Exile’s End is a 2D sidescroller that borrows heavily from classics such as Super Metroid and Castlevania. However, it doesn’t have the same level of quality or execution as those aforementioned games, which laid the groundwork for an entire genre. A shallow plot, terrible pacing, and annoying design choices are only part of the issues that make Exile’s End feel like a cheap imitation. The game is short and doesn’t require multiple playthroughs to see one of two endings, but some might give up within the first few hours before ever seeing this sci-fi adventure through to the end.
Exile’s End has a story that is forgettable and a little confusing as you progress further in the game. You play as a soldier named Jameson that’s crashed on a mining planet during a search and rescue mission. After recovering from the crash, the plot takes twists and turns as you explore the planet and uncover the truth about your supposed mission.
The plot has a lot of similarities to what you might find in a Metroid game, but with far less intriguing mystery and cohesiveness. One second I’m discovering more about the planet, and the next I’m in a gun fight with someone who is vaguely important to the entire story. I felt that nothing had enough time to be expanded upon well enough. Things seemed so streamlined for the sake of just moving on and not building up to a big payoff.
The inconsistent pacing and poor design choices throughout the game are what really dampened my fun. The first hour of the game is very slow and drags on because you are ill-equipped. It took a long time of exploring before I could find a weapon to defend myself against the creatures that roamed around the game’s limited areas. Before then, I could only use rocks I found on the ground that could be thrown at enemies. I asked myself the entire time, why wouldn’t a soldier on a mission carry a spare gun on hand to protect himself? It didn’t make any sense to me in relation to the plot and the gameplay.
It wasn’t until the later sections of the game where things began to pick up the pace. Most areas on the map were empty in the beginning of the game, which made backtracking through previous levels a real pain. In later levels however, enemies appeared more often alongside complex platforming and puzzles that offered a better challenge. It felt like these kinds of sections should have also been in the beginning of the game in order to hook someone into playing pass the first hour.
What nearly killed my entire experience was how Exile’s End uses checkpoints after a game over. Unlike Super Metroid’s save points, Exile’s End automatically saves your game each time you enter a new area, but doesn’t refill your health or ammo if you reload the game. When you reload your game, you start at the beginning of the last area you entered with the same amount of health before you died. This means you can potentially get stuck in an endless loop of Game Over screens if you aren’t careful.
This nearly happened to me a few times during my playthrough, which almost caused me to reset my entire game. It’s made worse when early on, enemies hardly drop health items. This issue could be non-existent if there were areas that fully recharged your health. That way, you don’t have to get stuck on a checkpoint where you find yourself in an automatic lose situation.
I like playing 2D sidescrollers, but Exile’s End isn’t a well-designed game. It’s inconsistently paced and has a terrible handling of checkpoints that can potentially ruin a playthrough. The story it tells is very forgettable and doesn’t offer much for sticking through all of its shortcomings. If you must play through a 2D sidescroller, then there are far better options available to you that offer a more enjoyable experience.
This review was based on a digital review code for Exile’s End for the PlayStation 4, provided by XSeed Games.