I'm really feeling it!
I'm really feeling it!

Amazon's first game, Crucible, is the hero-shooter genre's mid-life crisis

Illustration for article titled Amazons first game, iCrucible/i, is the hero-shooter genres mid-life crisis
Screenshot: Amazon Entertainment

From Battleborn to Lawbreakers, the hero-shooter genre has produced some exceptionally boring or problematic games; but none of them hold a candle to Amazon’s first video game which goes above and beyond to do as little as possible.

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I don’t think I can accurately and succinctly define what kind of game Crucible is, and I’m not sure its developers could either. I cannot name a single game I’ve played in my lifetime which suffered from a greater identity crisis than Crucible. It plays like a room of executives looked at every video game which had a good marketing campaign, and demanded the developers incorporate elements of every single one of those games into Crucible, but didn’t tell them how.

Crucible wants to be a MOBA, a battle royale, a hero shooter, and an E-Sport, all at once. Unfortunately its not good at being any of those things, with all of its core mechanics feeling underdeveloped. You drop from a ship into the map, and level up your hero throughout the match by killing players and monsters, and playing the objectives. This applies to both the game’s MOBA mode and its battle royale, which is incredibly weird because it does nothing to distinguish the two gamemodes, so both modes just feel awkward.

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The MOBA gamemode uses the same map as the battle royale, so there’s no concept of laning, dividing enemies to pick them apart, and the objective is randomly spawning bosses as opposed to a base, so its often just a mess of the two teams running around the map until one player gets separated from their team and gets destroyed, or the two teams run into each other until one team runs out of medkits to counter the game’s ridiculously overpowered damage-over-time effects.

The battle boyale is basically the same as the MOBA, but with fewer features, and you only get one life and cannot be revived by your teammate in any way.

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There are many things about this game that says it was made by competent developers with no sense of direction. The game’s character design is fantastic, releasing with a very diverse cast with unique personalities and fun voice acting. It was a bold and unprecedented choice to make the obligatory “I have an assault rifle and can sprint” hero, Mendoza, a person of color. Each of the characters’ abilities are unique and serve a very different purpose, but the balance is horrendous so certain characters are just outright useless compared to others, and their abilities are incredibly intuitive. The game’s art style is very well polished, and the game ran phenomenally on my computer at the highest graphics settings, but the anti-aliasing doesn’t seem to work very well, so the game is often a pixelated mess on my 4K monitor.

Crucible is the first video game to feature a character with Hawaiian Uhi (tattoos) since Far Cry 3 awkwardly gave them to a white guy.
Crucible is the first video game to feature a character with Hawaiian Uhi (tattoos) since Far Cry 3 awkwardly gave them to a white guy.
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There is no one issue which I can define as the most egregious, because its all just so depressingly bad.

The game is extremely inaccessible, which is a death sentence for a free-to-play game. Match times are extremely long, with queues lasting longer than ten minutes. In order to learn each of the game’s heroes, I have to go through multiple loading screens just to change heroes in the training mode. The nuances of each character’s abilities is under explained, which makes using them confusing. There is no semblance of balance between each character, so new players may choose a terrible character for their first match, then get absolutely destroyed by one of the obviously better choices. The characters are designed in such a manner that they all have their own strengths and weaknesses, but if I play the hero Tosca, whose shotgun shoots acid bullets and can teleport constantly, there is zero chance I’ll lose to the melee-only character rakahl, whose only ranged attack has a long cool down timer, and moves at a quarter the speed of Tosca. This kind of difference in strengths makes the battle royale an absolute nightmare and invalidates half of the entire game at worst, and makes half the game’s heroes worthless at best.

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Worst of all, there is literally zero communication in Crucible. That is not a complaint against the games playerbase, I’m being very literal. There is no in-game text chat, or voice chat. There is a ping system, but not only is there a punishingly low limit to how many pings you can use in a short time, they’re almost worthless in Crucible, as the map and character design rejects the fast combat of games like Apex Legends, where teammates can quickly respond to pings. There is objectively no way for a player to learn how to play this game well besides trial by error, or consulting other people’s experience outside the game. Forcing new players to put this much effort into learning how a mediocre game works is the worst possible way to retain a playerbase. The game’s official youtube channel does a better job explaining each character and their abilities better than every bit of information in the game, but I never would have found these videos had I not spent ten minutes looking for them. Even then, there’s so much about the game’s base mechanics I still haven’t learned, and based on the experience I had in the hours I played Crucible, I don’t think I’ll ever care to.

You cannot have an e-sport with zero communication. Its unclear if this is because the developers were unable or unwilling to develop measures to counter toxicity, or if they genuinely didn’t have the time or skills to program what is essentially a core mechanic of every multiplayer game ever made. There is no circumstance under which a game developed by Amazon, a literal trillion-dollar company, can reasonably justify not including any form of chat in Crucible.

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Crucible also has a “battlepass” system, which can be seen in other massively succesful games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare or Fortnite. In this system, players can pay for the opportunity to unlock skins and other cosmetic items. This is most likely what will kill the game. Battlepasses rely on established playerbases enjoying the game to such a degree that they would pay to support the developers and unlock items for characters they’re already invested in, or for new ones that are cool and unique enough that they would distinguish the player in-game. None of that interest is in Crucible’s battlepass, especially since the admittedly great emotes and skins for each hero are far and few between the generic sprays and in-game currencies. For the most part, you’re spending ten dollars on a lot of work to get a few nice skins for characters who are in no way at all fun to play as. I seriously doubt many people will spend money on this, particularly since it seems that anyone who plays the game within the first ten days of its release gets enough in-game currency for free so they can get the battlepass without paying. I guess this was a sort of ploy to get people to like the battlepass right off the bat, but this game isn’t exactly an addictive drug, so I have no idea what kind of good making the game’s first bit of income a freebie will do.

In the end, Crucible feels like the same game we’ve seen released over and over for what feels like the past decade: a walking advertisement campaign that turns out to be nothing more than a petri dish of mechanics taken from other much better shooters. Its a shame, because the developers clearly cared, having put so much effort into the game’s characters and their design, but either a lack of leadership or horrendous interference in the game’s design by executives has produced another hero-shooter that’s doomed to fail unless Amazon Games Studios makes big changes very fast.

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Have a story you want told? See a game you want to know more about? Contact the author of this post via his e-mail at babrishamchian@gmail.com or tweet him @Geo_star101

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