I am a massive fan of No Man’s Sky; having plowed hundreds of hours of my time into that game. My reasons for the love though aren’t due to the meeting of aliens or crafting of a base or even leveling up. Instead it’s that moment in time when you arrive in a new solar system, and when given the chance to fly across an alien planet, not knowing what to expect, taking in the wonder of it all. Exo One is similar in those terms – a game which is all about the journey as you go about traveling across new worlds at exciting speeds, with much velocity. It’s a game where the journey is the main focus but it’s what you experience on the way that makes it exciting to play.
Exo One is beautiful to look at and once you start working your way through it, will find that it becomes an easy and relaxing game to spend a few hours with. It reminds a little of titles like Flower where you are moving through changing environments. There is a story here, but there is no initial explanation of what that entails, nor any long cutscenes. In fact, it is drip-fed at the end of each level, and via sudden flashes of narrative played out mid-stage, like memories flooding the screen at times. It’s an efficient use of narrative and something that will keep you hooked, playing the game to the end. But for all that, the main focus of Exo One is easy – to move through the world at high speed.
You play as a small round alien spacecraft that is travelling over a series of planets and asteroids in space. You are completely indestructible and you won’t die in this game. What you can do though is move along the ground at a fair lick. You see, when you are going downhill you can press a button and move faster, and when you are moving uphill you can use the momentum to get over the ridge of a hill and then speed downwards again to gain even more speed. It’s all physics-based in how the mechanics work, and how you control the craft. And yes, it takes a while to get used to, but soon the skills needed fast become second nature.
The other option you have though is to glide, propelling your ship into the air. It’s here where the ship can move, catching currents to shift itself along, or to dive and glide to get more momentum and move higher in the heavens. It’s hard to describe but when you start playing it all makes sense.
Each world in Exo One can see the terrain play differently. Some are rock-based, some have lava or fossilised forest. There are worlds where most of the planet is underwater and you are left moving between the liquid and the sky. There’s one level where you find yourself on an asteroid orbiting a huge sun, attempting to get enough speed together to escape the gravity and hop between asteroids to get to your goal. That goal is a lit-up alien device that activates a sort of stargate, pushing you back into space and across the universe at light speed.
There are times when you might also have to reach several points on the planet, all in order to charge up the stargate device. But no matter what you are doing, the gameplay of Exo one is largely the same – and that isn’t a bad thing at all. It is a very zen-like experience; moving across, under, and over the planets. It can certainly be nothing but relaxing. However it is also intriguing and at times, beautiful. Granted, there are a few minor bugs and you can find your craft getting stuck and unable to progress, but during my time with Exo One I’ve failed to find anything near game breaking.
And then we get to the visuals – honestly, they are something else. Strange unusual worlds that you travel through in a blink of an eye look stunning, as you go off and discover exactly what you want. There are alien artifacts spread throughout too – huge oddly shaped objects that are never explained but can be magnificent to see. You can throw in brilliant weather effects and a light show that will remind of moments from the film 2001 A Space Odyssey. The soundtrack is pretty amazing as well with a mix of static noises and electronic music that works wonderfully throughout. There is also a mixture of an odd gibberish language, running with subtitles. This certainly becomes effective and otherworldly; a great achievement.
Some may find Exo One to be a bit too strange, or just not interesting enough. The narrative might be too disparate and oblique to keep interest, and the gameplay may feel too similar throughout. But if you do begin to love Exo One, you’ll start to understand the draw; the great experience of travelling through wonderful magical alien worlds. It’s a very unique game, one in which the journey plays as a mix of epic and zen-like experiences – a game that will give you the galactic fix you are looking for.
Grab Exo One from the Xbox Store right now