Alexa, play “Let it Burn” by Usher. Crucible — a new team-based hero shooter spearheaded by Amazon Game Studios — allowed me to step into the shoes of a fiery hothead named Summer with freakin’ flamethrowers for arms. Hell yes! Satisfying my inner pyromaniac, I got to set my enemies aflame and deploy fiery shields of defense.
Burn baby, burn!
But with Amazon launching its first big-budget, free-to-play video game, many are wondering if Crucible, too, will end up disintegrating into ashes, becoming the latest member of the graveyard of forgotten games. I will say this: the Amazon-supported Relentless Studios, the developers behind Crucible, have put a lot of thought into the game — perhaps too much thought.
Crucible was first announced back in 2016, and four years later, the game is finally accessible to the public on Steam. However, once you play a few hours of Crucible, you’ll start to realize that Crucible is reminiscent of many heavy hitters on the market. It’s almost as if Relentless Studios’ developers studied successful shooters and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games.There are definitely elements of Overwatch, League of Legends and Fortnite. Some may even spot some similarities with now-defunct titles such as Paragon and Battleborn.
The end result? Crucible is a difficult-to-categorize MOBA-shooter hybrid that’s an interesting patchwork of today’s most popular games.
Crucible has a vibrant misfit cast of 10 hunters that you choose from before each match.
From a Doom demon-like character that intimidates with a massive axe to an Avatar-influenced, blue-toned female alien that can deploy protective shields, you step into the shoes of a protagonist that’s best equipped to achieve your Crucible objectives.
I’ve already introduced you to Summer, but let’s talk about some other standout characters in Crucible.
Captain Mendoza is a stalwart military vet. He’s equipped with an automatic rifle that can fire 26 shots before reloading. His abilities include launching flash grenades to blind opponents, calling in a supply drop to provide medkits, and sprinting at full speed. Mendoza may remind you of Overwatch’s Soldier 76.
Earl is humongous. He’s an otherworldly trucker that would make any opponent feel hopeless in fighting against his Goliath-like frame. Earl appears to be slow and lumbering, but he’s got a massive quad cannon, which can double as a rocket to help Earl rapidly traverse the map and dodge enemy fire.
Shakirri is a multitasking mastermind. She’s a short-haired, super-fit female assassin who can swap between her pistol and energy sword. She can even conjure up a badass, reflective blue shield to defend herself from enemy attacks.
Bugg is a floating robot botanist that could be Wall-E’s brother. This small yellow bot is absolutely adorable, but you’ve been warned — it’s deadly, too. The murderous cutie sports seed-pod ammunition and a built-in fertilizer sprayer. Bugg can also plant “guard dog” flowers that will protect Bugg from approaching enemies.
Tosca is a supergenius squirrel-like creature with an evil side — she lets out a “muhahaha!” while brandishing her acid gun. She’s also got X-ray goggles that allow her to see through solid objects — she can teleport through them, too. Shouting “Eat sticky death!”, Tosca can launch adhesive substances at her enemies to slow them down.
Besides Summer, Mendoza is my favorite. He’s your typical boring ol’ alpha male, but he’s a Crucible powerhouse who’s helped me achieve the game’s objectives better than any other hero. His best asset is his unlimited speed-running ability, which doesn’t require a cooldown period.
Summer lives up to her name — she’s a combustible, red-headed champion who can melt you down like the sun. One of Summer’s strengths in combat is mobility; she can use her flamethrower arms to propel herself forward and dodge enemy fire. She can also traverse to higher areas on the map. Standing on elevated areas gives Summer an advantage because she can spot enemies from afar.
During intense enemy fights, Summer’s signature move — the magma spiral — can prevent enemies from occupying a territory. The whirlwind of fire forces rivals to scatter to avoid getting burned to a crisp.
Unfortunately, Summer can overheat. When this happens, you are hindered from firing anything for five seconds, which is long enough to put Summer in a deadly situation when she’s in combat. So when you’re playing Crucible with Summer, try not to squander her fiery talents on the battlefield.
