“Back in my day sonny, vidya games about space ships blastin’ each otha’ were the bee’s knees young whippersnapper“ Is what I’d love to be saying right now. Unfortunately, I’d be lying though my teeth. The heyday of classics like TIE Fighter and Wing Commander was a little bit before my time. Instead, I had the sad privilege of watching the space combat motif die a slow and painful death at the hands of cigar smokin’ marines and other such more accessible topics.
But that’s not to say it went out with a whimper! There were some pretty sweet swan songs such as Freelancer and Homeworld 2, many of which left a huge impression on me as a young gamer. So I always get a little bit exited every time a new space combat romp pops up; desperately hoping it’ll let me relive those magical moments of Star Wars fantasies made (semi-) real. I know this opening blurb might seem like a bit of a digression, It’s just I want to make something perfectly clear before I start getting all crabby: I really wanted to like SOL: Exodus.
And at a glace, it looks like there’s plenty there to like! Awesome looking space ships? Check. Industrial grade hammy dialogue? Check. Unnecessarily complicated HUD? Check. Gorgeous, colourful interstellar backdrops (i.e. the exact opposite of real space looks like)? Double check! Man, when that Battlestar Galactica inspired tribal drum music first kicked in, I was totally pumped to let loose on some intergalactic scum. I had all the right tools for the job too: missiles, afterburner, machine gun, laser canon and……..and…uh…. not much else really.
Well ok, there’s also a neat little strafing mechanic, a ubiquitous hacking minigame and a monumentally negligible upgrade system, but that’s honestly all there is. No loadout customisation, ship selections, wingmen commands, shields, scanners or anything like that. For the whole game you’ve got one ship with one missile launcher, one afterburner, one machine gun and one laser cannon. That’s your lot. Although, I guess you could say you’ve got a few wingmen here and there too. You *could* say that. I certainly wouldn’t. I’d say there’s a couple of green dots on my radar that wander around the battlefield doing very little of anything in particular.
But that’s ok right? Shootin’ stuff in a video game just flat out rules, even if your arsenal is a bit on the thin side! Theoretically yes, but SOL’s half baked combat ensures that you’ll never get even the slightest inking of satisfaction from any of your kills. Enemies mindlessly plod along at about ten miles per century, making dogfights feel more like a point n’ click adventure as you blow away endless waves of the exact same hapless spacecrafts over and over. Lock on to an enemy, afterburn into gun range, line up shot, shoot, repeat, repeat, repeat. Hell, sometimes you don’t even need to bother shooting them at all! The pea-brained AI’s reliance on the good ol’ “fatal collision course with the nearest solid object” maneuver sees to that well and good.
As you can probably imagine, repeating these combat scenarios ad infinitum can quite accurately be described as “not fun”. In fact, it’s the absolute worst kind of “not fun”: Boring. There’s just so little content available in this game, and it’s stretched so damn far it truly beggars belief! It’s not that I want it to be an absurdly complicated space sim or something; I’m not asking for EVE Online here. All I’m asking for is literally anything that would add some kind of variety to SOL. A few additional guns, an extra craft or two, a properly fleshed out narrative, more than one type of missile; seriously, anything would do. On top of that, more than a measly 8 missions probably wouldn’t go too amiss either.
That’s not to say the game’s over in a flash. Nooooo, far from it! You’ll be able to squeeze just under 4 hours out of those 8 missions. 4 painfully monotonous hours of tiresome combat and praying to god that the ships you’re protecting don’t spontaneously combust out of the shear embarrassment of it all. Wait, did I forget to mention the protecting ships part? Oh. Well you see, all 8 stages of the campaign are escort missions, because everyone bloody loves escort missions. But what’s better than an escort mission? How about an escort mission with no checkpoints whatsoever! That’s right, fail to leave your capital ship unmolested for even a few seconds and the game’ll send your ass right back to enemy fighter wave #1. Yay!
Maybe on some level this minuscule amount of unpolished content is acceptable, but £7 is NOT that level. Think about it, that’s close to £1 for each mission in the game, and that includes the tutorial! Not exactly a sound investment. But still, I live in hope that one day there’ll be something special that finally rekindles my passion for all things space shootey. That “something special” is most definitely not SOL: Exodus. SOL: Exodus is just a bad video game.
Hammy, high quality voice acting.
Cool lookin’ space & spaceships.
Very little content