DE-EXIT Eternal Matters review: Another life
Death is a common occurrence in video games - if not a commonly explored theme. If we could see our total kill count across every game we have ever played, we might start to feel a little weird about this hobby as a whole. Trivializing death is a big part of what video games do, and it is rare if ever that we see one try to approach the subject from a different perspective.
De-Exit: Eternal Matters is an action-adventure game set in the afterlife. The afterlife in this story is called the Plane of Memory, a place where the dead go to live in potential perpetuity as voxel-rendered skeleton people. This realm is not immune to danger, and corruption threatens to destroy it entirely.
Despite minimal and occasionally repetitive gameplay, the look, sound, and story of De-Exit Eternal Matters shine through. The metaphors may not be the deepest, but the message of hope and perseverance rings true.
The Plane of Memory relies on its Guardians, seven souls that are granted the power to fight the corruption. You play as a Lux, a recently deceased soul with the potential to become one of these posthumous Power Rangers. Unfortunately, your timing was awful and you arrived just in time to witness an ex-Guardian's attempt to destroy the Plane of Memory.
Thrown into the fray, you must hit the ground running with all your heroic potential, join the fight against the evil Donovan, and save the afterlife from extinction. It is your classic action story set-up, but with the added wrinkle that you are already dead. As it happens, the stakes of the apocalypse aren't quite the same for folks who have already died once.
You will journey across several different regions to restore the power that protects the Plane of Memories. As you do, you will traverse challenging terrain, sneak passed invisible monsters, and use the various abilities you gain to solve puzzles. De-Exit is a true adventure game- lots of set pieces that are mechanically quite simple, as each aspect of gameplay exists to serve the story.
Overall this is the weakest aspect of the game, the gameplay really isn't anything new or different. There isn't much of a cohesive design to the gameplay, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. For a game that takes roughly six hours to complete, and has you doing many different things during each hour of that time, a bit of variety can be great. It just means that folks who play games for their mechanical complexity are not going to find much substance here.
The gameplay really only exists to drive the plot, which is the highlight of the game. For a game about skeletons with no discernable lips, lungs, or any other speaking apparatus, there is a remarkable amount of voiced dialogue. This game could have been another indie narrative adventure with no voice acting, but the effort made to include not only voices but excellent performances, is a huge positive.
The characters you meet along your journey through the beyond are the heart of the game. Early on, you come to a town called the Nexus, where the inhabitants of the realm live. You speak to many of them, learn more about them and what makes them tick. You encounter many more people out in the wild, each with their own goals and ambitions. There is a shocking amount of life in the afterlife, which I think is kind of the point.
Entering some spoiler territory here, so be warned. The big bad of the piece, Donovan, is determined to return to the living world. He believes an old myth about the De-Exit, something which will restore him to life, and he is willing to destroy the Plane of Memory in order to get it. There is a desperation to Donovan, he is portrayed as someone who has been driven mad by many years spent in the afterlife and will do anything to get out.
The contrast to Donovan is the rest of the people in the Plane. They suffer, they grieve, but they keep going. Even though this is the afterlife, there is still plenty of uncertainty. Death is different here, but it still happens. Donovan's desperation is clearly an analogue for the fear of death, the anxiety of the unknown. The game says that death is a part of life, and we only really live when we accept it.
In stories, we tend to hope for a happy ending. We want the good to win, the bad to lose, and everyone to go home happy and healthy. Throughout De-Exit, there are messages that pop up to tell you what you need to do next, but they are a bit more directed and personal than typical video game-y prompts. They often mention rest, telling you that if you just keep going, you will get to rest after all of this.
There is a foreboding feeling to those messages but by the end of the game, their message seems clear. There is no happy ever after in a world with no ever after, there is only the here and now. Rest will come, but you need to be awake and living right now.
Live your life
De-Exit is a game with some things to say, which is always refreshing to see. It has a positive message about life and accepting death and says that the most important thing in life is to do as much good as you can with the time you have. It is a very sweet game, with excellent voice acting and some truly beautiful music.
There is a visual juxtaposition between the fairly simplistic voxel graphics and the lighting and cinematography. These things come together to create an otherworldly feel that serves the game. The unusual visual style reminds me of seeing Another World for the first time, not fully understanding why it looked so different but knowing there was something special about it.
There are a lot of parallels to be drawn between De-Exit and Another World, so much so that the game could have been called "Another Life". Fans of one of the most classic adventure games in history are likely to find plenty to like if they check out De-Exit.
Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.