Sharkmob announce Exoborne, an open world PvPvE shooter featuring exo-rigs and tornadoes

Do you like paragliding, exosuits, loot, and tornadoes? Do you like all of those things at once? Then you might enjoy the just-announced Exoborne, a tactical open world shooter from Sharkmob, the Swedish studio behind Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt. Running on Unreal Engine 5 and set in fictional, near-future Colton County, USA, it’s a PvPvE affair in which you roam a big ruined map either alone or as a team, fighting other players, NPCs and renegade “natural” elements. Published by Level Infinite, it’ll be a premium game with live service elements and microtransactions, and there’s no release date yet. I caught a briefing before today’s announcement, and yeah, it looks all right.

Exoborne takes place following a global collapse triggered by something called Project Rebirth, which was itself launched to stave off some kind of environmental disaster. Rather than saving the world, Project Rebirth has royally pissed off the weather and produced what creative director Petter Mannerfelt called a “dramatic playground where everything is broken and turned upside down”.

As a “Reborn” warrior akin to one of Destiny’s Guardians, you get an exo-rig that lets you jump really high, grapple onto stuff and deploy a parachute, the better to roam this post-apocalyptic landscape and pick it clean of valuables. The game is played in third-person but switches to first-person gunsights view when you aim. Aesthetics-wise, it’s sort of Anthem played to the tune of PUBG. The environment is awash with shattered, weed-hung bridges, monstrous silver “Stratos” towers, and what look like beached oil rigs. Exo-rig powers aside, you can make use of ziplines and ride around in buggies, the better to evade those pesky tornadoes.

Depending on how adventurous you’re feeling, Exoborne matches can last from 15 to 30 minutes. The win condition is simply to find something and extract with it successfully: Mannerfelt noted that “there is there is a limit to how long you can stay in, and then basically, you die”, but didn’t specify whether this involves some kind of match timer or simply the level of hazard. Perish, and you’ll not only lose any loot you’re carrying, but your entire loadout, too, so knowing when to call it quits is vital.

Exoborne’s matchmaking defaults to groups of three, but you can play alone or in pairs if you wish. The world offers a mix of mission types, including missions aimed at solo players and group activities. There are also dynamic public events that pop up in particular locations and offer especially juicy rewards, with the trade-off naturally being that you’re more likely to encounter hostile players. Some of the best rewards are apparently tucked away inside the game’s storms, which you can also use as terrain traps to deal with rivals rather than gunning them down. The choicest finds of all are located in the aforesaid towers, which you won’t have the firepower to invade earlier in the game.

There’s no character levelling in Exoborne, though there’s a some kind of overarching reputation progression system linked to completing story missions for NPCs. Instead, it’s all about equipping different exo-rigs that support different playstyles, and crafting weapons, attachments and upgrades from schematics. Some exo-rigs are better for solo play, being stealthier and with larger pockets for loot. Some are team-focussed, with defensive tools such as a whopping great riot shield, and others are built to endure the apocalyptic weather. Similarly to Anthem, gear-crafting and upgrades take place in a “Home” area where you can chat to characters about the unfolding story.

A big chap in robot armour strikes a pose against a cloudy sky and a big metal building

A low angle shot through a pair of menacing robot legs at a distant robot man standing on a dusty ruined road

Image credit: Infinite Level

Sharkmob are keen to emphasise that while Exoborne is sort of one giant loot quest, it’s a PvP game rather than an actual looter-shooter based around farming NPC attackers. In a roundtable discussion after the presentation, Mannerfelt noted that “typically in a looter shooter, you have this kind of RPG progression. And this game Exoborne is not an RPG, it’s a shooter. And I think it’s important to say that the balancing of all the weapons and all the gear is balanced for PvP, and not for PvE. It’s balanced to be a really fun PvP, open world shooter. And that makes it quite different from a looter shooter.”

My snapshot verdict: borrowing a pair of robot trousers from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare in order to gallivant around in a gloomier version of Just Cause 4 sounds fun, but I’m not seeing a lot here that I haven’t seen in a jillion other open worlders or shooters (indeed, I seem to have referenced half of them, while writing up this post). Exoborne is one of two Sharkmob games that are in development. The second one has yet to be announced: it’s being created by Sharkmob’s London team, and is another new IP.

Can’t get enough of Geoff’s annual advert hype machine? Find all the announcements and more on our Game Awards 2023 hub page, and why not pop into our liveblog while you’re here?

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