Exo One is quite a change of pace after spending a lot of time with Forza Horizon 5. No longer going at breakneck speeds around corners, or soaring over the dunes of Mexico — instead, it’s possible to break the sound barrier and fly high over alien landscapes.
Despite that, Forza is an adrenaline fueling rush whereas Exo One has an almost zen-like quality to diving toward the ground before soaring once more above the clouds. I played the demo back in April and couldn’t get enough of it, despite giving us only 10 minutes of play on the first planet. There was just something magic to how the controls, visuals and minimalist music all came together.
I kept coming back for more, with something akin to that ‘just one more turn’ feeling from the strategy genre at play, making me say here, ‘just one more go’. Learning better how to use the clouds to stay aloft for longer, and the best places to employ the gravity drive in a rush to the ground before flattening back out to a disc and transforming that momentum horizontal again.
The first planet, experienced in the demo of Exo One as well, makes for the perfect training ground. In which, you learn about your gravity drive — enabled multiplying the effects of gravity on you several-fold; while when disabled, you instead have gravity act on you as if on the moon. You learn to control your limited charge, morphing into the form of a disc costs this energy and when it runs out you return to the natural spherical shape.
Rolling along the ground recharges you sure, but so does enabling the gravity drive and plummeting toward the ground for a little bit, or as referenced a few times, soaring through the clouds.
Once you’ve picked up those basics, the game will slightly vary up the mechanics in some of the planetary experiences, ranging from simply a bit of wind to launch pads which can send you hurtling through space through to a level that sees you only able to activate and deactivate the gravity drive. No other steering, no glide mode, no nothing other than heavy or light — for a while at least. Heck, there is another one that sees you slingshotting around asteroids to make it to the gravity well of the next one!
If you read that last bit and thought, “Ooh, that doesn’t sound very ‘zen’. I’m not sure about that” then don’t worry too much. I’ve not found any way of ‘dying’ or otherwise losing the game. And it builds naturally on the skills you’ve already developed in getting to that point.
By the time you reach that point, it will feel second nature (once you work out what it actually wants you to do, in any case.) ;)
There is a bit of a story throughline to the proceedings. You’re looking to rescue the astronauts aboard a Jupiter mission gone wrong.
The story gets fed to you as you go, between levels or in flashes as you dip through the ocean waves or into the skies above. While the story was certainly — to me at least — a far distant second to the experience itself, I am still reluctant to spoil it.
If I was to point out any niggles with the game — I really only have one.
After you complete it, there is no ‘Chapter Select’ to let you go back directly into a level of choice. This seemed such an obvious omission for a game of this type that I was honestly confused for a few moments when, post-credits, I landed back on the menu and the option wasn’t there. I looked into settings. I hit ‘New Game’ again to see if perhaps it was a sub-menu option to this. But no, it just doesn’t exist.
Others may also dislike how short the game is — I finished it in a bit less than an hour and a half — but I think this was OK. I have no burning desire to play through the game again end-to-end immediately, but there are definitely some levels I’d love the option to jump into directly in the future, perhaps capturing some more of the achievements in the process. :)