Amazon Games' hero-shooter Crucible fails to leave a lasting impression

Jack Webb
Summer uses flamethrowers as her main weapon: Amazon Games

Crucible is a free-to-play shooter by Amazon Games and Seattle-based Relentless Studios, but does it bring anything new to the massively saturated genre?

We took part in a demo session with the developers of Crucible, where we tried out all the main modes available and get a feel for all the diverse characters.

It has to be said that the developers of the game are so clearly passionate about what they've made, and sharing that joy while playing made for a wonderful experience.

Passion for your game, however, only goes so far when the game is, at best, fairly okay with small moments of genuine thrill.

Bugg tends to some flowers (Amazon Games)

Like every hero-shooter you've played

The first time you play, you'll immediately recognise the similarities and style to almost every other hero-shooter you've played, apart from the third-person perspective.

The biggest difference is the huge player vs environment (PvE) aspects of each of the three game modes available, which see you drop into competitive games where you'll immediately want to level up by killing NPC monsters before engaging with rival player squads at all.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the game was a co-op PvE experience, considering how much emphasis is placed on levelling up, increasing your damage, speed and healing.

Gunplay and movement are sluggish and unsatisfying, becoming more of a frustration than anything else, especially when you compare these aspects to the other games out there that Crucible hopes to de-throne. But due to the less competitive tone of the game overall, maybe this suits it better.

Crucible isn't a hard game to grasp by any means, but there's too much going on taken from other games and implemented in a way that doesn't do it any favours.

The PvE aspect, for example, feels more like a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game which definitely has the potential to lead to some more strategic plays as you'd see in Dota, but it quickly begins to feel out of place and takes away from the overall PvP (player vs player) experience, especially in the Harvester Commander mode where it could be scrapped entirely.

As well, one of the biggest issues with Crucible is that the game feels it has been spread too thin, leaving you wishing that the developers had focused on making the gameplay much tighter, instead of bending over backwards to essentially re-invent the wheel.​

Free-to-play PC hero shooter Crucible will launch May 20 (Amazon Games)

An impressive roster of heroes

As you'd expect, the roster of heroes is impressive and they're all beautifully animated and have an extremely nuanced presentation, for example, one character Earl is your average USA truck driver, just in alien form who broke down while travelling and turned his vehicle's engine into his weapon.

While different genres, when you look at hero-shooter characters in Apex Legends, for example, you do feel emotionally attached to them, because their personalities come through so much more while you play.

This was clearly intended in Crucible, but it never shines while playing. They fail to prove to the player that they are different, dynamic heroes, despite the different play styles they all represent, how they look and their loadouts.

The hunter heroes all play differently for sure, and it's impressive how Crucible veers away from shoehorning any specific hunter into roles like dps (damage per second), tank, healer/support and instead balance them all out perfectly.

Out of the three modes we played – Heart of the Hive, Alpha Hunters and Harvester Command – the duos mode in Alpha Hunters was the most redeeming feature of the game.

To betray, or not to betray

Alpha Hunters pit eight teams of two against each other to be the last team standing... but that's not the only aspect. If your original partner happens to die and you survive, you have the chance to send a signal of friendship to any other players you encounter.

Ultimately it is up to you if you want to team up with someone and subsequently betray them, or ride out the rest of the match together, but this dynamic is an excellent addition to any team-based shooter.

Crucible is Amazon Games’ first AAA video game launch (Amazon Games)

It does a lot to make the whole experience more suspenseful because you could be betrayed at any moment.

This system adds an excellent dynamic and it wouldn't be surprising to see some of these more PvE and sneaky tactics used in future shooter games. Regardless, it is the best part about Crucible at the moment.

When you look at the competition Crucible is up against – Valorant, Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, even Team Fortress – it is left wanting.

There might be some small parts of the game which are done exceptionally well, with tense moments in Heart of the Hive as an example, but it is unlikely this will be enough to persuade players to stick with it.

Maybe with some time and care, people will be willing to invest in Crucible, but at this point, with the paid battle pass and all, that seems unlikely to happen right away.

To Relentless Studios' credit, the whole base experience of the game is free, with no characters or abilities locked behind paywalls. The only items you can buy have no impact on gameplay and will only serve as cosmetics.

But just because it does things differently, doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a try. The game is entirely free so there's no reason to not check it out for yourself.

Amazon Games' Crucible is free to play and goes live today, May 20, download it here.

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