✨ One of my faves! ✨
I Was a Teenage Exocolonist is a complex, character-focused visual novel + RPG + deck builder about growing up on planet far from Earth. Choose activities and jobs, make friends, find romance, explore the wild, befriend alien lifeforms, and make decisions that will affect your life and that of everyone in the colony.
*If you don’t want to read the whole review, there’s a short version at the end, or reading the first sentence of each paragraph is a good way to skim or find what you’re looking for!*
The Choices You Make, Make You.
Growing up in humanity’s first extrasolar space colony means navigating a new world full of wonder, danger, and beauty. Explore the wilderness, study, fall in love, discover strange creatures, and deal with the consequences of your actions. Your choices will directly affect the lives of your friends and the fate of the colony. What kind of world will you help make? Will you survive to enjoy it? Why do you remember doing this before?
This game is wonderful. I’m feeling a lot of feelings now that I’ve finished, but I’m going to try and organize this into something that makes sense.
Gameplay is relatively simple, in that all you have to do is talk to characters, make choices, choose an activity to do each month, and play some card games. But I’ve never played a narrative-based game this complex!
It’s part visual novel, part RPG, part deck builder. There is a linear story, but it doesn’t work by having a storyline that branches every so often or decisions that influence a basic stat counter. There are 12 skill/personality stats, stress level, rebellion level, some hidden story stats, colony food, colony defense, and a bunch of relationships. All these things are constantly affecting or being affected by your choices. Some are easy to adjust (like getting a skill by going to class), some less so (like figuring out ways to build colony defense). There are also seemingly simple choices that can affect things in ways you won’t even realize at the time. Doing certain activities a lot or at the right times can also trigger events. But the real complexity comes from how all of these things work together. It’s really cool.
This game also has soooooooooo much replay value and even rewards you for replaying. There are so many characters to get to know, so many things to learn about the world, so many little events to see, and so many endings. Technically 29, though most of those are what career you end up with. But even that is fun to see a picture and little description of in the epilogue. (Yes, I did see them all.) And there are so many ways relationships and other things can differ, regardless of career. There are quite a few special endings too. And the premise involves the player character living many lives and having memories of their past lives, so there are certain things you can only do or do faster once your character has certain memories.
As for the deck building, you get cards throughout for challenges that are vaguely poker-esque. They represent things happening in the game, like fighting an animal or competing in a talent show. Sometimes doing well on them isn’t that important, you just can get extra skill points. Other times, succeeding might get you a bonus, or failing might have a consequence. I can even think of one time when succeeding took away relationship points, because it represented a competition and the other character didn’t like losing.
Story & Characters:
There reached a point in my first playthrough when I stopped having to really think about the decisions I was making and just sort of became my character. The way you’re with them from age 10 to 20, you really get to develop them and watch them grow, and I was surprised at how I found myself going with the flow and exploring life with them, veering from how I originally planned the character to be.
And all the other characters! I loved getting to know them more and more in each playthrough. They’re imperfect, and I love them. They do sort of have one main defining characteristic, which can make them seem a bit flat at first, but most of them had more depth and I felt for them more once I got to know them. And they have cute or interesting or complicated relationships with each other, not just you. I very badly want an actual novel about them. Especially Dys ❤️ So lonely and distanced from everyone, but also so passionate. And ok, sorta Vace too, because yes, he’s awful, but I love characters who actually admit to being wrong and try to be better (and his assholery cracked me up sometimes). (Also, shoutout to Sym, because I could not resist that beautiful alien, and Utopia, because she was all around awesome.)
Now, the dating element. You can stick to friendship and the game is no less rich for it. You can even flirt without getting locked in, and you won’t be punished for flirting with everyone. If you accidentally end up dating someone or change your mind, you can break up, no hard feelings. (It is a little weird to break up and have the character be like, “Ok!” like they didn’t even care in the first place, but whatever.) If you are going to date though, don’t expect a dating sim because there’s no guaranteed HEA. There are 10 options (4 guys, 4 girls, 1 nonbinary person, and 1 alien who uses he/him pronouns but I’m not entirely sure he has a gender), plus an 11th you can get just in the epilogue. But… Some characters are not into committed exclusive relationships. Some end up dating other people if you take too long or don’t make the right choices. Some feel very strongly about having or not having kids. Some relationships don’t last in the epilogue, or something complicates them. There are some things I don’t love about this aspect (namely how awful the game makes you feel if you try to get with either of the two characters who are clearly supposed to be with each other), but it makes all the characters feel like they are their own people, rather than just existing to date the player.
