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Exo One Review [PC] | A Surreal Adventure

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I can respect a game that has a good movement system. The one where it’s really nice to control a virtual avatar in a chaotic environment. From the slick dashes of everyone’s favorite Italian plumber in Super Mario 64 to the tough hiking mechanics of Death Stranding, crossing over is something that’s hard to pull off. But when it does, it’s perfect.

It’s pretty bizarre to say that Exo One, a game in development for ages, is finally coming to Xbox and PC this week. It is developed by Jay Weston, an indie developer who started working on the gravity-defying game in 2016. As someone who started to follow development closely after it gained popularity on TikTok, I am really happy to see him finally come out.

After playing Exo One earlier this week, those movement mechanics teased so easily in the prologue demo are really put to good use.

Youtube video

effortless movement

For those who don’t know, Exo One has you pilot a spherical alien spaceship through an empty desert. You use gravity to affect the way it moves through these locations, such as activating strong gravity to make it descend a hill, then using the momentum of it to fly up and through the air. . You can then hover and gain distance to your inevitable goal.

The weight behind Exo One’s motion controls is what makes the game shine so well. Every roll has pressure and energy behind it, every slide is presented with an aura of grace. It’s a game that understands its own physics too well, lends itself well to the puzzles of trying to navigate this challenging environment.

For example, using a dune to launch your spaceship through the air and reach a high mountain is part of the charm of why this move works so well. For such a simple idea – the manipulation of high and low gravity – Exo One finds so many ways to make it interesting.

On PC it is best to play with a controller, where RT and LT are used to control gravity and sliding. It’s such a simple control scheme that doesn’t get unnecessarily complicated with other mechanisms and systems. Exo One is easy to learn and not too stressful to master either.

Credit: Exbleative

i’m sorry i really hate the asteroid level

There is one exception to this though, and it’s an issue that almost made me quit the game in a rage. There’s a stage halfway through that ditch the distant, empty dunes in favor of an asteroid belt surrounding a planet. You use each asteroid’s own gravity to propel you along the belt closer to the planet.

The problem is, this whole process is frustrating and really difficult to try and hang on to another asteroid. Reaching the last part of this chapter was really raging, as my avatar simply refused to leave the asteroid he was on and didn’t give in at all. I ended up solving the puzzle via a glitch, and I’m still not convinced you can legitimately beat it.

On the other hand, these graphics are amazing for a small indie project. Although the environments are very Earth-like, every step still feels very alien. Huge monolithic structures and unnatural pastoral landscapes place these places in the bizarre valley. It’s the perfect way to present something familiar, but transform it in unusual ways. Simply put, it feels extraterrestrial.

Credit: Exbleative

beautiful story well executed

But Exo One is not limited to traversing deserts and forests of another world. There is also a story. These are the missing crew of a space shuttle mission to Jupiter gone awry. Fans of the Observation (2019) game might see some similarities here, where the tone of the story turns to a more esoteric sci-fi horror approach.

It’s not necessarily marketed as a horror game, and I don’t think the end result is that either, but many of the narrative devices and imagery used throughout it definitely replicate that. The existential fear of seeing this story unfold certainly helps keep Exo One’s tale fresh and exciting.

Exo One is almost a perfect sci-fi puzzle game, dropped by a mediocre level right in the middle. The movement, the beauty of its landscapes, and the uniqueness of the storytelling is something that I really enjoy in video games as an art form.

The code was sent to us by PR for review.

Tested on a PC including:
Ryzen 7 3700X processor
Corsair Vengeance 16 GB RAM
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 graphics card

Featured Image Credit: Exbleative



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