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Reviewed on PC
Everyone’s favourite mega-corporation is back once again to continue its venture into making games, this time setting out with the task of reinventing the hero shooter genre. Enter Crucible: Amazon‘s PVPVE shake-up to the constantly regurgitated hero shooter formula.
The expected Hero Shooting experience is split between three modes in Crucible’s inaugural pre-season, and there’s a lot of bloat to sink your teeth into. The game’s main menu prominently pushes players towards the game’s unique selling point: the PVPVE Heart of the Hives mode. Beyond that marquee game mode, there’s also the PVP focused Alpha Hunters and the more arcade-focused Harvester Command.
All modes take place on the same map and players must destroy objects in order to harvest Essence and level up. Killing the in-game fauna gives out some Essence, while Harvesters can be captured to provide a steady stream, and Hives will drop a lot of Essence depending on which mode you’re playing.
In Heart of The Hives, the Hives won’t drop any Essence, but you’re required to destroy and capture their hearts in order to progress. Alpha Hunters is the simplest, with everything on the map providing Essence while you try your best to kill before being killed. Harvester Command sees your team taking over a Harvester in order to increase your score while harvesting Essence, with the game ending when one team hits a score of 100.
Each of these game modes plays completely differently from one another, with their own objectives, team sizes, and strategies that attempt to shake up gameplay. With so much content available, each game mode should, in theory, feel as polished as one another – in practice, that is not the case.
Regardless of a mode’s decisions around team sizes and player count, every mode suffers from the scale of the games’ singular map. While the competitive environment might not be the heftiest, only taking around a minute and a half to walk from end to end, there’s still simply too much to do for a small team to accomplish.
Despite being Crucible’s most promising mode, Heart of the Hives is the worst affected, with the designated two teams of four simply not being enough for everything the map offers. While coordinating and moving as a team, there’s more than enough to do as you make your way around the map to the point where it’s genuinely possible you’ll never see an opponent until you’re actually converging on the hive objective.
Although Crucible has plenty to offer, this overabundance of features has led to some of the dullest matches I’ve ever experienced in an FPS. Whether it’s walking around a map uncontested as you capture or recapture objectives or blasting away the colourful fauna that’s tactically outplayed by a meandering backpedal, there’s simply no fun to be had when you’re not fighting actual opponents.
Thankfully, Crucible’s other two modes aren’t affected by this crippling drudgery, even though one of them has a smaller team size of only two! Luckily, there are also five other teams to contend against split around the map, so you’re rarely far from a fight with everyone covering so much ground.
With the pressure of a fight on the horizon, slaughtering fauna or capturing a harvester for Essence becomes tantalisingly tense and engaging. Every drop starts to matter when you could be so close to the next fight, rather than never expecting one in the first place.
Harvester Command does it even better, bumping up the player count to 16 in an 8v8 bout to the death. Fauna falls by the wayside in this mode to give players an even tighter focus: all you need to care about is murder and the five Harvesters around the map. With points ticking up and enough people to be just about everywhere, this mode is a romp thanks to how you’re never a quick jaunt from the next firefight or capture.
When you’re not being weighed down by the crushing boredom of Crucible’s premier mode, however, the cracks start to show in the nicely detailed façade. You might start to notice how spectacularly unpolished Crucible is. You’ll also be quick to notice that no-one in-game is actually communicating beyond the usual flagrant ping system, and for once, that’s not just because everyone is shy. In Crucible, there just isn’t any.
While you’re noticing that it’s quiet without any form of voice or text communication, you might start to notice how really quiet it is. That’s because beyond the main menu and loading screens, there isn’t any music. Thankfully there’s still diegetic background sound in game, but there’s no score to set the tone of the match.
Games finish so jarringly abruptly without any music; I was left checking if I’d accidentally turned it off. I hadn’t. If you’re not constantly checking on the score at the top of the screen, games will just end without you noticing, cutting to black as your result flashes up. There’s no ending screen or final flourish, it’s just gameplay gameplay gameplay END.
You’ll also find yourself unable to move at all while interacting with anything on the map. If you try to press any button, you’ll find yourself cancelling the interaction, making the game feel even more clunky and unfinished.
Mercifully, the characters in this hero shooter are at least entertaining. The diverse roster, consisting of 10 heroes, gives each hero their own unique abilities that make firefights more than just shooting matches. Their customisable upgrade paths also give a little personality to each build, even if passive abilities are often completely lost within combat.
There’s a good game inside of Crucible but at the moment, it’s buried. Marred by some baffling gameplay decisions and technical difficulties that patches are slowly ironing out, it’s difficult to recommend in its current state, but it definitely shows promise for the future.
If you want to give the game a chance, it’s free to download here.