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SOL: Exodus Collector's Edition
 

SOL: Exodus Collector's Edition

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: PC Games
Category: Shooter, Space Sims
 
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SOL: Exodus Collector's Edition

Back in the day, I loved me some Wing Commander. The plot, which was filled with Space Opera goodness, the combat, which was mostly balanced. I miss those days, when space sims were fun. Sadly, SOL: Exodus only partially scratches that itch for me.

Graphics

While the game uses the Unreal Engine for its graphics, this really demonstrates one thing: The Unreal Engine doesn't give designs much room to breathe. I barely noticed the shinies unless they were planet scale, because either they blew up too quickly, or, those few times I noticed them, they were a bit bland. The UCS ships are mostly of the Chunky and Exciting school of design (blocky capital ships, fighters that look like jets in space), while the Church of Dawn (the bad guys) are into curvy shapes, arches in their designs for no good reasons, and aren't particularly exciting either. There's not really much sense of a “world” here, except that there are two sides, and they're fighting.

Sound

The music, too, is mostly generic actiony stuff, or generic space ambient music. If you've played any space shooters before, you'll know exactly what I mean, but if you don't... you're not missing a whole lot. Missiles go “SsshhhhhhhhhhBOOM”, machine guns (yes, machine guns in space, it's a long tradition!) go “brbrbrbrbrbrrr” a lot, your engines go shwoosh, and anything that flies past you makes some sort of whooshing noise (again, this is a long tradition in space shooters, despite sound not really carrying in space). The voice acting isn't bad, but suffers from pretty bland action movie scripting.

Gameplay

You may have gotten the impression from the previous two bits that the game isn't terribly exciting. For the first few missions, this is true. Here are some fighters, kill them dead. Here is a ship to defend, defend it.

And then the game gets hard as balls. See, from about mission 3 onwards, you have several things to keep track of. There's the hacking minigame, which requires you to fly about while looking in the lower-left corner to keep an eye on some numbers and letters that crop up, use the arrow keys to select the right code, and hit space to do that. This will do something MacGuffiny, like disabling missile turrets, or making the capships' weak points glow a nice dark neon red for you to shoot with your big gun. While you're doing this, you're keeping an eye on the health of your ship, the enemies , the health of the capships that are invariably involved (your capship dies, so do you, and THE HOPE OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM), and your missile ammo counter.

The weapons for your ship come in three flavours: Machineguns (mainly for dealing with fighters), your missiles (require lock on, can be dodged, mainly for dealing with bombers), and your WHOPPING BIG PLASMA BALL (which has a fancy name, but whoo, it's a big, slow moving ball of plasma you can fire twice in quick succession before overheating for a bit and not being able to fire at all... or slower, and you can fire it once every five or ten seconds). That last one is mainly for dealing with bigger bombers (who turn up in mission 4 or 5), and the weakpoints of capships (mission 3 or 4). There's an upgrade system in this game, and this, along with the scoreboard, betrays its arcade roots.

See, there are three things you can upgrade: Weapons (kill things faster if you can hit them), Hull (take more damage before an inevitable resupply), and Afterburners (go really fast for a slightly longer period). There's also a score at the end of each mission, and you only have one save for campaign (it throws you straight into the next mission on hitting the “Campaign” button)

The plot, such as it is, isn't terribly interesting. Here are group A, the Good Guys, the UCS. Your particular group have found a new world for poor old overstretched humanity to get some breathing room on, since they rather borked things in their system of birth. Then group B, the Church of Dawn turn up, and start trying to murder everyone for poorly thought out religious reasons. All you really need to know is that the COD are a bunch of religious nutters who want humanity either under their thumb or dead (mostly dead, it seems), and that you will be fighting them for the majority, if not all missions. Oh, and that there are a hell of a lot more of them than you. By mission 4 or 5, you will be dealing with fighters, upgraded bombers that have anti-fighter guns (joy), and, of course, capships. You'll be told that your score will go down the more you resupply, but trust me, only the truly hardcore will not have to resupply at least once from Mission 4 onwards, where the game undergoes a sudden difficulty spike. There's also a survival mode to play, but it's pretty much the same as any survival mode in a space-shooter... waves of enemies come, more and more, until you die, and it tots up your score. Woot.

So, what do I think of this game? Well, first off, it's a little bland. Secondly, the devs tried to fit a 20 mission campaign's difficulty curve into an eight mission game (that's right, I'm 2/3 of the way through at the time of writing), which isn't my definition of fun, but it's not buggy, and the AI's passable for the enemy. For the price, it's not a bad buy for hardcore space fighter fans, but it's definitely not recommended for the newbie, as they'll quickly become frustrated in the second half of the game... y'know, when they start throwing *everything* at you. Also, for the price, it's short, although the art book is sort of cool.






 
 

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