When I first heard about Exile’s End I saw a lot of potential. A game that would follow the Metroidvania genre while featuring a story as a throwback to Commodore 64 / Amiga era: Metroid meets Another World, what could go wrong?
The game starts with the story of Jameson, a mercenary hired by the company Ravenswood in order to find the son of the company’s president as he went missing in a remote mining planet. However, as soon as they reach the planet, he and the rest of the crew find themselves in a predicament due to most machinery not working properly because of an mysterious interference.
Despite that the story isn’t nothing out of this world, there is a solid presentation from the start. While using retro graphics, the game does a good job in its aesthetic with high quality sprites for the cutscenes and backgrounds, and includes some nice aspects like parallax scrolling and details around the current events. In fact, if I never heard about Exile’s End before and I was told this was a SNES game, I would believe it. It is sad the clunky animations for the sprites can be distracting at first, but it is easy to get used.
While the game manage to does a good first impression, as soon as I started to have some progress my interest to keep playing started to drop like E.T. copies on a landfill in New Mexico.
If you are new to the Metroidvania genre, the gameplay is basically centered around exploration in order to fulfill an objective, and take down the enemies that are in your path. Exile’s End manages to fulfill the basic aspects successfully, but it just stops there.
If the constant use of long straight sections with little to nothing of actions wasn’t bad enough, the game does a terrible job at making exploration interesting. The rewards you get by exploring extra places aren’t tempting enough, falling down would often take several minutes just to get back or just the need to get back is boring enough for the lack of challenge.
One of the things that bothered me most is the difficulty of the game, if I can call it that. The enemies lacks from a proper artificial intelligence, being mostly limited to run forth and backwards. Depending of the enemy, there were cases I was left ignored despite of attacking first because they turned around or just were in front of me trying to attack without reaching me.
The only moments I found myself in problems were before I was able to get the double jump, as there were a constant use of jumps over spikes that would bring instadeath. These were also annoying when throwing a rock to an enemy, as miscalculating the distance would often make these fall on the spikes making you unable to attack.
Thanks to the digital era, we often get to see retro games that takes the gameplay but also makes it fresh and interesting. I was able to learn that thanks to games like Retro City Rampage, Shovel Knight and VVVVVV to give a few examples.
Exile’s End is not a game you should avoid, but with the many quality games on eShop, it makes it hard to recommend. The game does a nice job to recreate the experience it was looking for, but failed at making what these games make fun: the interesting level design and challenge.