Exile’s End on PlayStation 4
First impressions can mean everything when it comes to games. I want to tell you about my first impression of Exile’s End, because it was pretty awful. When I started the game, I felt like I was playing what may have been one of the worst examples of game design I’d come across. Taking fall damage in a retro-styled Metroidvania? It seemed ludicrous, and my first hour or so with this title did not go well. In the end, though, I’m glad I stuck with it.
Exile’s End is one of a handful of games that I’d say is truly “retro” in its approach. While a lot of games use dated-looking graphics and chiptune-heavy sounds to try and capture a nostalgic feeling, this one goes the extra mile. It looks, sounds, and “feels” like a SNES-era title, through and through. Blocky movements, near-impossible jumps, and all of the details that made classic games both fun and frustrating are all brought to the front here.
The story of Exile’s End begins with an introductory cutscene showing a ship full of not-quite-soldiers as they prepare to land on a distant planet. A mining operation on the surface has been cut off from communication, and the operation to save it is underway. As the ship nears the planet, though, everything goes wrong, and soon the would-be saviors are scrambling for their escape pods. Most do not survive their journey to the forest below.
Once on the surface, the desperate situation of Exile’s End begins to take hold. You’re alone on an alien planet, your suit’s power is dangerously low, and you’ve got no weapons to speak of. In fact, your first weapon is a simple rock you can throw at the enemies that dot the forest floor; thankfully, it doesn’t vanish with use, so you can toss it over and over. Not too far into the game, you’ll start to come across the upgrades you’ll need to really succeed. The first of these removes fall damage.
From there, Exile’s End is a winding exploratory mission through the alien world’s various regions. You’ll investigate the mine, of course, but something more sinister lies at the heart of the ship-disabling field that’s shut down your ability to leave and cut the mine off from the outside worlds. A variety of weapons, suit upgrades, and other needed gear rounds out the experience, and you’ll find yourself backtracking some as you find things that enable access to new areas.
Some of you may not remember the heyday of the SNES and Sega Genesis, and if you don’t, then Exile’s End may never feel like much more than my first impression did. If you didn’t grow up on games that create their difficulty with simple design and limited resources rather than complex mechanics, I’m not sure how it would really sit. If you did grow up on that, though, trust when I say that it captures that old-school “charm” in a way I don’t often see from modern titles.
If you’re into the retro thing or enjoy a good, not-too-lengthy Metroidvania, Exile’s End may be just the ticket. I put in about eight hours on my run, with some allowances for getting lost a time or two in the game’s pretty open and directionless approach. Despite my flat first impressions of the game, I’m very happy to have seen it through to the end. You can grab it now for $9.99 on the PlayStaton Store, or at a 30% discount on Steam through November 1st.
Score: 3.5/5 – Fair