The story is interesting, but it’s also heartbreaking the first time. At least it was for me. But it does get better. Some of the bad things are preventable, you just have to figure out how. There’s a thought-provoking element to it all as well. Not just the obvious things in the story, like whether humans should colonize a new planet, but also things like how much of what happens in the lives of others is your responsibility?
There’s a lot of cool lore and whatnot to discover too. Fascinating alien lifeforms and the history of the planet.
– Gorgeous artwork, and so much of it. Backgrounds. Characters, including at various ages for many of them. Unlockable CGs throughout the game as you get to know different characters. Alien lifeforms. Art for each of the 29 endings. Art on all of the many cards you get. The graphics when you walk around and explore are cute too.
– The music was unobtrusive and pleasant. Which I think is good for a game you’re going to play so many hours of.
– The game lets you choose what pronouns and gendered words are used for the player character, with full customization. You can also choose appearance between masculine, feminine, and androgynous (it seems the only difference is hair length, and maybe a slight difference in outfit, but there’s a lot of art in the game, so that’s understandable). And you can change any of these things at any time during the game.
– Lots of diversity among both dateable and background characters! Canonically not-straight characters and relationships (and you can date characters of any gender regardless of your gender). Also characters who are trans, nonbinary, demisexual, polyamorous, POC, neurodivergent, and physically disabled. If you want to know more specifically (I don’t consider these spoilers, but some may prefer learning these things as they get to know the characters): *SPOILER* Tang and Utopia are trans. Vace is maybe trans, but I’m basing that off one thing he said, it’s not confirmed. (Well, either that or what he said was just problematic, it could go either way with him.) Nomi and Seeq are nonbinary. Nomi is demisexual. Rex and Cal’s mom are polyamorous. This isn’t explicitly stated, but I believe Dys, Nomi, and maybe Tang are neurodivergent. Vace has a prosthetic arm, and the player’s mom has a prosthetic leg and a crutch. *END SPOILER*
– You can have pets! And they make an adorable little squeaky sound when you click on them.
– You can have an unlimited number of saves, which is super helpful for planning ahead and doing strategic playthroughs when you’ve seen a lot already and just want to get the different careers and endings. Also if you just want to come back and look at the outcome of a different dialogue or small choice. The auto saves are great if you mess up a choice.
– My first playthrough took about 13 hours, and I played about 75 hours in total.
Overall, it’s a beautiful game and a beautiful story. When you’re just about finished playing, I suggest doing one final “perfect” playthrough, whatever that means to you. I’m so glad I did. Just knowing all the outcomes separately didn’t have the same effect. I didn’t realize seeing it all together would touch me so much, but it really did!
*Source/Cost: I purchased this on sale for $19.99 on Steam.*
– Unique and interesting characters
– Sometimes heartbreaking, beautiful story
– Visual novel + RPG + deck builder gameplay
– The most complex narrative-based game I’ve played with so many outcomes
– Tons of replay value
– So much gorgeous artwork
– Overall a lovely game & a lovely story!
(May not include everything)
– Can use mouse, keyboard (including one handed with either left or right hand), combo of both, or controller.
– Can change keys used.
– Can turn off screen shake.
– Can make menus bigger.
– Can adjust transparency of menus.
– Trigger/content warnings available here and in menu.
– Option to turn card-based mini games off (though it may cause you to lose some, I’m not sure how it works).
– No TTS features, not accessible for blind players or screen reader users.
Except Rex who loves them and Cal who is just a sweetheart about any gift you give him and always seems genuinely happy.
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) February 4, 2023
Look at all my pets ? (I Was a Teenage Exocolonist) pic.twitter.com/WqwM0PtbIA
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) January 29, 2023
I'm trying to decide on screenshots to include in my Teenage Exocolonist review, and idk why, but his "Get it, Sol," cracks me up every time. pic.twitter.com/TMS9JgC42R
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) February 7, 2023