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Rating: 4.4/5 (45 votes)
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ExoriareJerradFor those of us who love the idea of digital espionage but who don't have the ability to hack our way into a paper bag, Exoriare is here to fulfill all of our cyberpunk fantasies. The new alternate reality game from Smoking Gun Interactive sucks you in to a world of government conspiracies and stands poised to keep you hooked for a long time to come.

It's difficult to describe this game with too much detail. Such an immersive experience really needs to be tried first-hand to get the full effect. Both the keyboard and mouse are going to be involved, and gameplay ranges from interactive fiction (with a clever nod to a classic IF game) to piecing together a jigsaw-type puzzle and decrypting coded messages. There's a fair amount of puzzle-solving involved, but fortunately there are forums available if you want to ask for help. In fact, registration for the forums is built into the game, so it seems that helping others and asking for help are encouraged by the developers.

Exoriare is presented differently than most games. Far from just a browser title, there's also a companion graphic novel, all of which leads up to an as-of-yet unnamed cross-platform game, to be released in the future. The first parts of the game and novel were released last week, with promises of more content to come. There's no word on how much more we can expect, or how many updates there will be before the experience is complete, but the first expansion is set to come out later today, so now is a great time to get in on the experience. While the details that have been revealed are pretty limited, the people at Smoking Gun Interactive have made it known that once all of the parts have been unveiled, they will all tie together to complete the Exoriare experience.

You can dive straight into the game without reading through the accompanying graphic novel, but I wouldn't recommend it. There's a pretty extensive background story to this game. Everything can be completed without knowing what you're doing, but it won't be nearly as much fun. This is a game you need to soak in, not charge through.

Analysis: Although Exoriare is their first foray into the world of browser-based games, the people of Smoking Gun Interactive are far from inexperienced in the world of video games. In fact, some of the staff worked on Company of Heroes, one of the highest-rated strategy defense games of all time. Couple that with a superbly-drawn graphic novel and this might be one of the most professionally produced browser games around.

With such big names behind it, the bar is set pretty high right from the start. Fortunately, Exoriare manages to leap effortlessly over that bar, in a way that's sure to make cyberpunk fans squeal with delight. The graphics, the storytelling, the atmosphere... everything about this game does an excellent job of sucking you in and making you feel like you're part of the story. Granted, true hacking probably isn't so puzzle-filled, but you'll get so caught up in what you're doing that you won't even notice if it's not exactly realistic.

There are a few accessibility issues I feel I should mention. There are some rapidly flickering images, so people with epilepsy would be wise to steer clear. Even if you're not prone to seizures, the flashing can get annoying when you're trying to concentrate on what's on the screen. There's also a considerable amount of adult language that might turn off parents or the easily offended. Aside from that, you'd be hard pressed to find any faults. Solid gameplay, an absorbing atmosphere, and accompanying media all lead to a game that is likely to become an instant classic.

Play Exoriare

Or start with the graphic novel.

UPDATE - Global Forager:

If you've been keeping up with our new Way Too Casual Podcast, you might have heard that the world of Exoriare is expanding. With the new stand-alone game Global Forager, you can take part in the fun even if you haven't played through the rest of the continually expanding game. Although registration is required, it is handled automatically for you, so you won't even have to provide your e-mail address if you're concerned about privacy. Once you get signed in, you're tasked with taking over a computer network, by making a line connecting one side of the constantly changing playing field to the other. You do this by taking over sections one at a time, while trying to get around the defending network that is trying to keep you out. You're given a number of "exploits" that you can use to try to gain an advantage, but the enemy also has a few tricks to deploy just when you think you're close to winning. The more of the network you take over, the faster you can use your exploits, but don't spend too much time trying to build up your network; after 25 turns, you're shut out and the game and will have to start over. Once you've completed the initial level, you have access to the global network, which is currently being taken over by your fellow players. You'll get to join in the fun at this point, helping to take over regions that haven't been secured yet. Once all of the regions are taken...well, it's not really clear what will come next. That's part of the fun of Exoriare, you never quite know what to expect.

Saying that Global Forager is difficult is an understatement. It's probably going to take you many, many tries before you beat the initial level and make it into the real meat of the game. And then you realize that the level you just spent a large chunk of time trying to beat was an easy level, and there are 2 higher difficulty levels to tackle. The learning curve is fairly steep, but once you play around with it a bit, everything seems to snap into place and start to make some sense. But the difference between knowing what you're supposed to do and actually being able to DO it is pretty huge. Fortunately, I'm happy to report that the payoff is definitely worth your while. Getting to participate with players around the world really helps to immerse you in the game and make you feel as if you're part of something big. If you've played through the original game, you'll have some idea of what to expect. If you haven't, it won't be immediately clear what's going on, but there are some very active forums that can help you to catch up. As long as you don't let yourself get overwhelmed by the initial learning curve, Global Forager is a great way to join up with a large community intent on saving the world from War Games-style destruction.

