Who else used to sit around playing X-Wing when they were younger? Perhaps you also might be acquainted with Jedi Starfighter or Star Wars: Battlefront? Flying your one-man fighter through a massive space battle-field taking out enemy fighters and turrets. Missiles flying, heroic deeds being done. The comms ringing in your ears with your team-mates saying “You can be my wingman any time!”
Actually that last one never really happened as I always ignored my ally fighters for all the useless trash they were… The point is I love Star Wars…
No the real point is that I loved the whole space-battle type of game. Flying a space-fighter through fields of enemy fire, bringing destruction to the enemy fighters and larger capital ships alike. I’m not really sure how to describe the genre, Seamless Entertainment (the developers of SOL: Exodus) describe it as a “Space-Shooter” but how about we call it a Space-Pilot-Action-Simulator. SPAS for short! Because it was much spaß!
SOL: Exodus is, as the intelligent amongst you may have guessed just one of these types of games. And boy, was I pleased that we got a code and that I got the chance to play it, because it’s been far too long since I last played this sort of game. I used to absolutely love the whole fighter-pilot thing and there hasn’t been one (that I’ve been aware of) in a very long time.
At the start of the game you are informed that our very own star Sol is dying and as such humans need to find a new planet to inhabit to replace Earth. It’s a fight for the very survival of the human race. You then take on the role of The Commander (who commands the capital ship the UCS Atlas) and blast off into space inside your fighter for the first time.
Naturally you are attacked (after having flown out of the ship of course) by some Religious fanatic types who’s goals are far from clear. Only that you must die in a blaze of holy fire and that then they will die too because THAT IS THE WILL OF GOD! I love it when games paint such a realistic view of the world…
You travel back to the human solar system and spend the rest of the game, aided by your in ship AI CASSI, flying to various colonies and space-stations and getting everyone to evacuate and head for the newly discovered world. And all the while you have to fight off the Children of Dawn as they launch increasingly overpowered attacks against you and the UCS colonists.
As stories go, it isn’t bad. It’s clear and straightforward, everyone has clear motives and goals and there is a well defined plot. It may not be the most imaginative story to ever grace the planet, but it’s a story and it works. The characters themselves are actually really good. Whenever there is dialogue a little box with the character’s face pops up at the top of the screen with subtitles next to it (a nod of approval for that). The voice acting is actually really rather excellent. Nobody really stands out, but the conversation and dialogue flows and the characters seem fairly real and believable, despite the fact that you never see them.
The gameplay of SOL is much as you would expect from this type of game you fly your ship around with your mouse changing the velocity of the ship with the scroll-wheel, you can also fire your afterburners for a short burst of speed. There are some features unique to SOL amongst the space-shooter crowd. The major one being the ability to “slide”. This is where your ship will retain it’s momentum in the direction you were heading but you can rotate the ship round all planes of the axis so you could shoot pursuers while still heading towards your objective. It’s a nice touch if not overly note-worthy.
You ship is equipped with lazer guns (I think the might not actually be lazers, but I’m not in the mood for being pedantic about it), missiles and a larger cannon which also functions as a charged up lazer. Lazers and the MAG cannon if overused cause your guns to overheat and you have a limited supply of the homing missiles.
It’s a fairly simple system. The larger bombers and tougher enemies get all the MAG blasts you can throw at them while the enemy fighters will feel the full brunt of your lazer guns and your missiles. Locking on with the missiles is easy and once done I’ve never seen them miss. They could be described as overpowered, except later on in the game even the fighters can withstand two of them so there is some balance there.
When you have targeted an enemy and are within about 2km of them (the game maps are vast) a targeting reticule appears in front of their ship, so you aim at that and shoot where they are going to be rather than where they are. Which is a neat little system. It’s a little irritating that the reticule only appears when you are within 2km though because it would have made my life much easier if it appeared when the enemy fighters first come into play, some 15km away from you.
When faced with the larger frigates, and capital ships of your enemies, there is a different system in place to allow you to fight them. Thankfully it is not the Star Wars system of firing into an exhaust port which is no bigger than a womp rat… Becuase NOBODY could make that shot… Instead larger ships have external communications nodes or arrays or whatever and your ship’s AI can hack into them. Hacking takes place in the form of a small mini-game where a scrolling list of numbers and letters appear and you have to memorise the order of their appearance and then repeat them to the computer. This then allows you the options of turning the enemies ship’s turrets off, making their missiles friendly, revealing weak spots and a variety of other useful things.
As a method of fighting the larger enemy ships it does make sense. Unfortunately it also leaves you feeling a little detached from the rest of the game as you focus on staring at the code panel rather than flying your ship, which seems to remove the point of this sort of game.
As far as gameplay goes, it is good fun and enjoyable to play. You certainly feel immersed as you jet about the battlefields with lazers and missiles flying every which way. I would, as always, make a few changes but the problems I noticed never really detracted from the experience.
As for the battlefields themselves. My oh my… The backgrounds of planets and stars were always absolutely breath-taking and even on the lowest possible graphics setting the detail and scale was just astounding. The gigantic capital ships looking every bit as refined and as awesome as I like to imagine a real space-ship would look.
The smaller scale ships don’t really stand up to the high graphics standard of everything else in the game, but then you never really get close enough to examine them in detail.
So not only will you enjoy your time flying through the various maps and missions of SOL but you’ll absolutely love the scenery.
A thing which elicited confusion in me, more than any other feeling, was the fact that actually you can ram into other objects and your fighter won’t take any damage. So you can bounce of walls/other ships/debris to your hearts content. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be because your ship is meant to be able to withstand that type of damage, but whatever the reason it strikes me as a something that I disliked about the game. Even with the knowledge that hitting the walls wouldn’t hurt me I still tried to avoid them, because there’s nothing so ignoble as a fighter pilot Captain winging his way through an intergalactic battleground only to bounce off his own ship…
I already mentioned the irritation I had with the guns only targeting enemies properly at close range. Another issue I had was actually some of the enemies themselves. Called an ADD or something like that; they are drills which burrow into your ship. Basically this means they land on your ship and then vanish INTO it, making it an absolute bugger to tell where to shoot to kill them. Combine this with their speed, it means that I hardly ever had a shot at killing them before they did damage to my ship or allies, which was a right pain.
I did have another couple of problems with the game. First off, the in game radar was the standard 2-D radar with red dots for enemies and in a massive 3-D environment there’s no way that sort of radar could possibly elicit anything other than confusion. For the most part I found myself ignoring it as it was so useless. Another issue with the game is the main menu. While the soundtrack for in-game is decent and professional, the main-menu is full of beeps and boops and weird noises and if I spent any more than a minute or so on it I started grinding my teeth in frustration. A minor fault, but a fault none-the-less.
I think the major issue with this game right now is the fact that you don’t really get much of it. I think there are about eight missions in the game (not including the tutorial one) and I completed about half of them in about two and half hours. This would suggest that when I read “5 hours of gameplay” somewhere or other I heard right. Plus, despite the leaderboards and point systems trying to entice you to play through the missions again and again, who here can honestly say they do that? So despite the cheap price tag of £6.99 on Steam, you won’t get much play time out of it.
That said, I did thoroughly enjoy MY playtime in the game and heartily recommend that you guys all give it some thought as well!