Review: SOL: Exodus
Title: SOL: Exodus
Platform: PC (Steam)
Developer: Seamless Entertainment
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
TL;DR: Entertaining revival of a much maligned genre
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Earth has been used up, and with fractures among the survivors, you must find a way to get them to a brave new world for humanity to prosper. How does SOL: Exodus suggest you do that? By grabbing life by the short-and-hairys and blasting everything you see to pieces. Space shooters haven’t been around for a while, and this game does a solid job of reminding us why they’re so fun. Though the plot is sketchy in places, and the overall theme is pretty heavy-handed, the gameplay is about as pristine as you can ask for from a space shooter. Besides, the re-enactment of the eye catching final scenes of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope puts a beaming grin on your face and is bound to bring in the crowds.
Before I talk about the plot it would be fair to point out what a marvellous job has been done with the gameplay in SOL. The tutorial tells you everything you need to know in a clear but subtle way, the three weapons each have a purpose and you’ll find yourself using all of them as well as every way of manoeuvring your ship. Nothing here is surplus to requirements, and the joy of sliding up behind an enemy fighter plane chasing down your buddy and saving his butt never gets old. The difficulty curve only suffers from one minor hiccup, and if I have one complaint it’s that around some of the smaller planets there’s barely anything to give you that feeling of travelling at high speed. The survival mode displays all of this without the shaky plot, though it is much duller than the engaging dogfights in the campaign mode.
So what about that plot? Well, the beautiful intro video informs us of the need to find a new planet to colonise, then drops us into the first level where we’ve coincidentally just found such a planet. So what’s the problem? Well there are “religious nutjobs” who want to stop humanity from surviving so that we can all go to the afterlife. Now I’m about as atheist as it gets, but even I think that’s a little heavy handed. The game seems to place these bad guys, the Children of Dawn, as if they have the military upper hand over the player’s side. How did they manage that? It doesn’t make any sense that a religion would be better equipped for space combat than a political union. As for motivation it’s not made clear what character you’re supposed to be (although I’m pretty sure it’s the Commander) and in the initial levels it feels like we’re just travelling across the solar system out of convenience and then coming up with a plot later. Having said all this, the dialogue and actors do an acceptable job and the addition of a level in which you must lose to continue is a great way of attempting to involve the player in the story.
I should point out that the enjoyment you’ll get out of shooting other ships using your MAG cannon with the help of aim assist (which only appears at a certain proximity to your target) will more than make up for the criticisms I levelled against the plot, and it will continue to do so for the minor faults in other areas of the game. These faults include a simplistic upgrades system, and a rather lame and easy hacking sub-game which thankfully leads to a much better target shooting sub-game. If you die while hacking you’ll have to load from the start of the level, and some checkpoints just don’t load at all. As well as this there seems little punishment for kamikaze-ing enemies.
The game really comes to life on the final missions: fighting around Saturn is really something special, and if the teased sequel comes to life I look forward to fighting around Jupiter too. By this time I had upgraded my afterburner enough to use it often, and the stutter noise to let you know you’re running out of boost is a great touch. While the final action the player has in the game felt a little vague as to how well I was doing, it was the lead up to this which really made me smile. The full on Luke Skywalker Vs. Death Star moment filled me with awe at how great space shooters can make you feel. While you could say it was cheesy, nothing can dampen my spirits now I’ve taken down a ship that huge by focusing fire on a few weak spots. Plus the knowing dialogue is certainly worthy of a chuckle.
The final message of the game seems to hint at religious tolerance, which, aside from a peculiar topic to find in game of this genre, sits very uneasy with the fervent anti-religious feelings earlier in the game. But if you are religious and you can get over that, or if you’re not religious and you can get over how unsubtly the argument is presented, you’ll find a thoroughly varied and fun game which will make you feel like a sci-fi superstar.
- Varied visceral gameplay
- Beautiful backdrops
- Blowing up giant spaceships is always awesome
- Heavy handed plot
- Hacking is too easy
- Storyline jumps around without much explanation
The Collectors Edition includes an optional Steam key, an art booklet, and the soundtrack. All of which are jolly lovely.
PEGI 12+. Spaceship explosions and heavy weaponry make this a no-go for youngsters, though there’s no blood or anything too nasty.