The problem with alien technology is that it’s alien. The minds that created it don’t use human chains of logic, so building something out of the plans beamed to Earth from extraterrestrial origins brings a few risks with it. The Exo One spacecraft was an info-gift from the stars, but the test flight didn’t go as planned. Instead of rolling around a bit in the spherical craft, amplifying gravity to pick up speed on the downhill and gathering energy while in contact with the ground, it reached critical velocity and opened a wormhole to a new planet. On Earth the test craft looked like it disappeared but for the pilot it was a trip away from home with no apparent way back. After finding a planet to land on the options are either “sit and sulk” or “explore”, and with a series of giant monoliths in the distance it seems the best plan is to get moving and hope something turns up.
Exo One is a science fiction adventure that’s equal parts Journey and Tiny Wings. The game is a chilled adventure across alien worlds, with not a threat to be found but instead using the joys of travel and exploration to drive you forward. Rolling over the ground or flying through clouds gathers energy, indicated by the ball glowing a bright red when full, and both jumping and soaring drain the energy reserves. When rolling downhill you can increase gravity for a huge speed boost, letting up when at the bottom to preserve maximum speed up the next hill and using it to launch through the atmosphere. Each planet is a world of hills, mountains, and canyons the ship can use to gain momentum, leaping off the crests to soar through the skies before running out of energy and falling back to the planetary surface. While the object is to reach the next monolith, the point of the game is to put the movement scheme to full use while drinking in the incredible alien landscapes.
On paper Exo One is a simple game, but its atmosphere is utterly beautiful. The landscapes are enhanced by a number of camera and atmospheric effects, and soaring through or above the clouds as the light from the next monolith lights a path on the undulating landscape below makes you never want to leave the sky. Rolling along the ground keeping an eye out for the perfect launching point, preferably one that targets some clouds to keep the air-time longer, brings with it a wonderfully satisfying sense of speed, and if you get lucky you might even get a double-boost of energy from a stray lightning bolt. Find a canyon with a nice curve to its walls, rocket down one side with a gravity boost while shooting up the other side to jump off the top and the entire world scrolls on by beneath you, breathtaking in its vistas.
Exo One is lost to Earth and the pilot is never getting home, but the journey is one of flowing movement and an incredible array of diverse world with their own wrinkles to the gameplay. The demo I got to play is two levels, one of which is basically a tutorial and the other featuring an icy world of fast-moving clouds just barely clearing the rippling landscape below, perfect to launch into and surf over as they keep pace with your speed. Other planned-on planets include water worlds, a gas giant, and the latest videos have shown off the seismic activity of volcanoes spewing lava into the air. The huge landscapes are made up of pre-built set pieces linked together by procedurally-generated terrain, creating worlds with a variety of landscapes and features to explore on the way to the next monolith. The goal is simply there to give you something to aim at, but the real point is to play with the rolling, soaring, swooping Exo One in whatever fashion makes you happy.
Exo One is on its last two days of Kickstarter, and just cleared its goal. Check out the video below to see the first world in action, and head on over to the campaign to see if its something you’d like to help come to life.