By: Brooke Fargo
Created by WXP Games, Xotic is an unconventional first person shooter blending combat, point combos and platforming. The game takes place on an alien world where a metaphysical orb’s crazed desire to become corporeal is infecting and destroying the planet’s life forms. As a walking plant-animal weapon hybrid, the player has been designed to destroy the corruption of the orb once and for all by shooting enemies and destroying numerous pustules (called scabs) that stretch over the world’s surface to allow life to thrive once again.
Levels are quick, action-packed jaunts to different areas of the planet’s surface. Players must destroy all enemies in each area in order to gain access to a portal to complete the level. While eliminating adversaries is the key to progression, getting a high points score is the Xotic’s real challenge.
In addition to destroying enemies, Player’s have different options when it comes to racking up points:
- Shooting scabs to create a chain reaction that explodes any other nearby scabs, filling a combo meter for special point multipliers. These bonuses will extinguish if the player continues too long without destroying any scabs
- Finding and destroying glowing orbs and jello-like cubes hidden throughout the level
- Collecting additional pickups through platforming
Levels also run on a timer. The quicker a player completes a level, the more significant the bonus score they will receive.
Though short and stimulating, levels run the risk of mentally exhausting the player, feeling like a shooting gallery in the middle of a fireworks display. I was bombarded by an overwhelming number of things to shoot at – enemies, mines, bonus objects, scabs. The constant over-stimulation made it difficult to stay focused on any one task.
My own actions and decisions felt conflicted as different objectives in the game interfered with one another. The fast-paced, chasing of combos for scab removal is at odds with the slow, cover-based combat. The numerous obstacles the player can duck behind for safety block eye-line for effective route planning when trying to collect points. Platforming around the cluttered landscape is slow and clumsy, with a difficult to control jump hindering speedy navigation and the exploration that the game wants to encourage.
Bonus pick-ups and a fully customizable weapon do help in spicing up combat. Shooting scabs can yield armour and weapon boosts, and are numerous enough to helpfully speed up fire fights. The player weapon has many interesting powers, and it was very handy having an alternate fire mapped to mouse 2. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to get much use out of the diversity of the weapon, mainly because switching through different configurations could only be done via the number keys, and not the scroll wheel (a definite pet peeve of mine). There was also the lack of a distinct physical appearance between the different weapon modes. The small cosmetic changes were easy to miss during combat, making it difficult to keep track of which ability was which.
Despite its shortcomings, Xotic still manages to demonstrate potential for its ideas. Bonus, time-based levels that eliminated combat and minimized obstacles were the strongest parts of the game, providing a more free-flowing experience. Combining intense, on the fly navigational planning with the satisfaction of running and gunning to rack up combos, these areas managed to stay stimulating without bordering into sensory exhaustion I raced against the clock.
While eliminating combat all-together from Xotic could be one way to bring focus to the game, the narrow, tunnel-shaped levels that strayed away from the more traditional, arena-style rooms opened up some interesting potential for new game play. Here there were far less obstacles and clusters of scabs trailed visibly down corridors, making points gathering feel like a chase. Suddenly, keeping the scab meter filled took priority, and I became very conscious of the routes I took, and the distances between the clusters. Combat took on new depth. I had to figure out my shots – did I have enough time to destroy the enemy before my scab meter went down, or should I sacrifice a couple shots and maintain my combo chain? Maintaining the meter is not a requirement of the game play, but the decisions that emerged from playing Xotic as a combo-centric game definitely made it more interesting.
Players also have the ability to create platforms. The applications of this power were difficult to explore within the busy environment of Xotic, especially with the clumsy platforming. There was potential for it, though, with its ability to be repurposed as a shield, or a wall to trap/control enemy movements. With all the promising uses the platform presented, it felt as though it should be featured on its own and expanded on, instead of being relegated as a secondary or tertiary focus.
Bottom Line: Full of unique ideas, Xotic ultimately crams in too much at once. Quickly becoming unfocused and exhausting to play, its individual elements aren’t given the chance to shine.