2 out of 5. As beautiful as its presentation is, Exile's End does little to differentiate itself from the plethora of more engaging options. The story is worthwhile but it comes at a tedious price.
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How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. In spite of the store page’s pleas to the contrary, Exile’s End fits the Metroidvania Mold extremely well, and is probably the best genre to categorize it as.
Primary Challenge: Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~5 hours
Review Info: Exile's End was played on Steam.

More Info

Developer: Magnetic Realms
Publisher: Marvelous
Sub-genre: Metroid-Like
Features: Map System, Multiple Difficulty modes, 2D Platformer, Auto-Save, Ranged Combat, Save Anywhere, Narrative/Cutscenes Story Telling, Collectathon
Difficulty: Medium
Linearity/Openness: Linear - No Handholding
Platforms: Windows, Linux, MacOS, Steam, Wii U, PS4
Release Date: 2015/08/31
Available Languages: English, Russian

Store Links

    Steam    Playstation    Nintendo eShop    

Buy Exile's End if you like…

  • Unfolding a story gradually
  • 16-bit era cutscenes similar to what you'd find on the MSX
  • Infinite Ammo
  • Multiple Endings
  • Alien Planets

▼ Review continues below ▼

I’ve noticed that for some people, presentation is everything. If a game has good graphics, a story that is written to be exciting or entertaining, and great music, that’s all they need. Exile’s End really attempts to push the boundaries of how far presentation can carry a game. Beauty of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but if you’re nostalgic for the era that Exile’s End is trying to emulate, you’ll probably find the game to be quite beautiful. At the very least, the cut scenes are basically perfect in this regard. If you’re one of those people that appreciates presentation above all else, then you may enjoy what this game has to offer. For myself though, I’ve always been one to analyze the level design, then the gameplay, first. To me, even wrapped up in all of its graphical wonders, Exile’s End commits the cardinal sin when it comes to rating a game; it’s boring.

Exile’s End’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to present in terms of gameplay. It starts out interesting – to me at least. You’ve crash landed on a planet with all of your allies dead or missing, and you’re hanging on by a thread yourself. Your environmental suit is malfunctioning, so you can’t even fall very far without taking severe damage. It’s a great setup for a Metroidvania game, even if it’s a little frustrating. That genre can really cash in on the idea that you start out as a weakling and eventually become an all-powerful conquerer, and you certainly start out weak here. Exile’s End seems like it’s trying to be atmospheric – certainly the claims that it’s actually a cinematic platformer rather than a Metroidvania testify to that. But its slower movement and pacing – albeit perfectly functional – sort of kills that atmosphere rather than build on it. This is especially true in the long run as monsters are encountered to the point where dispatching them becomes routine rather than a terror to be faced – thus it sort of fails at being a cinematic platformer. The game’s progression is wholly Metroidvania-like, but you never seem to move beyond backtracking through boring enemies so you can flip switches; you never end up being the powerful master of his environment. The end result is a game that wants to be something else, ends up to be most like the thing that it claims not to be, but then sort of fails at being good at that anyway.

While moving through the stages quickly becomes tedious, exploration does give some very meaningful rewards – so there are some positives in the gameplay. Bosses aren’t particularly well-designed in terms of patterns and telegraphing, so upgrading your armor and weapons really takes the edge off of having to face them. Thus finding ammo upgrades still gives that wonderful sweet taste that you may have experienced in other exploration-based games. It’s just a shame that moving between them can be so uninteresting.

Another way exploration is rewarded is feeding you more information on the story. It’s fun to find communiques and tidbits that unfold the plot more organically, rather than only having it fed to you through forced cinematics – even if said cinematics are also a highlight of the game. The game ends off on a ponderous note which I consider a major positive overall, but ultimately the narrative is still probably similar to something you’ve heard before if you’ve dabbled in any sci-fi prior to playing. There’s also a huge missed opportunity to tell that story through the environment itself. Some areas are better than others, but overall levels feel like they were made in service to the gameplay rather than to create a sense of “place” – which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the gameplay was actually good.

There are some very talented people involved with Exile’s End, but in the end it falls apart due to poor direction. It never really sets itself apart in the ways that matter most and while it’s not that bad, it exists in an environment where it can be safely ignored. I feel like any of the 2D Metroid games capture what Exile’s End does best, but better. While the more atmospheric Metroid-like version of Metroidvania is slimmer pickings than its campier Castlevania-inspired brethren, I don’t think that’s enough to recommend slogging through this one.


Final Score

2/5

Scoring system overview


Metroidvania Breakdown

Combat
– 2

It's functional, and bosses are a highlight, but it's not particularly interesting overall

Platforming
– 2

Platforming challenges never go beyond basic movement from one area to the next with the occasional instant death spike trap

Exploration
– 2.5

While there are a lot of meaningful upgrades to be found, moving from one area to the next is slow and tedious

Puzzle
– 2

The most basic puzzle, either hold the button down with a rock, or find the gizmo that fits into the widget

Story
– 3

Unfolding the lore of the world is genuinely interesting, though what you find isn't too surprising

Graphics
– 5

The graphical presentation perfectly captures the look and feel of retro games of its era

Music
– 3.5

Hit and miss. Some music is as good as the graphics, other tracks are repetitive and made me want to turn the volume off

Replayability
– 2

There are two endings but you can just load your save file to see them both. There's also a harder difficulty but I wouldn't recommend it


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