If Minecraft and No Man’s Sky had a baby, that baby would be Exotic Matter. The upcoming open world sci-fi survival game allows you to play as the lone survivor of a ship that crash landed on the planet Xcylin. Although you were originally sent there to harvest materials you could use for starships in the evacuation of Earth, now you must find a way to save yourself and your home planet.

Exotic Matter screenshot 1

The Good

Mission Names that Make You Giggle Inappropriately – I am unashamed to admit that I spent the first five minutes scrolling through the mission names before actually starting the game. You can randomize them, and some of them are melodramatic or strange. Among my favorites were Consistent Sunset Watcher, Stylish Earth Worker, and the Adventurous Purple Violex Liberator. But the one that topped them all and made me giggle the most? Teal Tealnut Surveyor. TEAL. TEALNUT. SURVEYOR. 

Procedural Generated Environment – One thing I love are randomized environments. To me, it presents an infinity of possibilities to explore and Exotic Matter doesn’t disappoint in that respect. The map is massive and continues to grow. But what I also love is that the world doesn’t just consist of a surface that extends into the horizon: there’s countless underground craters and crevices to explore.

Jumping for Joy – I could literally jump for hours in this game and not get bored with it. My particular planet had these odd floating mountains and high-to-reach places, and I enjoyed the challenge in making my way around the world.

That Incredible View – Maybe it’s just because it’s took me so long to escape that godforsaken spaceship, but the views in Exotic Matter absolutely took my breath away. Just take a look at these screenshots.

Exotic Matter screenshot 2

The Bad

Starts Off Randomly – Open world survival games require some structure in order for the player to get started. In Subnautica, there’s your little escape pod with everything you need and it’s a nice, controlled environment to learn the game’s controls. In The Forest, it’s, Hey champ, here’s a guidebook! Why don’t you wrestle that axe from that dead lady’s chest and go have some fun?  I didn’t get that kind of hand holding when it comes to Exotic Matter. I leave the escape pod not knowing really what to do, and even the computer logs can only tell me so much. The interior of the ship is so massive, it’s easy to get lost in it. And in fact, I did. I had no idea how to leave the ship, how to move blocks, how to do anything other than scavenge for items and shoot things with my laser. In the end, I ended up detonating a grenade that I found and falling through the bottom of the ship. What was supposed to be the sweet sweet release of death ended up being the sweet sweet release of actual freedom.

Difficult to Use Crafting System – Looking at the crafting system in the inventory menu, it looks simple enough. It lines the bottom of your screen and it allows you to use up to four different items. You click and drag the items to the bottom of the screen, and from what it seems, you’re supposed to be able to click on something and go, ta-da! New item! But I found that it didn’t work out the way that I wanted it to. I found blueprints, but I had no idea how to read said blueprints or if they were supposed to be ingredients in the crafting system.

Uh, What’s This For? – Occasionally, when I came across an item, I had no idea what it was or how to implement it in crafting recipes. I’d rummage through crates on the ship and find items like duct tape, or I’d destroy some computer equipment and I’d get things like electronic boards. In my desperate search to find something that could aid me in my quest for survival, I ransacked just about every box. I found one substance called ignimbrite, described as “volcanic eruption residue.” Gee, am I sure glad we packed that for the trip! 

Exotic Matter screenshot 3

Preliminary Thoughts

Exotic Matter has a long way to go. It’s fun to play around in early access, but I think the developers really need to develop a better introduction or maybe even some sort of tutorial. It’s not that there’s only so much that I can figure out on my own, it’s just that there’s only so much I’m willing to figure out on my own. And I’m not a patient enough person that I’ll spend an hour or so combing through website forms or Discord just to gain an understanding of how to play a game.

But I think that Exotic Matter will appeal to a lot of players who enjoy survival games, particularly those who loved the mystery and story of Subnautica. Exotic Matter boasts a mysterious plot underneath its lack of structure, and I am mostly interested in seeing what direction the developers take with it.

Also, there are a lot of things that players can do with the game, even in its earliest stage. The developers are really invested in letting players submit feedback or suggest ideas for the game. And one of the game’s selling points on its store webpage is its “fully moddable engine, allowing you to explore countless other worlds created by the community or put on your creative hat and make your own sci-fi adventure!” So if you like modding or following developing games, this might also be a good choice for you.

Exotic Matter is currently available in Early Access and you can get it on Steam for $19.99. Oh, and if you’re at Gamescom 2018, you can find the developers of Exotic Matter, MoebiusGames, in the IndieArenaBooth. Go say hi!

Check out Chloe’s impressions piece on Ley Lines.