Spend your teenage years on an alien planet in this narrative life sim with card-based battles. Explore, grow up, and fall in love. The choices you make and skills you master over ten years will determine the course of your life and the survival of your colony.
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I was a teenage exocolonist (which I will call “exocolonist” from now on because that name is too long) is a beautifully queer game.
Just how queer it is becomes obvious immediately during character creation. The game not only lets you choose your pronouns, it lets you customize them. You can have neopronouns. You can have he/him pronouns but use feminine terms like girl and mother. You can have she/they pronouns and use a mix of feminine, masculine, and neutral terms. Literally every single instance of this game using gendered language to refer to the mc is customizable. And your appearance and physical sex are customizable separately from all of this.
The relationships you can have with the other characters (and that they can have with each other) are also beautifully multifaceted. No romance option is gender locked. Some characters will start (queer) relationships on their own, no one is throwing themselves at your feet. There are multiple trans and nonbinary characters. One character is aroace. Not every romance starts at a high friendship level. Not every “romance” is a romance, some characters are happy to be your friends with benefits. Multiple characters are polyamorous. And some relationships in this game are queerplatonic, which is what queer people call relationships we can’t describe properly but they’re really beautiful.
Exocolonist has the best portrayal of gender, love, and sexuality out of any game I’ve ever played, except for maybe Heaven Will Be Mine.
is that what I want my review to be about? Isn’t this game so much more than just a dating sim?
Exocolonist is a beautiful game about growing up.
Your experiences shape you. The memories you make become the cards you end up using to win the challenges later in your life. I wish the game wasn’t as committed to being a game in some parts because removing some treasured memory because I need to optimize my deck kinda sucks.
This alone already tells a beautiful growing up story, but what makes the game really special is how your relationships to the world, and especially the other children around you change. You start out doing either simple tasks or learning in school and end the game doing things that require highly specialized skills. Most of the adults go from treating you like, well, a child to treating you like an equal.
Your childhood friends will all develop in vastly different directions. Friends thought to be inseparable become bitter rivals. Some go down dark paths and you desperately try to stop them, not always succeeding. But some also grow to lead happy lives and you’re happy for them.
Exocolonist portrays the journey from child to young adult, both the good and the bad.
did I just write this entire review without mentioning that this is a cool science fiction story?
Exocolonist is a beautiful political science fiction story.
You live in a Utopia that is unlike anything possible with our current technology. There are some interesting political thoughts in this game like how to encourage art in a (mostly) moneyless society, but it unfortunately doesn’t ever dive too deeply into any of them.
The game is also kinda weird about violence. It presents the positions of “violence is good when justified”, “violence is always bad”, and “violence is always bad but sometimes it is still necessary and justified” but there are multiple instances where you are forced to choose between the first two.
As a sci-fi story it has everything you could want. You’re one of the first children born in space, you and everyone else has cool genetic enhancements, you are part of a small group who are trying to be the first humans to life on an alien planet, there are cool aliens and the story explores the theme of living in harmony with nature or bending nature to your will and there’s a cool AI you can befriend and a wormhole and…
Yes, a wormhole. What was so special about this wormhole? Come on, tell the people
Whenever a game has multiple routes/endings, people will replay it over and over. Some games use this to pad their playtime, some use it to tell the same story from different perspectives, and exocolonist deconstructs it to a degree.
In exocolonist, the mc retains some knowledge from previous playthroughs when you start a new game. This allows you to save people you couldn’t save the first time, take shortcuts to things that took a long time to solve previously and just generally makes your life easier.
This recontextualizes replays from being something you the player are doing to see all the content in this game to something the mc is doing to improve their life. No ending is perfect (though some are much closer to perfect than others) so there is always a reason to come back and try something differently.
Unfortunately for this game I played it after I played Everhood, so now a story about constantly relieving your life to chase after some unobtainable perfection feels slightly wrong to me. There is a way to break this loop, but the game portrays this as a bad ending and offers you to restore the loop with basically no consequences.
I’ll just pretend that after I got the ending that is as close to perfection to me as possible, the mc decided to stop this loop. I won’t replay the game again anytime soon. Solana’s happy.
No review can do this game justice. It is far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a queer dating sim, it’s about growing up, it’s a political sci-fi story and it’s a cool meta game, but it’s so much more than this.
This game is really special. Go and check it out.