Exile’s End on the Vita came as a bit of a surprise to us, but it was a refreshing change from the RPGs, visual novels and dungeon crawlers that have dominated the system’s new releases lately. Here’s our take on the game.
Looking at Exile’s End, it’s immediately clear that this is a retro-inspired game. It’s a 2D platformer in the Metroid/Castlevania vein with graphics that reside somewhere between the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, leaning more towards the 16-bit end of the spectrum. A bit of research taught us that members of the development team have a number of classic NES and SNES titles under their belts as well, and it shows that they haven’t strayed too far from the conventions of those eras with Exile’s End.
The game itself came out for Steam before, but this is the first time we’ve played it. Exile’s End features a sci-fi storyline, although you don’t get too much in the way of setting up a premise – it’s reminiscent of the intro sequences in 8 and 16-bit games, with sparsely animated graphics and text. You start out stranded in a forest with a crashed ship, and have to start exploring if you are to survive. The story develops a little more after that, but this is a very gameplay-centric experience.
The game gets off to a rocky start in this regard, because your protagonist is extremely limited in his skillset when the game starts and this can lead to frustrations – especially because health can be hard to find and your character gets hurt easily. Luckily, it doesn’t take too long before you find a few necessary upgrades that will allow you to deal more damage, move more freely and attack in more ways.
As you’d expect, looking at the games that Exile’s End was inspired by, you have to re-visit previous screens/areas in order to find the right items/triggers to be able to progress. Due to this backtracking, the game’s campaign is stretched to well over six hours, which is a good length for a handheld game – especially when you consider the lack of similar games on the Vita.
That’s not to say that there aren’t better alternatives out there though. Shovel Knight is excellent, for instance – whereas Exile’s End is mostly unremarkable. Its gameplay is so similar to older games that it’s hard to find anything new there, and the graphics and music are serviceable – opting to go full retro as opposed to fusing that style with what modern technology can do.
That doesn’t make Exile’s End a bad game – just an unremarkable one. If you’re a fan of similar games then you’ll have fun with this one – it’s like that NES or SNES game that you never played because there were better games available, even though it’s a solid alternative.