By Chris Melchin / November 27th, 2015
|Release Date||August 31, 2015|
|Genre||Action, Adventure, Platformer|
If there’s one thing that Exile’s End most definitely is not, it’s a Metroidvania. It’s a fact made abundantly clear on its Steam store page, stating that Exile’s End is “NOT a Metroidvania.” Not that the game makes that fact particularly clear, mind you. It’s a side-scrolling platformer with an open-ended world that requires the player to backtrack to previous areas once they acquire new power-ups and gear to access previously-inaccessible areas and find secrets hidden throughout the world.
Before I get into how I actually feel about Exile’s End, let’s talk about its background a bit. Exile’s End was developed by Magnetic Realms and published by Marvelous. The game is touted as a callback to Commodore 64 or Amiga-era action-adventure games and features art and music by some well-known Japanese creators – the music comes from Kenji Yamagishi (of Ninja Gaiden (NES) and Tecmo Bowl fame), NES-style cutscenes by OPUS (from Half-Minute Hero) and other art by artists from games such as Secret of Mana, Mother 3 and First Kiss Story.
First of all, let’s get out what I like about Exile’s End. The game looks quite nice, until you realize that there are about four different backgrounds and floor designs, just reused in different colors for the different areas. The enemies are easily identifiable and generally stand out nicely from the background, with the exception of the worms that you encounter at the start of the game that tend to blend in with the surroundings and can be easily missed if you aren’t paying close enough attention. This can be a major issue at the very start when you have no way to replenish your suit’s energy, you have no armor upgrades, there are no health pickups to be found, and you’re still at the point where you take falling damage.
Yeah, the start of the game has falling damage. It goes away with the first permanent suit upgrade you find, but it’s still there at first. And even then, falling long distances (including after double-jumping as high as you can) forces you into a crouch, and you stop for a few frames before you can move again even when there are enemies all around you. I don’t mind this in general, but it would be less annoying if you could fall a bit further before you start taking fall damage, at least higher than you can double-jump.
The music didn’t stand out as being that great, being inoffensive at best and obnoxious and repetitive at worst. The main menu and cutscene music is decent, but, overall, it’s nothing that I would go out of my way to listen to. I think that games like this (let’s just call it what it is – a Metroidvania), especially of the sci-fi variety, should generally have more subdued, atmospheric music — along the lines of what you hear in Metroid games. And that is what I’ll be comparing Exile’s End to; mainly Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion.
The world in Exile’s End is definitely open, but there’s always one and only one place that you need to go, and that place is never made clear to the player. I got stuck twice during my playthrough. Once because the game required me to blow up one particular damaged wall, and the second time because there was a boss fight and I wasn’t sure if I was prepared, since I tried it several times and died each time. Not that dying is any huge setback. One thing that I quite like about the game is that it autosaves every time you enter a room, and, if you die, you can just resume from your most recent save. It really makes many of the game’s failings somewhat excusable, especially in the early game, removing any stakes that anything could’ve had since you can just repeatedly throw yourself at an obstacle until you get past it. That’s really only something I had to do for the first (and weirdly the hardest) boss and before I got the hang of the game.
Also, speaking of blowing up walls, you can destroy some walls to find hidden power-ups, such as energy boosts, armor upgrades, or other minor, optional upgrades. This is all well and good, except that it is incredibly difficult to tell which walls can be destroyed, and often the only way to know for sure anywhere other than the second area is by lobbing a grenade at it. This is acceptable in something like a Metroid game, where you can use morph ball bombs to find hidden secrets, but in Exile’s End your limited supply of explosives are the only way to reveal these hidden areas, since the cracks are only easy to see in one area.
Exile’s End, while not something I would classify as difficult (because of the autosaving), is definitely unforgiving and uses fake difficulty to make itself seem harder than it is. Enemies fire at you as soon as you enter a room before they’re even on screen, flying enemies have seemingly randomized movement that often takes them through walls, and the game places spikes on a low ceiling above ledges that you need to jump up to, hurting you if you do anything more than a slight tap on the jump button. There are also rooms that require you to jump on a series of disappearing and reappearing platforms, with one set appearing as soon as the other disappears. This only happens in a few rooms in one area, and the only purpose it seems to serve is to waste the player’s time. Nothing is at stake in these rooms, the only threat is that of needing to redo the section if you miss the timing. The game also has a nasty tendency to hit you with enemies running down a narrow corridor towards you as you step through a door, giving you no chance to kill them before they get to you, with no space to jump over them.
Exile’s End is very short, with my play time clocking in at just over seven and a half hours, counting the two times I got stuck and had to consult the Internet to figure out how to progress, and not including the time I restarted from the beginning because I got myself stranded in the middle of the second area without the main gun. If you knew what you were doing, the game could easily be completed in three or four hours (there’s even an achievement for beating it in under three hours). Considering the option to replay it to find everything, or to try and get through it as fast as possible, it isn’t bad for $9.99.
Exile’s End is definitely not a bad game, but I can’t recommend it simply because everything that it does is done better by similar games. In a genre that contains classic games like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and newer games like Dust: An Elysian Tail, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and Cave Story, Exile’s End doesn’t offer enough to be worth recommending.
Review copy provided by publisher
Exile's EndMagnetic RealmsMarvelousPC reviewReviewSteam