Play Global Forager


Is it xyzzy?


Haven't made it too far in, but it looks quite interesting...


Interesting game. I can tell this will be a fun challenge.


The graphic novel's story is very intriguing, but I haven't been able to make it far into the game yet because I find the flashing screen to be VERY distracting. I'm hoping I can get through this when I'm more awake and not so easily distracted :)


Interesting.. too bad: my english is not fluent enough to fully understand everything..


I'm scared from the lights thing people mentioned. But this is so my genre that I'm gonna risk a huge migraine equal of a hang over later.


For those of us with bad hearing or distractions part of it gets quite difficult.

Still I shall hunt up headphones and give it a go, quite an interesting experience.


I'm on to something! If people are on the forums my codename is "Rete49".

wickedcherub November 10, 2009 6:43 AM

This game is really.... involved. Quite the opposite of casual. Amazing though. I just don't know whether I have the patience or the brainpower to work out the puzzles. Generally with online puzzles, the puzzles are shortlived - look at the clue, find the password, move on.
This one is just so much more all encompassing.


Awesome and very immersive game.

Had some problems with the stages loading since I'm behind a corporate firewall atm.
Anyway, eventually everything loaded and it was well worth the wait...


Most obnoxious game interface ever.


Jerrad, a small correction: the graphic novel lists Douglas Rushkoff as writer, and its artists as Cheoljoo Lee and Younger Yang. Interesting review, by the way!


There's ALWAYS a mailbox, and the house is ALWAYS white. Although, at least here the fact that the house is white has a bit of extra connotation to it.


I agree, it's definitely immersing but far from casual. The forums are full of people scouring the web for historical pictures, manuscripts and linguistic information.

Interesting for an hour or so casually but potentially a very long time if you want to join the hunt/adventure rather than wait for people to post spoilers.


Do you get to choose your name?


I'm still at the beginning at the game, but I like it so far! The interface is kinda annoying, though.
I also read the graphic novel...

Anyone noticed how the last says "To be continued... November 16th"?

But it's probably just a coincidence, anyway.


Hey, I totally missed something

I've already pushed the red button, but just found out in the forum, there's much more to do in the field. How do I go back to the field???

Can I do that? How?
This game is frustrating!

Infant Tyrone November 10, 2009 6:35 PM

While the game does look pretty interesting, the first "game" part, GEN.HAK is absolutely impossible for some reason. The game and my mouse don't get along at all, and making it timed is even more frustrating.
When I went to the forums for help, I need to be registered to post. And to register, I need to complete the games. As much fun as this looks, I don't need the stress of a game that doesn't work.


I'm about to start on the graphic novel before heading into the game proper. I'd like to say Thank you THANK YOU for the epilepsy warning in the introduction page. As a gamer and the fiance of an epileptic, I've noticed these warnings are too uncommon on games that can trigger seizures.


@Infant Tyrone
Maybe you're experiencing some lag. Right click on the game go to settings and set the storage to Unlimited.

Well, that is if you're not too tired of the game yet.

In my case, the game gave me a migraine that knocked me down for the night. I'm too involved now to quit so maybe I'll tone it down for a bit.


Well, it's nice that the JIG community is on this game now. We'll probably get it solved a lot quicker.


I hate DNA sequencing! As soon as I get a good run with parts matching the target, I get parts that almost match it and I spend about 3-5 seconds deleting obscuring and needless pieces. And then, all I get in the field are the delete-pieces-of parts. If someone could give me some tips on this FIRST level, I'll really appreciate it. Again, FIRST level. >:(

Side-note: I stink at smilies.


I had all of the DNA in place except 1 was missing, like every time. I checked all the pieces, and none had a green in the bottom left corner, the only place a green can be on the piece to put it on the bottom left side of the puzzle. It's impossible!


@kenshiro and eedev:

The trick to that is that there are some DNA pieces which match a hole in the DNA sequence you're trying to match, but they will have one wrong letter or one letter too much.

So you need to put those pieces into the Hold Area, and delete the letter(s) that doesn't fit, to allow you to finish the sequence. You delete a letter by click the Acid Brush on the bottom and then clicking on a letter.

Hence eedev, it doesn't matter that no pieces fit the bottom left corner. As long as you have at least one piece with a green letter, you can delete all the other letter from that piece and end up with the green which you need.


The moment I clicked that link into the game... I wowed.



i have got this far:
1. i have got into the house via the window to the east.
2. i have pressed red button in basement
3. i have completed dna puzzle
4. i cant figure out password! please help!


If you need any help, feel free to PM Wikiyn39 on the forums. I'll try to help where I can.


er, Wakiyn39, that is.


after the star menu selection i found in a casual way

if you go to ech.lon(fifth star)and write on location "pasadena" you receive a voice dialogue on the bottom left rectagle

i don't think it's so random. i have to find a sense


There is a forum once you get far enough.

The only thing I would tell someone is that they need to find the red button. There are four of them but you only need one.


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