Review: Exile’s End (PS4)

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Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita
  • Wii U
  • PC, Mac

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Exile’s End
Format: PSN (126.6 MB)
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Magnetic Realms
Original MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: T
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
I tried to think of a best way to describe Exile’s End without using the term “MetroidVania” and I gave up because calling it a MetroidVania is an apt description. This is a side-scrolling action adventure game in which you battle alien monsters in a large world with tons of secrets to uncover. Oh, and it has a retro art style making it even more difficult not to draw comparisons to Metroid or Castlevania.

It’s described as an homage to “cinematic platformers” from the Amiga era with the official website mentioning Flashback: The Quest for Identity and Out of This World/Another World as inspirations. I am not familiar with those titles therefore I saw an immediate comparison to Metroid and Castlevania which is the perspective I played from. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Not familiar with…? Not famil… you’re fired!)

The story puts players in the boots of Jameson, a grizzled mercenary sent on a mission to find the missing president of the mysterious and powerful corporation called Ravenwood. His search brings him to an abandoned planet where the president is believed to be located. From here Jameson must traverse through the surprisingly large world that brings him to mining facilities, mines, and underground temples.

Exile’s End feels much tougher in the beginning than it does in the end because you crash land on the planet with no weapons to defend yourself until you find some rocks on the ground. The enemies are not too difficult in the early going, but only a few of them can be taken out with a rock.

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I was perplexed by only having a rock because I soon found myself unable to progress in the game. With no chance of progressing insight I had to begin backtracking and hope I missed something which I did and I was able to locate the handgun. Once the handgun was acquired I looked at the map and realized how many potential areas there were. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Well if you’d played Flashback… sigh, kids today.)

The thing with the game is that it leaves you with no help and the map reveals itself as you move forward. You are going through this world dark and it’s jam packed with areas that could contain tidbits of the story and or valuable upgrades and weapons.

The weapons are rather standard, with handguns, SMGs, and various laser projectile guns available to find. Each weapon type has its own pros and cons with some being more capable than others in taking out specific enemies.

… the solution was not too far away …
Enemy types are pretty varied with humanoid creatures, monsters, and ghosts all lurking around the map. The only difficulty I encountered with them was when a room was filled with many or in the early going when I lacked the proper weapon to deal with them. Outside of that once you learn an enemy type’s patterns it’s very easy to get through them and onto the next room.

I was impressed with how big the map ended up being and how it was laid out. The design of the map and its puzzles are extremely well done. I often found myself lost and without a clue as to what I needed to do in the world and usually the solution was to backtrack and check every corner of the map.

The clever design comes in when you find an object or a weapon as it’s usually exactly where you need to be to progress the story. So in other words when I found myself lost I was either not paying enough attention to the details or the solution was not too far away.

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I do have some issues outside of getting lost (my fault) and these issues would frustrate me more than anything else. My first grievance is with the save system. As far as I could tell I could not save the game because of the auto save mechanic. Every time you enter a room it automatically saves and this lead to some frustrations.

The most common frustration/flaw with this design choice was that I would find myself backed into a corner. I was stuck with low health for a good chunk of my time because enemies would sometimes knock me into another room which would trigger a save.

If I made a mistake or entered a room filled with enemies and they hit me, forcing me to leave the room, I would be stuck with whatever health I had left. Unless I am missing something, my only way to reload is to back out to the main menu. This means I had to monitor my health constantly, hope for health drops, and quit the game if I took too much damage in a room.

… bothered the completionist in me …
For example, I entered a room where two powerful enemies charged at me instantly leaving me with only one hit of health and they also happened to knock me into the next room. This devastated my health and put me into a state where any hit would kill me and I could not load up a previous save to bail me out.

Outside of the save issue which I eventually overcame, I have a slight OCD problem which was that the map never fills in completely. For whatever reason there are black squares throughout the world map that one would think meant the area was unexplored, but it is in fact just the map being a jerk. I don’t know why it bothered me so much, but when I found myself lost I went to these spots only to find they were there for no reason. It’s a small complaint though it was one that bothered the completionist in me.

Exile’s End is fine. The shooting and platforming are fun and the story is serviceable at best. I was never compelled to finish the game to see the story, but the gameplay is fun enough and finding collectibles and areas is engaging enough to push me forward. When I finished the story I was surprised to only have uncovered roughly fifty percent of what was available to find even after playing for seven hours.

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Visuals:
Exile’s End pays homage to games of the early 90’s in all their pixelated glory. The cutscenes are simple and cool looking, I do not have a direct connection to the Amiga system, but I dug the art style for what it was despite lacking that nostalgia.

The environments are nicely designed and somewhat diverse without straying too far away from a clear core artistic design. Knowing you are in a different area is clear with colors and architecture changing from one area to the next.

The game is yet another retro throwback though it is done well enough that I appreciated what it was trying to accomplish.

… what kinds of secrets are hidden deep within …
Audio:
Staying faithful to games of the early 90s, there is no voice acting. Instead the sound design consists of sound effects and music. Music is classic chiptune style music from composer Keiji Yamagishi whose works include the soundtracks of Ninja Gaiden and Tecmo Super Bowl on the NES.

I really enjoyed the soundtrack and its ability to change with the environments. The music shifts from area to area, giving each place some character and vibe.

Online/Multiplayer:
This is a single player game with online leaderboards for all the modes.

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Conclusion:
Exile’s End harkens back to an era of gaming when players did not rely on games to hold their hand through the whole experience. It feels like a throwback more than a modern game which might narrow the its potential audience.

I enjoyed my time with it despite some flaws. There’s a lot to explore and find and I am encouraged by my completion percentage to go back and see what kinds of secrets are hidden deep within. I enjoyed my time with it though I question if it’ll be a something I will remember down the road.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • Renegade Bastard

    Very nice review and write-up, MJC! I may add this game to my Vita wishlist in the PlayStation Store.

    • MJC

      Thanks.