Exoplanet: First Contact review

With nothing but underwear on and nothing but his wits, space cowboy Jack Sharp is stranded on an unknown planet. Sharp embarks on a dangerous adventure to find the bandits who hijacked his ship and left it for dead. The planet K’Tharsis, a hostile, lawless wasteland contaminated with greed and violence, serves as the setting for your tale of revenge.

Exoplanet is an early access game from indie studio Alersteam, which has been receiving a continuous series of updates since launching on Steam in December 2016. The game received its last update in September 2019 and has been in early access for over 4 years. The total number of reviews of the game is 182 and it has 74 percent positive references. While I cannot ignore progress, Alersteam’s ambition continues to be hampered by the technical side of development. What the game aspires to be is far beyond what an Alerstream-sized team could realistically achieve anytime soon, at least.

Exoplanet: First Contact review

While the story is far from complete, there is enough plot to get a firm grasp on it. After waking up with your birthday outfit, you start your journey to civilization. Along the way, you’ll encounter numerous characters and enemies to exchange favors or shoot at. One thing worth noting is that while there is little voice acting, there is a surprising amount of dialogue. You can tell right away that this studio takes great pride and joy in writing these long, lush, often awkward, elaborate lines of dialogue.

World building is one of the highlights of this game, and the dialogues reflect your dedication to it. The text is filled with all sorts of idioms, fancy puns, whimsical and sarcastic comments about K’Tharsis and the unique individuals who inhabit it. My only complaint is that many lines sound odd and inappropriate in their attempt to cleverly fill the article to the brim.

Exoplanet: First Contact graphics and sound

Visually, the game is incredibly boring, sometimes with a weird burst of vitality. While it’s clear that the visuals have improved since the game first appeared on Steam, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. While it perfectly brings out a game aesthetic like Fallout, Exoplanet’s dirty, post-apocalyptic, Borderlands/Fallout-style environments and interface look understated and unattractive at times, rather than being attractive by design.

The sound here is mixed. On the other hand, his music works wonders for my ears, but the sound effects are quite lacking. Or at least I thought they were. While they aren’t particularly high quality, the main issue I’ve discovered with the game is that any sound emitted by the player character is very quiet. The same can be said for enemies. Even if the music is at 40% and the sound effects are maxed out, the music still affects much quieter sound effects. In fact, the actor’s character is so quiet that when he says one of his elusive words, it’s pretty scary as it’s much louder than any other voice you’ll hear from him.

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Exoplanet: First Contact gameplay

To put it bluntly, I had serious problems getting into this game. You have punches and a few firearm bullets to quickly spend to take down a single enemy, and then a stick that looks a lot like your fists. The enemies are getting harder and harder.

Later in the game, you’ll find a wider variety of weapons to equip in your hip slot or two back slots, making combat much quicker and tolerable. The shotgun is by far the most powerful weapon, with unparalleled damage at your disposal. Even if the combat options haven’t gone beyond a melee or ranged attack, the gunplay means you no longer have to deal with weird melee bugs and animation issues. New enemies also add much-needed variety, but most behave exactly like enemies you’ve encountered before.

Yet why do I keep messing around with such a problematic, over-simplified combat system? Answer: Exploring K’Tharsis. Beneath its dull exterior awaits an intricate, detailed world with hidden areas, hidden loot to collect, and vast optional sections. This is when the game is at its best. Small tunnels eventually opened into this needlessly large space where the object was hidden.

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What kind of game is Exoplanet: First Contact?

The core experience is very reminiscent of old RPGs. The game is difficult and forces you to explore on your own to solve most of the missions. Resource gathering, cooking, crafting, sleeping, food, water levels all need to be managed if you want to survive. The game features unique characters, new places to visit, occasional branching paths, and a beautifully colorful quest system in tune with self-contained yet lore-centric stories.

There are lots of resources that you will come across quickly. Quests are scarce and questlines end abruptly as follow-up content is not yet available. Crafting is currently very scarce, in fact it will have significant effects on playstyle. Cooking is just as basic.

The game suffers from relatively poor optimization and bugs for an early access title. In outposts and towns, the framerate is effectively halved. There may be minor issues such as objects disappearing and reappearing, entire map disappearing due to some camera issues, and animations playing.

This game has potential, but unfortunately the scope of the game is huge. The game requires a great deal of time to pursue these lofty goals it has set for itself, leaving the game’s most serious problems unsolved. After a successful Kickstarter campaign and four years in Early Access, most gamers will expect more than has been delivered, especially after the studio’s big promises.

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