As Metroidvania become a dime a dozen, it becomes more and more important to inspect what sets these games apart from each other . Having played nearly every Castlevania and Metroid game (and so many subsequent inspirations), I find myself, in hand, with the newest addition to the subgenre, Exile’s End. I found it difficult not to compare this game to Axiom Verge while I was playing (as both feature a man of solitude exploring space with odd creatures roaming about). The game got off to a slow start, arming me only with rocks to throw at the small, camouflaged worms that plagued the starting area, but once the introduction was finished, the game felt familiar, in a good way.
You play the role of an ostracized Kurt Russell look-alike (named Jameson) in space who is undertaking his most dangerous mission yet. While your peers disapprove of your presence, your commander knows you’re one badass intergalactic soldier. Before landing, something goes afoul, sending your spaceship towards an alien planet. Jameson finds himself, stranded in a forest, and makes his way to a assortment of places on this planet such as “The Cathedral” and “Buried Temple”. The storyline positions you to find a way back into space as you realize the grim fate of your fallen comrades. The plot is sometimes confusing, especially when an elderly Cthulhu look-alike enters the picture to aid in your mission, out of nowhere. The rest of the story that takes place on the planet does not have much in the way of connectivity to the actual gameplay. The bosses don’t have much of a relationship to the overall game either, (giant shellfish?) and almost feel like they were placed sporadically as an after-thought.
Although the game progresses like a traditional Metroidvania, it feels tacked together at times and creates backtracking merely for the sake of backtracking. It does not do anything wrong, in particular, but the game felt unoriginal, at times. Of course, you will need to find your anti-gravity boots in order to double jump, but much of the game feels like a carbon copy from many other games. Normally, this would be fine with me as I love this style of game, but with enemies and bosses that also seem uninspired, I just wanted to rush to the next sector, rather than genuinely explore the game. Many of the game’s assets felt recycled.
With that said, the game still had the core components that draw gamers like me to a game like this; the unrelenting backtracking to previous areas in order to open that one door you couldn’t when you started the game, a retro aesthetic, and some good old-fashioned 8-bit music. As one would expect, upgrading your suit (for more life), increasing grenade capacity, and new guns are all part of Exile’s resume. Exploration to secret areas will help unlock these items and upgrades, so you will have to spend some time off the beaten path to make Jameson a better Jedi.
A few minor complaints: labeling the map (with where your exits and entrances are) would have made the experience a bit smoother as each area has several to choose from. Additionally, having a % of items collected would have helped. When I finished the game I was at 94% of items collected, and need that extra 6% for the gold trophy. As a side note, you may also play the game with a “blurred” TV effect that adds a bit of nostalgia to the mix (but ultimately is a bit straining on the eyes).
The game excels at being average, easy, and digestible, but it is also fun. Although I did die during my campaign, it was often because I was merely rushing, and never died a single time at a boss (which was made easier by suit and weapon upgrades). Despite nothing feeling truly unique, I never wanted to stop playing. I beat the game in a single play session (around 4 hours). The most disappointing part of the game is the ending sequences. Even though there are times you do not know what you are fighting for, the game ends abruptly without much of a climax. The two endings are similar (and a bit depressing), which made me care less about the experience. At the end of the day, Exile’s End offers a fun, yet familiar, side-scrolling, dark experience that is worth the couple of hours it will take to finish.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
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