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Xenome Episode 1 Review: Post-Apocalypse is Cooler than you Think

The post-apocalypse is always a touchy subject that gamers and developers alike have tried to re-imagine.  What happens once the world does stop revolving and all of mankind dies?  Well according to Xenome, the only way you can survive is through cryo freezing, or cryogenics.

And of course, you have a Union ruling the now-empty world.  You take on the role of the Scientist, who as I mentioned before, was frozen by the method of cryogenics: freezing someone so that they can come back to life after a certain period of time.  As you wake up, you’re confronted by a sort of rebel group, and the first person you will speak with is called William Tavner.

Your job is to collect fragments throughout the Xenome world to gather information about what happened during the 250 years you were frozen.  You also must find out information about your past through these fragments, and all in all, it makes for an interesting story.  But for some reason, it reminds of Avatar the Last Airbender in some ways…

Likes

Large, large world: This is one of the largest open-world environments I’ve played on the iPhone.  It’s so large, in fact, that you need pingers to get you around or else you will virtually die of starvation and exhaustion (even though the Scientist is not affected by fatigue).  Kudos to Nine Pound Studios for creating one of the largest environments on the App Store.

Ambitious: Nine Pound Studios clearly went against all odds and App Store stereotypes, indie developers make only small games, to create one of the most robust games in the App Store.  While the RPG aspect of it could use some improvement, Nine Pound Studios delivered a well-scripted story along with a ton of variety in weapons, armor, and enemies.

Story: Like I mentioned, the story is very well written.  I’m not much of a reader when it comes to games, but Xenome’s text oddly captured my attention and made it easy for me to follow what exactly is going on.  The quests are well stringed together so that there aren’t any holes and question marks when the player goes from one area to the next.

Balance: Xenome is also surprisingly well-balanced.  There is little to no grinding involved; you’re going from one quest to the other.  The enemies in the area of your quest should be easy to defeat, as they’re either one or two levels below yours.  While games like Zenonia contained huge amounts of grinding, Xenome makes going through the storyline as fast as possible a priority.

Autosave: Autosave always comes as a nice feature that should be included in every game, and Xenome does a solid job of preserving the game at the exact spot.  If you receive a phone call or even a push notification, Xenome will save at the exact spot.

Content: Usually when I hear or see “episode”, I think of short content, a cliff-hanger, and a feeling of longing after completing the “episode”.  But that doesn’t seem to be the case for Xenome (except for the last part), as Xenome could as well be called Xenome and receive the same amount of love from me in terms of content.  Don’t let the “episode 1″ in the name turn you off; this is one of the more longer games in the App Store.

Loot: There are a ton of items, weapons, and armor to collect.  Don’t forget the DNA you can also collect to acquire traits of a certain enemy or monster.  It almost reminds me of Dungeon Hunter in the fact that it contains a lot of items and loot.

Dislikes

Sound system: It would be nice to adjust the SFX and GFX of the game, and the menu options seem to be quite lacking.  It only contains invert controls and turn the sand effects off, which should make the game run a bit faster.  Still, this seems to be an oversight by the developers and should be something to fix in the next update.

Controls: The controls are really not that bad.  But it does need some work.  The left stick needs some adjustment in terms of sensitivity, and there are some times when the left stick starts spinning on its own.  Also, controls that feel more like NOVA would be much more comfortable, although adjusting the sensitivity of that left stick would be easier and more or less the same thing, personally.

Framerate: I had the chance to test this on an iPod Touch 2G and an iPhone 3GS, and of course, the iPod Touch 2G didn’t exactly work too well (since it wasn’t made for it).  As for the iPhone 3GS, this is the first time I’ve ever encountered stutters and crashes on that device.  Sure, I turned off the sand effects and everything ran a bit more smoothly, but you have to wonder how much RAM this thing actually eats up.  If Apple’s claims of the iPhone 4 having 512 MB of RAM is true, then this game is running nearly 200 MB RAM, since it’s also stuttering on my iPhone 4.  It’s clearly a problem with the game, and this is one area I would love to see fixed.

Combat system: The combat system of auto-targetting and auto-firing is somewhat flawed in my opinion.  You auto-target but must have to painfully turn around to actually start auto-attacking.  Every single enemy you pass by you have to attack or run away and hope to escape.  As for the auto-attacking, the attack button sometimes doesn’t respond to my touch.  I’m more of a button-mashing type of RPG guy, so the auto-attack didn’t fare too well with my patience.

Leveling up: This is more of a personal preference, but I love adjusting my own stats and creating a fully maxed out character.  Xenome takes those stats and automatically levels them up for you, giving you no option to adjust your strength levels and such.  You also can’t level up your special skills from what I see, which is a shame.

Graphics: You can really tell that there aren’t too many polygons in some of these structures, whether it be rocks or buildings.  Walls were also quite lackluster, and the Scientist himself was a bit pixelated and not too detailed.  I’m not sure I would want better graphics though, as the performance is already crippling under these circumstances.  Still, this is just one to put out there.  Whether you like to have awesome graphics or not is your own preference; I just found to be a bit lacking.

Menu systems: The menu system was a little bit cumbersome, and discarding items was another pain.  The inventory was present in two different menus: one in the equip menu and one in the complete inventory menu.  Discarding an item would basically obliterate the item from existence, and navigating through the small buttons was a little tough.  It’s not too bad, but some improvements to the UI would be welcoming.

For those with patience: You HAVE to be patient with a game like this.  If you own an iPhone 3GS or iPod Touch 3rd Gen, crashes will occur.  If you own an iPhone 4, framerate will suffer at times.  Walking through the empty desert also is quite tiring, and fighting is even more of a hit to patience.  If you’re not a patient person and want instant action, this isn’t one for you.

Xenome is, in one word, raw.  It’s very raw, but it has so much potential that I actually cannot wait for it to finally blossom.  The blossom part is really up to the developers, but Xenome contains maybe one of the easiest to follow storyline, the largest open-environment I’ve ever seen, and a large variety of weapons and armor.  It’s got a lot of work to do before it reaches that elite status, but the potential here is tremendous.

Xenome Episode 1 was developed by Nine Pound Studios, and I played through version 1.0.6790 on my iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS.  The game is on sale for $4.99, then it will go up to $7.99.




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