Xotic is a fun and quirky indie first-person-shooter with a unique feel and a unique visual style. Though the game may not offer the best variety of gameplay Xotix definitely taps into that old-school gamer mentality of trying to accumulate the most amount of points in the least amount of time.
In Xotic the player controls an alien being whose sole purpose is to rid the universe of “The Orb.” The Orb is an immensely powerful creature that infects whole planets with its power. The infected planets become hostile, dangerous, and ultimately end up dying due to the Orb’s infection. The player must free a newly infected planet from the Orb’s presence and in turn banish the Orb back into outer space. Xotic’s story is not very fleshed out but it does offer some narrative incentive to complete the game. Thankfully the gameplay is surprisingly much more involved than the game’s narrative.
Xotic is based around the simple concept of gaining as many points as possible in the shortest amount of time. To acquire points the player must destroy “Scabs,” destroy enemies, collect “Essence,” and find power-ups. Point gathering is achieved through killing enemies and platforming, which allows the player to collect Essence and find all scabs. The player’s weapon is a kind of upgradable Swiss Army knife that can fire a multitude of primary and secondary weapons such as a single shot attack (that costs no energy), a close-range shotgun, homing missiles, and sniper shots to name a few. Each weapon type is given alien names with unique visuals, but ultimately Xotic’s weapons are standard FPS fair. However, instead of ammo each type of attack costs energy (except for basic main attack) and if the player runs out of energy than the more advanced attacks will not fire. Luckily energy and health regenerate over time, and most enemies will also drop health and energy pick-ups.
At the end of each level the player is rated based upon several parameters such as: the time it took to complete the level, the player’s accuracy, how many scabs the player destroyed, and how many scabs the player destroyed in quick succession to create “chains” (which add a points modifier to the player’s actions). Each element the player is rated on can earn him/her stars that add up to give the player a 0-5 star rating. The star rating increases the total points accumulated, which is then multiplied by according to your difficulty level and then submitted to an online leaderboard for bragging rights or for incentive to try again.
The Sights and Sounds of an Alien World
Xotic will not impress anyone with its detailed and high-end graphics, but it seems the developers understood its visual shortcomings and created a game focused more on unique visuals rather than any hyper realistic textures. Xotic’s twisted and quirky graphics certainly make it stand out from most other shooters on the market. Xotic is vibrant, colourful, and effectively creates an alien game-world that is consistent and always interesting to look at.
Xotic’s sound design also fits well with the game’s alien locales and alien weaponry. The techno sound track sets the mood without being obnoxious or annoying and the quiet but distinct weapon and enemy sound effects help keep the player immersed in the alien landscape.
The Essence of Scabs
Points are predominantly gained through the collection of essence and the destruction of scabs. Essence is comprised of small multicoloured pick-ups that are scattered throughout the levels. The player gains points by absorbing essence, obtained by simply by running into essence pick-ups. If there is a small isolated line of essence then the player can jump through the line of essence to gain an “Aerial Combo” that increases the amount of points he/she collects.
Scabs are signs of The Orb’s infection of the planet. Scabs are small, red, spherical plantlike objects that explode when shot. When exploded they cause splash damage that can damage enemies, but will also destroy other nearby scabs. If there is a line of scabs then the player can essential destroy the entire line by shooting just one scab. By destroying several scabs in quick succession the player will gain a bonus for any subsequent scabs he/she destroys. The inclusion of a bonus to the speedy destruction of scabs offers a kind of twitch gameplay to point collection that can create some fun and challenge. However, if one wants to collect all essence and destroy all scabs then one must use the games best invention: Hard Holograms.
Hard holograms are deployable holograms that can act as walls/shields or as platforms to jump on. Holograms can be upgraded by collecting batteries that are hidden throughout some of the levels. Upgraded Holograms are basically larger Holograms offering greater cover or larger platforms. When a hologram is deployed while running on the ground it pops up in front of the player as a translucent wall that blocks incoming enemy fire. If a player deploys a hologram while in mid-jump then the hologram automatically appears under the player acting as a platform. A player can essentially travel around an entire level without ever touching the ground by jumping on Holograms. Platform holograms also enable players to reach difficult locations to find hidden essence or scabs. Hard Holograms offer a unique way to travel and gives levels a unique vertical dimension that adds some much needed complexity and strategy to the platforming nature of the game.
