cut off its head – though it’s rarely that simple. You can get on top of an ogre a couple of different ways – cutting off a leg and running up its back, waiting till it punches the ground and then going up the arm, or just jumping down from a high enough spot – but they can have a variety of different armor that impedes you along the way.
The simplest is wood, which just takes a single hit to break off, but bone armor requires you to trick the ogre into missing a punch or kick before you can break that piece. There’s also armor that can’t be broken, armor that will hurt you when touched, and even helmets and collars that protect the ogre’s neck.
That said, killing an ogre still wasn’t nearly as complex or imposing as I was expecting. Even with the wide variety of armor they can wear, each one is still killed the same way. This means they aren’t really big boss fights as much as they are just another type of enemy – albeit, an enormous and imposing one that can’t be ignored.
And there’s always more to do in a mission than you possibly have time for, so managing that time well is important. Do you let an ogre smash up the city while you save people elsewhere, or sacrifice saving live to take it down fast? Fundamentally, Extinction is about making these hard decisions, then executing your combos well once you’ve committed to a plan.
Keep in mind, you’re rarely supposed to win any of these fights. According to the lore of the game, the demonic force you are fighting against has already conquered the world, you’re just trying to salvage what’s left and stave off the literal extinction of the human race. It’s not exactly a cheery concept, which I wouldn’t have guessed from its bright and charming art style.
The biggest question I was left with after playing Extinction is one of variance. The world and story are both intriguing and the voice acting is solid, but I’m not so sure different ogre armor and city layouts alone will be enough hold my attention. I didn’t get to see exactly how later mission types would shake things up, but what I did see is a satisfying and fun brawler inspired by a lot of very good ideas that’s managed to make something entirely new out of them.