Exodus 3010 (Third Review)

Title           Exodus 3010 (Third Review)
Game Type       Action Strategy
Publisher       DMI/Demonware
Players         1
Compatibility   All (but problems above 020)
Disks           2
HD Installable  No
Submission      mecha-neko

Exodus 3010 is an epic science-fiction adventure-management hybrid game for
the Commodore Amiga. As the commander of the Starlight, you must protect the
human race as you flee the destruction of Earth and travel across a dangerous
and inhospitable galaxy to a far off planet capable of supporting life.
Exodus 3010 features many varied encounters where you must negotiate trades
with hostile alien races, defy Space Police officers, loot derilict, 
booby-trapped installations for precious materials, and much more. To help
defend your ship, you must research, build and pilot many different types 
of advanced starfighters and develop prototype laser weapons and missiles. 
The survival of the human race lies in your hands.

Sound good to you? Sure does, doesn't it! Play it now, and then come back and
tell me what you think of it.

Okay, what did you think? Pretty good? Not good, then. Awful, probably. In fact,
I would wager that you had absolutely no idea what you were doing, even if you 
had the manual. You might have looked into several of the sub-screens and tried 
to activate them. If you were especially unlucky, you might have found one of 
the many ways to destroy the ship and kill the remants of humanity.

I can assure the reader that my initial description was no lie. All of those 
awesome sounding things can happen, but Exodus 3010 is going to make you earn 
every last piece of progress.

The fact is that Exodus 3010 is incredibly badly presented. I'm stopping short 
of saying 'badly made', because it clearly isn't. The graphics and sounds are 
all present and correct, the title and ingame music is as catchy as anything, 
and the pieces seem to be assembled by somebody who knew what they were doing. 
Then the game throws these meaningless images and shapes at you and expects 
you to know what you're doing. The game doesn't make it easy. The interface 
appears labeled at first, but without any sort of frame of reference there's 
no telling what the consequences of any action might be. Every single thing 
you do in Exodus 3010 is dangerous. When you're playing with the lives of the 
entire human race, things can become quite tense.

If you like your games obtuse and mysterious, you might find yourself enjoying 
the experience. In that way, it reminds me a lot of Portal: A Dataspace 
Retrieval. Because the game doesn't supply much information to the player and 
never prescribes a course of action, the player is left to decide how to 
appropriately deal with every challenge. This includes essential things like 
acquiring resources, building starfighters and maintaining the mothership. As 
well as the management screens, you have to monitor the starfighter battles 
from a strategic screen when you encounter hostile aliens. You can give the 
starfighters orders or choose to pilot any one of them manually. There are many 
encounters involving resource gathering or salvaging derelict spacecraft which 
require you to go out yourself to avoid minefields or other space phenomena. It 
all sounds nice on paper, but without instructions even putting together your 
first fighter is near impossible.

As you probably saw in the opening credits, the English translation is a bit 
shaky. No, that's being awfully generous; a lot of the dialogue is complete 
gibberish. A conversation option that might seem like it's offering a trade 
might actually be a threat of force. There's simply no way to know other than 
trial and error. Worse still, some encounters don't want to leave UNTIL you 
threaten them, so you've got to be ready for anything. I've played through the 
game once, and the game gave me the impression that the way you handle earlier 
encounters can affect how the later encounters work. It's up to you to decide 
whether that means that there's only one single 'correct' route through the game 
that gives you the resources you need to defeat the inevitable stronger enemies, 
or whether it means that you're able to use your wily starship captain skills to 
talk your way through an open-ended universe of possibilities.

The Amiga has a number of well-known and well-liked sci-fi management games, such 
as Millenium 2.2 and Deuteros, so Exodus 3010 of course appears to be a companion 
to these. However, because the player has limited resources and the encounters 
are linear and non-randomized, Exodus 3010 isn't really management game at all. 
It's an adventure game. It's a survival horror.

Because it's a survival horror, you can't blunder into any situation.

Exodus 3010 demands perfection from its players. You are alone. If you fail, the 
human race will die, and it will be your fault. The closest thing to Exodus 3010 
is 'I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream'. Or perhaps 'The Oregon Trail'.

I might sound like I'm familiar with the game but I couldn't have figured any of 
it out on my own. My progress through Exodus 3010 was a team effort. Every scrap 
of information from every possible source was scoured for details and hints on 
how to proceed. Exodus 3010 is such a mysterious and downright confusing game that 
curious players can't help but be drawn into it. This frame of mind might be 
familiar to fans of Alternate Reality Games.

In hindsight, working out how to play Exodus 3010 was way more fun than actually 
playing it. The less I knew about it, the more I enjoyed it. The more I found out 
about it, the more I came to realise that I was wasting my time. By the end, I was 
driven only by perverse curiousity as to whether or not the game was actually in a 
finished enough state to be completed.

Frankly, Exodus 3010, as it is, is a terrible game which nobody should play. It's 
broken, impossible to control, unintelligible garbage that's not worth your time. 
But... if you find yourself bored by conventional games, you might want to try it. 
It's quite unlike anything else I've played.

So how does one start to figure out Exodus 3010?

The word that immediately comes to mind is 'carefully'. The game starts the mothership 
in safety in the first encounter and the game doesn't proceed until you've dealt with 
it appropriately. This is perhaps the one nicety the game affords new players. Idle 
clicking, even when the mothership is nowhere near hostile aliens, is enough to cause 
an immediate Game Over. You need to become absolutely familiar with all the Starlight's 
systems and how they're used.