Powering Up for Points
Power-ups are hidden throughout each level in certain scabs. The power-ups range from increasing one's rate of fire to drastically improving one's health regeneration for a short time. Power-ups in Xotic can often mean the difference between life and death so finding and using power-ups strategically is key to successfully completing a level. For example, if one finds and picks up a regeneration or armour power-up he/she should seek out enemies as the regeneration and armour can make one invincible for a short time. On top of power-ups the player can also upgrade the main character’s weapon and attributes to create the ultimate Orb fighting hero.
Weapon and Character Upgrades
At the end of each level the player is awarded experience points that can be used to upgrade your main weapon or certain attributes. Your main weapon has multiple primary and secondary firing modes that one unlocks throughout the game. The player can upgrade each firing mode up to three times that increases the firing mode’s damage output. However, most primary and secondary firing modes are largely unnecessary as the stun attack completely incapacitates any enemy for a short time. As long as the player has energy and hits the enemy with the stun attack, you could get away with using the main ammo type (that uses no energy) in conjunction with the stun attack to easily finish any opponent off. In short, using stun as a secondary firing option can make the combat too easy.
The player can also upgrade health, energy, armour, and absorption. By increasing health and energy the player basically increases the amount of health and energy the main character has. Increasing the armour allows the player to take more damage and increasing absorption allows the player to collect certain objects (such as health drops) from a greater distance away. Overall the upgradable options in Xotic are fairly simplistic but help to add a sense of progression throughout the game.
Enemies Above and Below
The two main enemy types in Xotic are turrets and mobile humanoid enemies. Turrets are perhaps the trickiest enemies because they are often cleverly placed in hard to reach areas and can blend into the background making them difficult to see. Humanoid enemies are not very intelligent but can be difficult if one is without any power-ups or energy but if the player has full energy and health then he/she can easily kill almost any enemy. Sometimes the most difficult part about combat is locating the enemies. Thankfully the game offers a small red dot that circles the crosshairs to indicate where the closest enemy is in relation to the player. The inclusion of the primitive radar goes a long way to minimizing frustration especially if a turret is hidden from plain view.
Rinse and Repeat
The most disappointing aspect to Xotic is the game’s repetitive nature. There are only two level types: Combat and Timed levels. Combat levels are more difficult requiring the elimination of all enemies to progress. Timed levels are levels without any enemies but the player must gain as many points as possible before the time runs out. The game’s formula becomes old quickly and though the level design can offer some fun challenges it is not enough to keep the game intriguing throughout the short campaign. The game only requires a few hours to complete so the repetitive nature is a little surprising. Also, there is no multiplayer beyond fighting for the highest score on the leaderboards. The lack of multiplayer is a major shame since Xotic multiplayer (especially some versus mode) would be a lot of fun if done right. In short, Xotic is a game played for the high score and not a game played for the joy of completion.
Xotic is a fun, manic, twisted, and vibrant shooter with some unique ideas at play. Enemies could use some more intelligence and some more level variety/game modes would be appreciated. The length is both a boon to the game and a hindrance. A 20 hour Xotic game would be a grueling endeavour, but its current play time may turn some gamers away. Essentially, Xotic is a fun distraction that has the potential to become a great franchise, if true multiplayer and more level variety are added. If you are not into the old arcade mentality of getting the “High Score” then Xotic is not for you. However, if you love the challenge of being on top of the leaderboards and get a thrill out of seeing points accumulate then you should give Xotic a try.
Vibrant game world
- Hard Holograms offer some great new gameplay options
- Old-school arcade feel
- Lack of multiplayer
- Stun attack feels almost like a cheat
Quote: "Essentially, Xotic is a fun distraction that has the potential to become a great franchise."
Reviewed by James Farrington | 12.19.11