Author Topic: Lords of Exile (Switch eShop) Review  (Read 492 times)

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Offline Halbred

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Lords of Exile (Switch eShop) Review
« on: February 19, 2024, 03:05:36 PM »

An NES-style combat platformer that feels a little too familiar.

It seems I’m on a bit of an 8-bit kick these days, what with Prison City and Dungeons & Doomknights earlier and Lords of Exile today. This is a well-worn subgenre, and games of this type really need to catch your attention to gain an audience. I can’t really say that Lords of Exile does that, but it is a fun diversion. This is a clear homage to NES combat platformers like Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden; thankfully a bit more forgiving than either, but also less memorable.

You play as a knight, Gabriel, out to destroy an evil warlord through eight stages of sidescrolling action. He’s got a sword, various subweapons, and–very quickly–a spirit companion who can…float alongside him and provide a ranged attack that isn’t as useful as Gabriel’s subweapons. Combat is the name of the game in Lords of Exile, as the platforming is pretty basic, left-to-right stage progression. The dozens of enemies you’ll face fall pretty easily to your sword or projectile subweapons, and if you’re ever down on health, you can buy potions at the occasional ghostly item shop. Defeating enemies often nets gold, and you’ll rarely be short on funds.

The most exciting parts of this NES-like are the boss fights. Each level ends with a pretty chunky boss battle, featuring monsters with strongly telegraphed attack cycles. You’ll face humans and monsters in equal measure, but once you figure out a boss’ attacks, you’ll discover that they don’t deviate from the attack cycles at all. The first boss, for example, uses a sweeping fire attack first, then a ghost-summoning attack, and finishes off with an energy beam barrage. Survive all that, and she’ll go back to the fire sweep and the cycle continues.

Even the game’s final boss, who is initially quite hard, quickly falls into a predictable attack cycle that you can easily counter. That is somewhat disappointing, but it also makes Lords of Exile pretty easy overall. Gabriel’s abilities are enhanced with every defeated boss, like having a longer-reaching blade, gaining additional subweapon attacks (from 20 to 30), that kind of thing. He eventually gains a sort of “earthquake stomp” but I never found a reason to use it.

His spirit companion, initially a ghostly samurai, can be called upon once a meter charges. Holding down the attack button briefly before releasing causes the samurai to send out a projectile attack. This attack can hit enemies, but its primary use is to destroy purple blocks, which is not super exciting. Gabriel eventually gains a second spirit, an armor knight, who can hookshot you across gaps, and this isn’t much better. Generally, the spirit companions feel like wasted potential.

There is one big problem I want to bring attention to: you’ll spend a good amount of time climbing on walls (a bit like Prison City), including one boss where you’re climbing a wall the whole time. Taking damage while climbing knocks you off the wall and kills you–every time. This makes that one boss fight extremely frustrating–it would otherwise be pretty easy–but there are a couple of choke points during the final level that are exhausting because of this. I don’t like keeping track of a dozen potential attacks while climbing or having to do things in a very specific order to progress. Dying from taking a hit off the climbing wall makes it much worse.

I will say that Lords of Exile does nail the look of an NES classic, bringing to mind the Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon duology. The music is a high point, with catchy, toe-tapping chiptunes.

Beating the game unlocks three things–a speedrun mode, in which your time is constantly tracked, a boss rush, and a second character, Lyria. Lyria, a kunoichi, doesn’t have access to the spirit companions, but she is faster and her main attack is a projectile. She quickly gains the ability to destroy purple blocks on her own, which renders Gabriel’s samurai spirit unnecessary. I found playing as Lyria more enjoyable, but your mileage may vary.

Lords of Exile is a relatively fun, but not particularly noteworthy, NES-like. If you’re itching for some old-school Castlevania gameplay, you’ll probably find something to like here, but for the rest of you, there are more robust offerings out there.

This would be my PSN Trophy Card, but I guess I can't post HTML in my Signature. I'm the pixel spaceship, and I have nine Gold trophies.