Developer: Xeno Bits
Release Date: 19 April, 2023 (EA)
Genre: City Builder
By Chris Picone, 18 April 2023
Man, how good was Stargate? It's okay, you don't have to answer. Anyway, we get a chance to play out that experience now! Well, as the manager anyway - you don't actually get to join the away teams. But you do get to manage the finances and make all the decisions!
There are three main elements to this game. The city builder, which is the main focus at the start of the game, plays out like Dungeon Keeper where you're digging rooms out of the dirt, but it goes a step further and allows you to manually furnish each of the rooms, which is neat. However, another big part of the game involves the actual "exogate," in which you send pioneers out to explore strange new worlds where they might bring back plant or animal specimens, precious minerals, or perhaps even meet some new alien race. This serves a dual purpose of bringing in resources which you spend researching and building to further develop your "city," but it's also where the story unfolds. Finally, there's also a slight management aspect; to explore deeper into space, you must unlock new character types and equipment, but of course those things cost money. To generate money, you need to research the strange artefacts and specimens your teams bring back, and then start writing patents. And of course nothing's ever easy, so sometimes your teams run into danger on away missions and may come back injured - or might be followed back, endangering your whole base! So you also need to manage your security and medical teams and so on. Overall the game's pretty damn good but not perfect - it's got plenty of polish in most areas but is lacking some "simple" Quality of Life features that would really bring it to another level. Having said that, it's only just come out in Early Access and the developers plan to keep it there for a year, so I'm sure they'll iron those last details out.
The verdict? The issue is - as is common for indie games - Exogate is a hybrid game. So while I enjoyed the city building aspect, it wouldn't be in-depth enough to fully satisfy someone looking for a city builder, but is a nice diversion while the story slowly unfolds as you send explorers out. Which means it might be better suited to roleplayers? I don't know. In any case, I found Exogate to be a lot of fun - slow, but not usually grindy, and the story is surprisingly gripping.