PEGBRJE: The Away Team: Lost Exodus
The Away Team: Lost Exodus is a curious space narrative rogue-like by Underflow Studios, an indie dev team consisting of Michael Brume, and credits Cheeseness as well. Players once again get to set out into space, but this time they are no human nor any life form; they are an AI, controlling the last ship to leave Earth and tasked with assisting the crew in finding a planet to call home. This AI is making the executive orders, yes, but the crew are all individuals — keeping them working together and alive is a lot harder than one might think.
The Away Team focuses primarily on narrative exploration of the cosmos, similar to previous rogue-likes within the bundle such as Voyageur. Players will assemble their crew and set out to discover planets that may be hospitable, documenting anomalies and mysteries as they go while keeping their fuel and food at an interval above 0. To do so, players must explore planets to find resources that can be repurposed, which means landing on the surface of foreign places. Planetary exploration requires the AI to organize the crew into a ‘team’ of sorts, where someone must be assigned the role of Leader, Medic, and Engineer for each investigation. These missions are similar to ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ text based games controlled by the AI, meaning that the AI is fed any information by text; and there is a lot of text. Everything ‘seen’ by the AI or registers on the crew’s scanners is fed as words to the AI, so players have a lot of reading to do. Even I was overwhelmed a few times by the sheer volume of text, and I generally have little problem with text-based games. This may be a turn-off to some players who were hoping for more of an FTL approach, so do be aware of the fundamental differences.
What The Away Team does with all of this text is create a wonderfully crafted galaxy for the player to explore. Each planet I ran into felt vastly different, from finding alien technology to accidentally losing a crewmember to a black tar pit before racing against an alien to win our freedom. There was a sense of childlike wonder, even for the crew members, as each new discovery was documented on the map and conveyed with loving detail. Crew members may even take some souvenirs with them after leaving certain planets to remember them by, reminding players of their experiences when they visit the crewman page. These crew members are also what makes the exploration so compelling as they interact with each other and talk to the AI as if they were actual people. My fondest memory was finishing a mission for one of the crew members to ask me questions in private about Earth and their overall mission. Decisions that were made weren’t necessarily difficult, nobody’s life was at stake, yet I felt that their trust in me was on the line as I answered them. Their feeling of hopelessness and confusion was something I kept with me throughout future interactions, and just made the game feel so much more alive and dynamic.
The Away Team conveyed the hopelessness yet hopefulness of being stuck on an endless mission in space perfectly. The constant need for resources was a thorn that kept me motivated, yet every new planet felt like a brand new adventure to explore. Sure, there were some redundant random encounters with black holes that slowed the game down, and it crashing randomly when leaving sectors was a tad irritating, but the dev has been updating the game as recently as October so I’m confident in these errors being fixed. The game also saved constantly so I rarely felt like progress was lost when I booted again to continue. For those looking for a narrative rogue-like focusing on not becoming the villainous AI that gets made into horror movies, try out The Away Team for some fun.
This ends Page 7! If I had planned this better, it would’ve been 2 games, but I didn’t so woops. Software coming up later today.