There's a Products screen where you can use the Starlight's onboard factory with to 
combine raw materials to produce objects. Many of these objects can, in turn, be 
combined to produce more sophisticated tools such as fighters and lasers.  There's an 
Engine screen where you can monitor the state of the motherships systems. The Pilots 
screen allows you to select pilots to fly your fighters. The Laboratory screen allows 
you to experimentally combine raw materials to produce new manufacturing options. The 
Equipment screen allows you to ready fighters by moving them from the Starlight's 
stores to the hangar deck, assign pilots and determine the loadout of weapons, shields 
and gadgets. The Message option allows you to attempt to communicate with the selected 

But what should you manufacture and how do you do it?

One thing that isn't made at all clear is how the game is structured:
Exodus 3010 is a linear sequence of encounters. The Starlight is pre-programmed to 
travel from A to Z and you're gonna bump into every letter along the way. Until you've 
dealt with what's bothering the Starlight, you're not going anywhere. Level 1 is a 
meteorite containing enough resources to last you half the game. Lucky for you, the 
meteorite is trapped in orbit around the Starlight and it's not shooting at you. You 
need to grab it. How? Spaceships!

The Starlight doesn't have any spaceships. In fact, the Starlight doesn't have much of 
anything. If you click on the Products screen and look through the columns on the left, 
you'll see you've got loads of Steel and Uranium, but hardly any Copper or Gold. If you 
click on the fighter icon on the right side, you can see in the bottom left the items 
you need to make it: Steel, Computer and Impulse System.
Building the Impulse System takes all your starting Copper, which means you've got 
-exactly- enough resources to build -one- Blue Giant Fighter, the weakest of the three 
fighters. If you somehow manage to blow up the only Blue Giant Fighter, destroy the 
meteorite or otherwise waste the resources you have, the Starlight will immediately 
self-destruct without warning.

Let me repeat that. If you make one mistake, the ship containing the last of the human 
race self-destructs. This is what passes for a tutorial in the Exodus 3010 universe.

Although you can take control of a ship yourself, you still need a human pilot in the 
seat. To ready a pilot, you need to use the Pilots screen. The two row of rectangles 
represent the physical pilots you can thaw from cryostasis. The second row of rectangles 
represents abiliy tapes: additional stats used to produce a pilot, meaningless because 
the Exodus 3010 AI is dumb as a brick. To thaw a pilot, you select both a pilot and an 
ability tape and click the Thaw button.

To put the man in the ship, click on the Equipment button. The cells at the top of the 
screen are spaces for your ships. Click Add Blue to move the newly produced Blue Giant 
Fighter from stores to an empty cell. Click the ship icon to select it, then click 
Pilots to cycle through the pilots you've thawed, then click the zoomed in image of the 
ship to add the pilot to the ship.

To launch the ship towards the meteorite, return to the main screen, then click the 
small dot circling the Starlight in the radar in the top left of the screen. With the 
meteorite selected, return to the Equipment screen, then right click on the small ship 
icon to select it for launch. When the red triangles appear around the ship, you can 
click Start to launch the selected ships at the object you selected on the main screen.

Now you can see the bewildering strategy screen. The ten boxes on the outer edge of the 
screen follow the ten ships you've sent out on the current mission. The box to the left 
of the options shows the overall map from above. Mission space is like a big flat box. 
It's very wide and very deep, but not very tall. The Fight, Wait and Return buttons give 
orders to the currently selected ship. Right clicking a ship lets you take direct 
control of the ship from a first person cockpit view.

From the cockpit, Tab returns you to the strategy screen. Use the mouse to turn and alter
the altitude of the ship. Right mouse boosts.
The radar in the centre shows all the objects in your vicinity, and you can change the 
zoom with F9 and F10. Your objective is to travel to the two objects distant from your 
current location and capture them. If you approach the markers on the radar, you will see 
them as spinning grey diamonds in space. To tractor beam an object, centre it in your view 
and press the T key. When the object has successfully been tractored, it will move above 
you and begin to follow you. If you press T again, you'll release the object. To capture 
the object, you need to return it to the Starlight. The Starlight itself appears as a small 
flying saucer-like object with a blinking red light on top of it. To return objects to the 
Starlight, you need to fly into the spinning wireframe pyramid that's nearby. You can also 
exit the cockpit and order the ship to Return instead.

When all the ships are either returned to Starlight or destroyed, the game will switch back 
to the management screen. If you successfully captured the meteorite, you'll be shown a 
report saying what resources you gained. Now head back out there and get the other meteorite!

If you can get this far, you're ahead of 99% of Exodus 3010 players.
There's more to it, sure, but if you managed to get the meteorite, you've seen enough of the 
game to get to grips with how its crazy mind works. It doesn't get any easier. Treat it like 
an adventure game rather than a strategy or management game, and don't be afraid to ask for 
help. It's certainly not a fast paced first-person space dogfighting sim.  Later levels have 
spinning rings of mines to avoid, which requires absolute precision with both mouse and 
There's encounters with multiple enemies over which you have very little influence due to the 
binary Fight/Don't Fight AI commands and the awful, slow manual controls. Even when you win 
the encounter, there's the ever present threat of your own ships crashing into each other 
when they all try to head for the pyramid simultaneously to return to base. And sometimes the 
game simply crashes, which is nice.
I can tell you that the fragile thread tying each event of the game to the next is strong 
enough to allow a sufficiently dedicated, and perhaps a little unhinged, player to complete 
the game, but -only just-.

May the fates watch over you if you decide to play this thing on an Amiga for real.

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