Exanima and Game Discovery

Exanima and Game Discovery

The present climate of video games can make it difficult to discover particular games. Small, independent studios are releasing games left and right. The Steam Marketplace has become a monster of a service that provides sale and access to a ridiculous amount of games. The importance of properly marketing your game and getting its name out there has become a real challenge for smaller developers. There’s only so much space on the Steam store front, and while I think Valve does a passable job of getting a lot of titles out there, there’s a significant number of others that never see that storefront. In these instances, one must take time to search for a particular game in order to find it.

Fortunately, Valve foresaw this problem, and they have created a nifty tool called the Steam Queue. Steam will generate a video game queue for you to view that takes into account the games you own, the games you play the most, how you’ve rated games, what your friends like, along with several other factors. Usually, the queue is about ten games, and the queue will cycle you through each game’s storefront. A Steam storefront has its description, screenshots, and gameplay videos/trailers. You then click on, ‘Add to Wishlist,’ ‘Interested,’ or ‘Not interested,’ and proceed to the next game in the queue.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, that’s how I stumbled upon Exanima, a unique game that takes traditional action combat and turns it on its head using physics! I’d say, initially, it’s like trying to control a combatant that decided it’d be a great idea to flail his greatsword around while blindingly drunk. In the beginning, it was quite amusing attempting to control this character that seemed to be fighting with me at every moment, but, as I kept playing, I started to realize there was a finesse to controlling the combatant’s movements and swings.

Exanima’s development background is an interesting one. Published by Bare Mettle, it is a precursor to their Kickstarter success; Sui Generis, which will be an open-world RPG. Exanima is designed to give people a taste of what their larger game will be like, and allows their fans to experience the unique combat system.

Exanima’s combat relies solely on realistic physics. The direction you swing and the weight of your weapon determine your character’s movement. While you use the mouse to direct your swings, you use the keyboard to direct how your character moves their feet. The initial effect feels like you’re controlling the local town drunk, but, once mastered, you will be using that momentum to make your swings even more devastating. You can even knock down your opponent if you have enough momentum or hit them just right.

While this system has a steep learning curve and requires a certain amount of mental dexterity, the payoff is worth the initial frustration. When you manage to use your forward momentum to crash your greatsword into the enemy, and the physical force drives him into the ground, you can’t help but exclaim in excitement! It takes some patience, but if you stay the course, you will be rewarded with a highly satisfying combat mechanic.

The game’s UI is very minimalistic, allowing the game to focus on atmosphere.
The combat isn’t the only thing that follows the physics engine, though. The way you interact with the environment is also governed by realistic physics. For example, if you’re fleeing from a nasty group of enemies and find yourself running in a dark hallway, and you run over a chair, there’s a good chance your character is going to face-plant into the floor. I’ve encountered this scenario on many occasions, and it always makes me laugh (until my assailants catch up with me). In addition to chair-tripping and face-planting, the way you open and close doors is physics-based, as well. You click and drag the doors to open them. You can open a door slowly, or, my favorite, swing the mouse really fast so the door bangs open loudly– that will scare those pesky undead, right?!

Exanima has two game modes–arena mode and story mode. Arena mode places you against one enemy at a time in a square room, and as you defeat each opponent, you are matched against harder (and better-equipped) opponents in subsequent battles. When you are vanquished, though, you begin again from the first combatant. However, there’s a twist– as you progress through, you get to keep any equipment you pilfered from your previously-defeated opponents, thus giving you a feeling of progression (albeit a small one). The arena is a good way to practice game mechanics before jumping into story mode

Story mode drops you in the middle of a dungeon, unarmed, except for your trusty torch. It’s a dark dungeon with no real direction, and it’s up to you to piece together what’s really going on by finding various hidden notes containing information, and by battling multitudes of armed undead, looting them for better equipment along the way.

En guarde’!

The atmosphere of the story’s dungeon is foreboding and moody. Most corridors are impenetrably dark without a torch. The dungeon is not without it’s well-lit rooms, but those tend to be occupied by individuals that aren’t exactly concerned about your well-being. The music and sound effects add to the tension provided by the visual atmosphere. The mystery of the story, and the lack of information given, only adds to the enigma cake. “Why are there so many wood logs in here?” “Was this an underground saw mill?” “What diabolical goal existed to where something so logistically backwards was necessary!?” I must know!

It is important to keep in mind that Exanima is a ‘rogue-like’ game. That is to say, that when you die, you start over entirely. The developers recently added checkpoints for when you reach other floors, but each floor is a huge labyrinth, and I have yet to see the second floor. So, if that is not your cup of tea, then Exanima may not be for you. However, you can always have fun with the combat in the arena, which has a pseudo-progression system.

You can find Exanima on the Steam store here for $14.99. The game is still in ‘early access’, so the developers are still adding to and fixing the game. I don’t usually endorse early access games, but I believe Exanima is a game that will prove to be a worthwhile investment. Exanima is a PC only game.

Here’s a preview of the combat in the arena:

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