For defense, Summer isn’t equipped with much. She has a fire-pulse thruster ability that can knock enemies off their feet while she screams “Get back!” But there are other heroes with more efficient equipment for self defense. Summer can also throw a mean punch, but I haven’t used this skill in combat. The other heroes could slice Summer’s arm off with their superior melee-attack weapons.
Mendoza isn’t as fun to play as Summer, but I’ve found myself surviving a lot longer in Crucible combat with this military hero than the quirky pyromaniac. His super-speed ability makes it easy to escape aggressive adversaries. Plus, firing many rounds without having to reload too often is a dream. Unlike Summer, though, his mobility is lacking and getting to higher platforms isn’t easy for Mendoza.
Crucible game modes
Crucible features three game modes: Alpha Hunters, Harvester Command and Heart of the Hive.
Alpha Hunters is battle royale with a twist — you’ve got to be the last badass standing and survive the chaotic bloodshed ‘til the very end, but you’ll be paired up with a partner since this game mode requires eight teams of two. If you lose a partner in combat, you can choose to team up with another partner-less solo player so that you can regain a level-playing field in the blitzkrieg of firepower.
But here’s where it gets interesting — newly formed alliances cannot win as a team (that’s only reserved for original pairs). When there are three players remaining, the partnership goes out the window and you’ve only got two options: kill or be killed.
Similar to other battle royale games, a confining circle gradually minimizes the combat radius. Respawns are disabled in Alpha Hunters game mode.
Harvester Command is similar to Domination. Two teams of eight attempt to take control of Harvesters (tanks filled with blue essence) that are scattered across the map. Each Harvester you control generates more points for your squad. The first team to reach 100 points wins.
Heart of the Hive is a MOBA-esque game mode. Four teams of four are pit against each other to snatch the hearts of hives — these are monstrous mutant plant monsters that emerge from the ground. Hives are protected by computer-controlled flying enemies, so not only will you be battling the other team, but you’ll be facing off with hives’ defenders as well. Hives aren’t difficult to kill, but as both teams flock to a hive, intense fighting ensues.
When a hive dies, you can snatch its heart by interacting with it for a few seconds. Be careful, though. During this time frame, an enemy can pull a robbery and take the heart from you.
The Heart of the Hive gives off a League of Legends vibe with its focus on powering up one’s hero while tackling a series of objectives.
In all three game modes, either you or an ally choose a starting point on the map. You’re then dropped into Planet Crucible — yes, that’s the official name of the fantasy world — in a futuristic pod. Finally, you and your teammates will scatter to find medkits and other goodies before diving into your mission.
The team-based format of Crucible is a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would be. I’ve always been one to say, “If you want things done right, do it yourself,” but when your partner has your back and knocks down an enemy you didn’t see coming, you can’t help but feel a warm, gushy Kumbaya feeling inside.
This hero shooter game only has one map. Planet Crucible is a lush, alien-esque paradise that is littered with rusty metal boxes, abandoned spaceship-like hideouts and cascading waterfalls. Luminescent hues of green, purple and pink adorn the landscape. You’ll be hypnotized by Planet Crucible’s enchanting wildlife as you navigate through rugged caves and scenic gardens.
But there is a dark side to Planet Crucible. Stompers, which look like giant turtles with wings, will charge toward you and trample you to death. You’ll also find creatures that look like botany experiments gone wrong, such as the towering, creepy hives. There are also dragon-like snakes that pop out of the ground and spit fire at you.
When you finally kill these alien mutants, glowing blue balls called “essence” appear. Collecting essence helps your hero level up, enhance their abilities and boosts their weaponry.
Fortunately, not all the plants on Planet Crucible are out to get you. You can shoot down yellow plants from the ground that can make you temporarily invisible. You can also shoot down a green variant that gives you a small health boost. Another way you can heal is by using one of the medkits floating around the map.
Now let’s talk about the music in Crucible — it’s incredible. Often played before a match, the music scores are harmonious, we-can-win-this-fight symphonies that you’d hear on any big blockbuster film during a hero protagonist’s lion-hearted battle scene against a relentless opponent.
