Developer: Magnetic Realms
Platform: Steam, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One, Wii U
Tested on PS Vita
Exile’s End – Review
One moment you’re getting briefed about a mission on a large spaceship, the next you’re crashing down in an escape pod towards the surface of an unknown planet. Not all space adventures are about kicking ass and chewing bubblegum. Sometimes you really need to get your act together and do what must be done in order to survive in a hostile landscape. With Exile’s End, we return on a retro 2D adventure as we’ve known them on NES, Commodore 64, Amiga… Those were definitely the days where we rejoiced games like Castlevania, Metroid or Ghouls ‘n Ghosts with 16bit graphics and MIDI soundtracks. Magnetic Realms intended to recreate that same feeling and experience by developing Exile’s End. After a past-release on Steam under the name Inescapable, they put some work on improving and adjusting the game and rereleased it as Exile’s End on consoles and Steam. Wondering where this space adventure would take us, we’ve put on our spacesuits and packed some firepower.
It all begins when a group of mercenaries are being briefed on a search and rescue mission. You need to find and rescue the son of the president of Ravenwood Corporation on a small, remote mining planet. You’re Jameson, a grumpy, old mercenary for hire with apparently a questionable reputation and past, especially as you notice the hostility coming from your fellow team members. Before you’re really up to speed, the spaceship gets hit by an electromagnetic field coming from the mining planet, damaging the ship’s drive core and before you realize, you need to evacuate the ship by escape pod. Crashed down on the surface, you’re unscathed but your power suit is damaged, no resources and no weapons. Your only option is to check for other surviving members of your team and completing the job you’ve been paid for: rescuing the president’s son and extract ASAP.
The game doesn’t really offer an expanded or branched storyline. At the start, you get a short intro and most of the limited information and story-content you get, is from short pop-ups floating over your character, info you collect from terminals and from the interactions or cut-scenes with certain NPC’s. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it fits nicely with the experience of being dropped on a planet without any immediate help or info. Don’t expect the story to be Hollywood-level material although it offers a good overview of what’s happening on the mining planet and the mysterious schemes well hidden schemes behind Ravenwood Corporation.
You can finish the game in approximately 4 to 6 hours with the necessary trial and error included, with the possibility of the two endings.
As far as graphics go, it’s as you would expect of a game built with 16-bit graphics and offers some well built sprite characters and monsters, except for the environments which were a bit on the plain side, especially if you have to backtrack through a lot of similar spaces and levels. The animations, animated cut-scenes and intro were quite impressive and well made, even for a game which tried to stay true to the 16-bit era. It felt like playing on your old SNES all over again. The game even offers the option to play the game with “old TV settings” and emulate that addictive retro-experience from the old days.
The soundtrack was a bit disappointing, especially if you realize it was composed by Keiji Yamagishi, the man behind the iconic Ninja Gaiden soundtrack for the NES and other well-known classic soundtracks. The soundtrack is a combination of new wave and moody, ambient synthesizer music that gives off an alien vibe. This makes the intro theme on the other hand pretty appealing as it sets just the right feeling at the start of your space adventure. During play, the other tracks of the soundtrack seems a bit dull and even monotone, especially if you would expect more up-tempo beats and thrilling music during combat or boss sequences.
Exile’s End is basically a 2D action-adventure game that kicks off with a unique sense of “fend for yourself” mentality. From the very beginning, the game forces you to look around for weapons, upgrades or resources, having low health, energy and no items. Meanwhile you’ll encounter quite a few hostiles and hazardous terrain with a lot of trial and error along the way. Some sequences even require you to think outside the box such as using a rock to hit a switch on the other side of a spike trap while certain items or upgrades require you to do a lot of backtracking enabling the required progress. This might seem like of a demanding task at the beginning, especially without any clues or info about directions or goals. This cause of frustration might lead to players dropping out before the ending credits start rolling down the screen.
Overall, the game consists mostly out of platforming and taking down enemies or monsters. As enemies might come in different shapes and sizes, they do require different strategies and weapons to take them down. The only minor points here are the limited directional combat and the minimal camera movement when platforming lower or higher sections of a certain area. The lack of decent inventory management can also be a tad frustrating as weapons and consumable items share the same mini-menu and buttons. This might lead to accidental use of much needed ammo or items.
Exile’s End doesn’t have a real save function, at least not in the conventional way. The game saves the moment you enter an area/room enabling you to restart at your entry-point after dying. This is a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand, it makes restarting easy while on the other hand it can be curse. Meaning, as you enter an area with low health and ammo just before you die, you’ll just restart in the last area with the same low health and ammo which isn’t convenient in a room filled with a tough crowd or a boss…
Last but not least, the game also offers a really fun survival and online speedrun mode which can extent your playtime. The survival mode challenges you to complete levels against the clock by killing a certain amount of enemies and find your way to the exit. Each kill gives you extra time while any damage to your health remains or is slightly healed. The online speedrun mode let’s players compete against each other to beat the game as fast as possible with online leaderboards.
Exile’s End is an acceptable Metroidvania game that delivers a great 16-bit old-school experience except for a few minor points that require some polishing. For hardcore retro or classic adventure fans, the game will make them relive their childhood years as for other players; it just might not be appealing enough for them to try it. As these retro games were the benchmark for modern day adventure games, we still recommend them to try Exile’s End.