Very few game genres deliver quality experiences as consistently as the 2D Metroidvania. However, Exile's End is a surprisingly average title but does it have enough redeeming qualities to make it a worthwhile download?
Exile's End stars an old mercenary named Jameson who travels to a mining planet with his platoon in order to rescue a missing VIP. However, they unexpectedly crash-land into the planet and Jameson miraculously survives. When you start controlling him, the first thing you'll realise is that he is far from capable. His defective suit makes falls from high ledges lethal and he has no weapon to fend off alien creatures. Obviously, he becomes more capable as you progress but one thing remains constant: it's a very simple to control game. All you do is run, jump, use items and weapons in your basic inventory, and interact with objects. Surviving to the point where you start to become powerful is the trickiest part of the journey which is rather interesting as games usually get harder as you progress. Anyway, the basic control scheme makes exploring this strange alien planet an easily accomplishable task.
As you can already tell, the story is quite intriguing and thankfully the setting adds an even larger sense of mystery to the equation. It reminded me a lot of playing Super Metroid but it's definitely not as immersive. In contrast to the captivating story and setting, the environments are extremely bland. No matter where you travel, it all generally looks the same. The animation isn't any better as both you and your enemies are incredibly stiff with choppy movements. Most of the time, characters just look like they're sliding across the screen with only a few frames of animation. Additionally, the sprites are unimaginative with alien creatures seeming like they've been cut and pasted from similar games and even Jameson is just a dude in a grey suit who doesn't change appearance as he acquires new equipment. Finally, the music is rather strange. As I played, I frequently changed my opinion between enjoying it and finding it annoying.
One good thing I can say about Exile's End is that it has a very rewarding character progression dynamic. Learning abilities and unlocking new paths in the process is super-satisfying. You'll turn from an incapable little guy into a powerful force by the end of the journey. That being said, the enemies couldn't be any dumber. There's almost no artificial intelligence implemented as most foes just pace back and forth. Sometimes, they turn around and rush towards you after you shoot them but they're so easy to outsmart that defeating them is far from enjoyable. Exploiting them is so mindless that I got first place on survival mode's leaderboards on my second attempt.
Unfortunately, Exile's End is one of those "Where the heck do I go?" games. You'll frequently wander around for minutes without having a clue of what to do next. Even when you do figure out where to go, you may come across a puzzle that requires a great deal of lateral thinking to pass. I'm not complaining about these puzzles because a lot of them are legitimately challenging and rewarding to solve but some of them are so obscure that they'll make your head spin. Finding secret rooms is another pain. Most Metroidvania titles implement cracked walls or other clues pointing at secrets yet Exile's End has many secret rooms branch off of the middle of nowhere with no visual indication. Overall, Exile's End is far from challenging yet the frustration factor when it comes to making progress is way too high.
It took me four and a half hours to complete Exile's End and I found the adventure to be mostly flat and unsatisfying. If you're in desperate need for a new Metroidvania then it may be worth picking up but why not just play Symphony of the Night again?
- + Simple controls that are easy to understand
- + Somewhat intriguing setting and story
- + Rewarding sense of character progression
- - Boring environments, choppy animation, odd music, and unimaginative sprites
- - Enemies are way too easy to outsmart
- - Figuring out what to do is often difficult