What Amazon Game Studios needs to do to make Crucible successful
Amazon’s first foray into the major video game space is applaudable, but in knowing that the massive tech conglomerate has been working on Crucible for at least four years, it’s difficult to coddle Relentless Studios.
Firstly, I wish the in-game training environment — a mode than you can use for practice before being thrown to the wolves of Planet Crucible — was a better simulation of the wild, alien world. The training base is simply a warehouse. The training mode also includes tiny hovering robots that I’ve never seen in actual gameplay.
As this is a team-based game, it’d be nice if developers could add a communication feature so that players can ping their teammates during combat. Technically, Crucible is still a baby, so perhaps Relentless Studios is waiting to see indicators of success before investing in a chat and/or voice channel. This is understandable.
It’d also be awesome if a mini-map could be added to the screen to get better insight on where I am in relation to enemies, teammates and objective landmarks.
Another downside? Matchmaking can take a while sometimes. In some cases, it takes less than 30 seconds. Other times, I can find myself waiting three minutes.
Lastly, Crucible must offer better hit feedback — landing attacks and missing a hit feels exactly the same. So the game needs to provide players with indicators, like a sound effect or a visual confirmation, that they’ve hit an enemy.
Crucible PC performance
According to Steam’s comments, there have been reports of an error message plaguing Crucible players: “FATAL_ERROR cannot login please restart client.” It’s a critical error that has been preventing some Steam users from logging in and playing Crucible.
I, thankfully, did not come across this particular issue. But I have encountered some bugs with Crucible that were frustrating. Fortunately, they did not persist. For example, at one point, on the main menu, I could not switch from Summer to another hero. However, the next time I accessed the main menu, the bug disappeared. Another time, the pre-match map overlay that prompts players to select a drop-off location did not vanish during gameplay. Again, this was just a one-time issue.
Other than those two bugs, PC performance has been very smooth for me; I didn’t experience any slowdowns or lagging. But it’s worth noting that, in reading the Steam reviews, my personal experience is not a reflection of others’ engagement with Crucible.
Crucible PC requirements
Call me a rebel. My Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 15, sporting an Intel Core i7 1065G7 CPU and Nvidia GeForce MX250, isn’t a decked-out, super-powerful gaming rig, but it had no issues playing Crucible at 62 frames per second.
The minimum system requirements to run Crucible on your PC include Windows 7, an Intel Core i5-3570 or AMD FX-6300 CPU, 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 or ATI Radeon HD 7850 GPU and 15GB of available space.
However, the recommended PC requirements for Crucible are Windows 10, an Intel Core i5-6500 or AMD Ryzen 3 2200G CPU, 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD FX 6300.
Crucible is a melange of many beloved game elements smashed into one mixed-bag adventure. Relentless Studios pulled strategy aspects from MOBA titan League of Legends, constructed a vibrant team of kick-ass superheros that is similar to Overwatch, and implemented battle royale mechanics that are reminiscent of Fortnite.
Yes, Crucible is a baffling hodgepodge of different subgenres, but this seems to be by design. My gut tells me that Relentless Studios was too afraid to take a risk with Crucible, so instead of taking a leap of faith and launching a one-of-a-kind game, the developers decided to play it safe. Crucible, from my point of view, is a clunky attempt to appeal to everyone — battle royale fans, shooter lovers, MOBA enthusiasts, player-versus-player aficionados and player-versus-environment admirers.
In an ironic twist, by playing it too safe with Crucible, the developers may have thwarted the success of Amazon Games Studios’ first major video game release.
A blunt Steam reviewer called Crucible an ugly, free version of Overwatch with shooting bugs and plants. I, personally, wouldn’t go that far. Although it could use some tweaking, I actually had fun playing Crucible with its visually pleasing graphics. I love the challenging aspect of needing to experiment with each hero and thoroughly explore Planet Crucible before gaining mastery over the game. However, part of me wishes that Amazon took a leap of faith and designed a unique masterpiece — one that would make me say, “Wow! This is different” rather than “Meh, this is familiar.”
That being said, Alexa, play “Take a Risk” by Chris Brown.