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Exile's End (Wii U eShop) Review

by Zachary Miller - November 23, 2016, 9:24 pm EST
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I like this game in spite of itself.

Exile’s End is a game that shouldn’t really appeal to me that much. In our post-Zero Mission gaming society, its intentional throwbacks to 90’s game design should bother me a lot more than they actually do. Exile’s End has a story, but it’s so vanilla that it disappears into the background. The production values are mediocre, overall, and the backtracking is monotonous. And yet, I like this game despite its shortcomings. It’s not Super Metroid, but I appreciate that it’s reaching for that high bar.

You play as Jameson, a grizzled soldier working for the Ravenwood corporation. The son of a Ravenwood executive has gone missing on mining colony L-735. While en route to said planet, Jameson’s spacecraft is attacked and he and his crew are forced to abandon ship. Jameson wakes up in a jungle, his suit without power and he without a means to defend himself. That’s where the exploration kicks in.

Exile’s End plays like a completely mediocre Metroid game with lots of exploration and backtracking. Jameson initially can’t even take a drop from any significant height without injury or death, but the first item you find is a shock absorber. The first weapon you find is a low-power handgun that has infinite ammo but not much punch. And from there, the items and suit upgrades roll out at a fairly constant pace. The game doesn’t make exploration particularly easy—important areas on the map, like locked doors, are not marked. The only differentiator is when you find a secret room (by blowing up a wall with grenades), which is purple on your map. But there aren’t any warp points and rooms in any given area look roughly similar. In fact, rooms look similar from area to area. It’s very easy to get turned around in Exile’s End or wind up in a location different from your intended destination. This should bother me a lot more than it does. The map also doesn’t fill in consistently, which actually does bother me. If there’s a way to mark the map, I haven’t figured it out.

The game offers virtually nothing in terms of instruction. Hey, I found a wrench. What’s this wrench for? Exile’s End doesn’t tell you. That Magnet Gun looks handy, right? I have no idea what to use it on. There’s a weird blue barrier blocking my progress. How do I take it down? Well, turns out you use the gun you just won from that boss fight, and hey did you know you can charge its shots? No? Well that’s because Exile’s End is trying to emulate 90’s era action/adventure games and all the pros and cons that implies. This lack of direction extends to some of the items you get. What the heck does a Suit Enhancement even do? Defense, maybe? It’s not clear, and the electronic manual is minimalistic.

Aside from the unfortunate sameness of the landscapes, the creature design in Exile’s End is disappointing in terms of variety. You will see the same five to seven enemy types for the entire game (not even palatte swaps). This actually did start to grind my gears, especially since the game’s three boss fights are all forgettable, creatively speaking (the first boss is just some guy in a suit with a gun). Super Metroid knew how to do enemy design. Exile’s End does not. The music, though, is wonderful. Unique and industrial, it sounds like something you would’ve heard on the Genesis back in the day.

I’m not a huge fan of how items are arranged and selected. Developer Magnetic Realms could have done the Axiom Verge thing and put the map and item selection on the GamePad but no, you still have to press Select to bring up the map and all the items are arranged in a line that you press L & R to cycle between. At first, this is fine, but you quickly accumulate lots of guns, keys, grenades, and other junk and it becomes a chore to cycle through. My advice is to utilize your handgun and SMG, use an online map to find piercing rounds (which ups damage) and ignore the rest. Also, why can’t Jameson carry more than one med kit at a time?

If the exploration is tiring, the goals art obtuse, and the enemy design is dull, why do I like Exile’s End? For one thing, it’s short. Even with lots of backtracking you’ll finish this in five to six hours. I also really like the soundtrack, which keeps exploration tolerable (although the late-game sections rely way too heavily on finding keys to open doors). But it’s also true that you’re constantly getting better stuff, so there’s a good feeling of progression and empowerment throughout.

I will also say that Survival Mode is surprisingly fun. You’re tasked with killing all the enemies in a given area within a time limit. Points accumulated are used to improve your arsenal in the next round. It’s a little bit like Mercenary Mode in modern Resident Evil games, but 2D. Survival Mode is arguably more fun than the main game.

But it’s also true that Exile’s End is not great. It’s just mediocre and it’s not optimized for the Wii U. While I got a kick out it, I suspect many of you will become bored or frustrated. Even I started leaning on online maps to find everything (breakable walls are rarely differentiated). It’s one of those games I’m torn on recommending. Watch some videos. Your mileage may vary.


  • Good controls and varied combat
  • Nice sense of progression
  • Survival Mode
  • Unique music
  • Not optimized for Wii U
  • Story is forgettable, sometimes makes no sense
  • The whole thing feels uninspired

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Genre Adventure
Developer Magnetic Realms

Worldwide Releases

na: Exile's End
Release Nov 22, 2016
PublisherXseed Games

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