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Review – Crucible

There really was no more fitting name for Amazon’s new PC-exclusive free to play sci-fi third-person multiplayer shooter than Crucible, whether you go by the definition of a container in which substances are melted and blended together, or a test in which different elements collide and create something new.

Crucible mashes together components from multiple game genres into one sprawling battle royale (BR), multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), hero shooter, with player vs environment (PvE) elements stacked on top of the player vs player (PVP) ones. The result? Well, it IS something new, but the problem with jamming a bunch of weird disparate substances together in a crucible is that sometimes it blows up in your face.

First off, the good. Crucible has an incredibly creative roster of 10 ‘hunters’ to choose from, each with a ton of character. Every hunter has special abilities and weapons, which – in theory – lends itself to everyone being able to find a character or two that fits their playstyle. This aspect of the game reminds me a bit of Paragon, Epic’s MOBA that was shuttered after Fortnite exploded in popularity and necessitated more resources being thrown its way. The Rocket Racoon like Tosca was an early favourite of mine, but I quite liked the melee focused Drakahl and heavy weapon expert Earl as well.

Secondly…unfortunately that’s really all I can say about Crucible with a positive spin to it.

The gunplay is fine, with spot-on aiming but little in the way of real feedback from your weapons. Whether you’re using Tosca’s acid-spitting shotgun or Earl’s gigantic blaster, AI controlled enemies just wade slowly toward you swallowing up rounds until you drop them. Thanks to the need to level up your character (prior to the match you choose from a MOBA-like string of upgrades, then you’re automatically upgraded when you earn the necessary points during gameplay) the PvE aspect is the bulk of the gameplay, so the dev team at Relentless Studios needed to nail it and they missed the mark. It’s clunky, it’s slow, and – most damning of all – it’s boring.

Combat against other players is more entertaining, but it’s a short burst of something interesting sandwiched by long stretches of trudging through the environment to find another burst of action. The game has one map, and it’s sprawling in a way that would be fine with larger player counts but just doesn’t work with the low player counts of the three available modes: Alpha Hunters, a 2v2v2v2v2v2v2v2 (eight teams of two) battle royale; Harvester Command, an eight vs eight race to gather 100 resource points by controlling Essence harvesters; and Heart of the Hives, a four vs four bout where you need to eliminate large hive creatures and be the first to claim three hearts.

If you play as one of the slower characters every death means an excruciating walk back to the front lines, and after trudging back to the front as Earl in a game of Heart of the Hives (after the half-minute wait for respawn and then 10 second wait for the drop pod to finally land) only to get teamed up on and killed immediately, I was increasingly eager to check my Steam library for something else to play.

It doesn’t help that there’s no in-game voice or text chat to help build camaraderie or a community. There’s a simple ping system, but it’s far less functional than what you’ll find in Apex Legends or Fortnite, so communication with teammates is sparse or non-existent. Given this total lack of effort towards building any in-game friendships, it makes sense that Alpha Hunters ends with the winning duo then forced to fight each other to the death.

After all, Crucible isn’t about making friends.