Exo One is an action adventure game based on movement. Created by solo developer Exbleative over the past five years, players explore alien worlds, pushing forward in an alien-like ship which harnesses momentum to create energy.
The story of Exo One mostly takes a backstep to the gameplay, but there is a loose narrative thread that drives the player forward at all times. Players follow a strange signal from planet to planet, while experiencing visions of an interplanetary mission gone wrong. While it is a bit vague in places, it does tie together nicely in the end.
You navigate each planet by using the ship’s powers to take advantage of the landscape. You alternate between a stereotypical UFO-like disc that allows you to hover and shifting forms into a ball that focusses the ship’s centre of gravity, picking up speed as you hurtle toward the ground. The ship is also able to jump twice before needing to hit the ground and recoup energy.
The ship is a delight to fly, thanks to tight and responsive controls. There’s a slight difficulty curve in maintaining momentum, but within a few levels I found myself flying through alien worlds with ease. As Exo One progresses, new alien worlds introduce more difficult environments to traverse and pick up speed. This often results in losing momentum more often, which is difficult to regain depending on where you are.
This change in difficulty also adds to Exo One’s variety. Each alien world is unique, stunning and barren. Planets are covered with large expanses of land, water or mountains. There are also a number of alien-like monoliths that tie into the game’s lore, scattered throughout the galaxy.
The main objective of each world is to find a primary monolith that teleports the ship to the next world. These monoliths shine with a bright blue light making them easy to spot and navigate toward, which is a clever design decision considering how repetitive some of the world design is. Players can also improve the ability of their ships by finding power ups throughout the game. They are typically quite well sign-posted, and don’t take too much time to hunt, so it’s well taking the time to find them.
Some of the alien worlds are a little longer than they need to be and shortened journeys might have reduced some of the repetitive elements of travelling. This was especially prevalent in Exo One’s water worlds. You can’t get the same amount of momentum that you can from rolling down a hill, as you can from the waves, so these levels can often feel a little long-winded.
Ultimately, those repetitive moments are few and far between and are easily forgotten when Exo One starts to ramp up during the last few levels. There’s a real sense of tension as you head towards your final destination and journey through some stunning set pieces. Considering this was primarily a solo project, Exo One’s visuals are incredibly impressive. While some elements of the world generation can look a little bland, the game’s dynamic weather and rain system are a delight to behold and the volumetric cloud generation gives the game a real premium look.