XING: The Land Beyond – Preview

Title   XING: The Land Beyond
Developer  White Lotus Interactive
Publisher  White Lotus Interactive
Platform  Windows PC, Oculus Rift
Genre  First Person Exploration
Release Date  2014
Official Site

The quote ‘a diamond in the rough’ is one taken straight out of my favourite Disney film, and is very apt when discussing XING: The Land Beyond – an interesting title that I stumbled across while scouring the rough undergrowth that is E3′s show floor. I had certainly never heard of it before and, although the look of it didn’t immediately sink its claws in, the offer of playing via Oculus Rift certainly piqued my interest. XING: The Land Beyond is an atmospheric first-person exploration game from White Lotus Interactive, an impressive trio of young developers for whom XING is their first outing in game development.

XING represents the name of the afterlife in the game and you are its latest inhabitant. Yes, you’re dead, and no, you don’t remember how you died or who you are, but that’s the lure of XING and, much like the excellent Gone Home, I expect it to be all about the journey rather than the final result. The developers stated that the whole point of XING is to reflect on a story that has already happened, essentially going over information and things your character has already experienced. In doing so, you will unlock clues about who you are and what your story is.

Gameplay will mainly revolve around exploring the various environments and completing puzzles in a very similar vein to the Myst games of old. During the preview, I witnessed some basic elevation puzzles, which allowed access to switches and different areas. The switches allowed for the instant change of the weather or time of day, which will alter how different areas are accessed, and changing these elements will form a larger part of solving puzzles and traversing the environments. Some more simpler puzzles involved finding flammable objects and sources of fire to light them, in order to then toss them at trees and vines blocking paths. Given the little I saw, I’d say that it’s fair to expect a full range of elemental puzzles to be included, come full release.

Probably the most impressive feature of XING: The Land Beyond is just how utterly gorgeous it looks, as it skips beautifully along on the Unreal 4 engine. The environment shown off was a jungle-meets-Aztec level, which allowed for some rare glimpses of sunlight to cascade through a mass of trees and foliage. It looks very impressive in its current format, and as White Lotus Interactive are aiming for an end of the year release, it would suggest that there is even more polish that could be added to the final product. The highlight for me personally was seeing the instant transition between day and night – it was like watching something out of a technical demo. Very impressive stuff indeed from a team of three, having their first crack at a fully-fledged game.

My only current niggling concern with XING: The Land Beyond is whether it has the ‘wow’ factor to pull in the big numbers. These sorts of games really need to hook an audience early or they risk not getting finished. It’s entirely possible – just look at Gone Home, although that was very much a success of word of mouth, and was being created by people who already had some serious credentials in the industry. I say this not to take anything away from White Lotus Interactive – their product is shaping up to be a very intimate and beautiful experience – but it needs to have some serious pulling power to stand out from the crowd and make a name for itself.

While my brief hands-on preview with the XING: The Land Beyond revealed very little (it seems the team aren’t very keen to let too many details slip out) what I saw certainly intrigued me enough that I’d want to come back and find out just what the adventure holds as soon as possible. It also isn’t exclusive to the Oculus Rift so there isn’t any reason not to check it out when it hits the PC in the not to distant future.

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