December 14, 2016
Exile’s End starts out with the kind of plot you’d expect looking at the art for this game. Your character, Jameson, is part of an intergalactic expedition team that’s going to look into a strange artifact that was uncovered prior. But upon your arrival, you’re blocked from leaving due to electrical interference and thus have to explore to find out what’s causing the issue before you can leave. It’s pretty basic, but it fits in well with the retro sensibilities of the game.
While the developers stated this wasn’t created in the vein of the “Metrovania” style, the formula for how you progress feels awfully close to that formula. He’s initially unarmed and his suit isn’t powered up, so falls from high altitudes can easily damage him. There’s a minimap that helps you with navigating, but it’s more helpful once you know where you’ve been since there’s no direction as to where you need to go.
Thus, the direction you need to go towards is generally relegated by what items you have on-hand — namely what new item you just acquired most of the time. There is the off-chance that you need to venture into enemy territory where it’s strenuous but still possible, but often times this wasn’t the case and it was the former that was utilized. One thing regarding exploration that was an annoyance, though, was that finding secret areas (and thus upgrades) is a chore as there’s no graphical or other “tell” to indicate such, so you have to hope that you don’t waste a grenade uncovering them. You can restock them easily enough, but this requires farming enemies which is somewhat of a chore.
Where Exile’s End differs slightly from other retro-style titles as of late is in its combat mechanics. Since Jameson initially isn’t that powerful in the game’s outset, he needs to use whatever means necessary to survive. So while most retro games expect the player to essentially go out guns blazing or shoot-n-cover, Exile’s End encourages the player to trick the enemy instead.
There are some other areas that the game plays homage to the retro era in ways that gamers might find either appealing or too stuck in its ways, depending on your perspective. Health drops are exceptionally rare in this game and can only be equipped one at time. And while you respawn on the same screen where you died, whatever state your health bar was at is what it stays at. So let’s say you died from losing all your HP — you’re basically in trouble unless you have or get a health pickup.
Additionally, the game takes homage from the retro era in its graphics in both its look and how the controls work, in terms of how games worked back in the day. Remember how games used to have at times questionable hit detection when firing at enemies or when you landed on platforms? That’s true in Exile’s End as well down to a fault, for good or bad. Some players might like this because it brings back the “get good” era of gaming to the forefront, while others might see it as an era that’s outlived its necessity. The soundtrack, however, is one area where things come together perfectly with capturing that era and I have to give major props to the developers in that area.
If anything else, Exile’s End feels like it captures that “retro” feeling more than most other of its fellow inspired ilk of these recent years. Whether gamers will find that a good or a bad thing depends heavily on whether or not you grew up in that era and still have the nostalgia and time to invest in a game that won’t hold your hand like most modern games do now. There’s still enough here for most “modern” gamers to be able to appreciate, but it may be a harder sell than most of the other “retro” titles out there unfortunately.
Exile's End was reviewed on the PS4.