Friday, November 9, 2012


Xenominer is a voxel game created by Gristmill Studios and released on September 19th 2012. It advertises itself as being a space voxel sandbox game, where you crash land on a foreign satellite and must fight to survive the harsh space environment. With the glut of voxel games on the Xbox, does Xenominer stand out?

Behold! Space HQ! The purple is giving me Saints Row 3
The graphics of Xenominer are pretty standard. You’re stuck on an asteroid that has strange tree looking structures dotting its surface. The “leaves” of the trees are actually blocks of ice, something essential to your survival in the game. You’ll also find hills and mountains, some floating disembodied islands, and a few large alien structures. But most of your time is probably going to be spent underground gathering resources. The graphics are darker and more defined then something like Minecraft and Total Miner, but not over the top glossy like you’d find in Fortresscraft. I really like the effect of going above ground and being able to look out into the galaxy above you. It adds to a very cool atmosphere the game has going for it.

The game has sound and music, which serve their purpose and nothing more. I was not overly impressed with either, but nor was I aggravated or turned off by them.

I'm going to colonize those space islands. Just kidding, I don't actually know what I'm looking at. I don't even know
how to play video games. I really an 80 year old man who likes to look at video game screen shots and write stories
about them.
The gameplay for Xenominer is pretty typical for a block survival game, but with a whole lot more focus and polish than the standard voxel survival game. You’re dropped into a situation with just your wits, a mining tool, and a friendly computer AI who is all too happy to run you through a tutorial. This is the first great thing about Xenominer, is that it contains a tutorial. If you follow it, instead of panicking and not knowing what to do once you run out of air, you’ll figure out what you need to do to ensure your continued survival. This seems like it shouldn’t be an issue, but I’ve come across multiple people who didn’t pay much attention to the tutorial and couldn’t understand what they needed to do to keep their oxygen full.

As you collect resources you’ll be able to create items that will facilitate better equipment and supplies. You’ll first be tasked with creating a device that can use your resources at to fabricate items. Once you’ve built this you’ll need to create processing cores to increase the item fabricator’s power. More cores give you access to better items. When you start out, each core will provide one unit of processing power. Cores can be built later on that will provide additional processing power. You’ll also have options for building lights, storage units, more powerful equipment, grav pads, and solar arrays. You can also find a “Bot” hidden in your game that is a programmable robot. You can use it to mine and build structures while you do other things.

You see this other voxel game developers? This is how you
make a unique terrain that screams "EXPLORE ME BABY!"
One thing Xenominer doesn’t have is multiplayer, a common trope found in the voxel genre. I don’t feel that this really detracts from the game. Multiplayer feels like something a lot of developers are throwing into their voxel games just to have it. I really do appreciate games like Minecraft and Fortresscraft, but Minecraft was in development on the PC for a long time, and Fortresscraft has suffered some strong growing pains while it’s gone through its development cycle. I have no ideas if Gristmill Studios plans to add multiplayer or not, but I much happier having a fully functional game first and getting multiplayer at a later date.

Personally, I think Xenominer is doing a lot of things right that a lot of the other voxel games are neglecting to do. I know that companies can be successful by release a semi- finished game (Ala Fortresscraft, Mine4Ever, Block World) and then patch it as they go along, but I’m getting kind of sick of this. I liked Xenominer for its refreshing premise, and I feel like Gristmill Studios did a good job of releasing something new and original in the voxel genre. If you look at their forums you’ll only see people excited about the game and what they can do in it, as opposed to Fortresscraft which is constantly plagued by people decrying them to be a Minecraft rip off. Since Minecraft is now on the Xbox, developers really need to step up their game to compete with it, and Xenominer has done a really good job of this. You can buy the game right now for only 80 MSP, which they claim is a limited time offer, so get it at that price if you’re at all interested in it.


  1. Most of these voxel game developers are unable (or unwilling) to do much other than copy Minecraft's proven formula wholesale. At the very least, this games' sci-fi aesthetic sets it apart.

  2. This game places much more into survival than actual mining. The depth limit is pretty close to ground level for me, and I have actually been to skeptical of this dark world to venture too far from my underground server room yet... Can you say any of that about Minecraft?