Saving grace for the Space Combat genre!
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, gamers once flocked to the Space Combat genre is droves. These epic, challenging and complex titles were amongst the highest selling titles of their era, firmly stating their importance during what is often cited as the golden age of PC gaming. Alongside the point and click adventure genre, Space Combat fell by the wayside towards the end of the 90's, and has remained rather dormant over the years. Seamless Entertainment, and indie studio based in Austin, Texas could have just opened up the flood gates with SOL: Exodus - their attempt to bring the Space Combat genre back from the dead.
What SOL: Exodus Got Right
Engaging story - SOL: Exodus places the gamer into the middle of a civil war. The Earth's sun is dying, and humanity is forced to explore other planets to save the human race. A fanatical religious cult known as the Children of the Dawn have other plans however - to see the sun turn super-nova and destroy every human on Earth like some kind of rapture. It's rather compelling to see such a prominent religious and cult force propelling the story, and it will definitely keep players glued for the duration of the campaign.
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Fun combat - The combat in SOL: Exodus is simple, yet a whole lot of fun. Players will have access to an array of weapons that either work on quantity (missiles), or on heat (cannons). Depending on what you're up against, you'll be forced to dogfight with a number of smaller spaceships, fly through the belly of big carriers, or dodge and weave your way through asteroids to take down your enemies and survive. It's a whole lot of fun, despite things being a little less complex than the space combat sims of yesteryear.
Easy to grasp, hard to master - Because SOL: Exodus stays away from complex systems that plagued the Space Combat genre in the past, it creates a welcoming and accessible environment for newcomers. Anyone of any skill level will be able to pick the game up with ease, get out here and start saving the galaxy. However as the missions intensify, the player will need to solidfy their skills and knowledge, and become more proficient at dog fighting in order to survive. On top of all that, players will also have the ability to upgrade their weapons and equipment at the end of each mission, so choices need to be made regularly. SOL: Exodus does a great job of creating an accessible, yet challenging environment.
What SOL: Exodus Got Wrong
Repetitive - The single-player campaign will have you dogfighting, escorting, hacking and going all out across the galaxy, however at times it can feel a little repetitive. Take out wave of enemies, wait for transport to jump, rinse and repeat. It's not a horrible thing, and to be honest its not that noticeable, but it is worth the mention.
No multiplayer - Once again this isn't a deal breaker, but SOL: Exodus doesn't feature any multiplayer components. The inclusion of an online leaderboard is a nice touch, but it would have been nice to team up with, or against some friends in the unbounded confines of space. Seamless Entertainment did state that they were completely focused on creating a solid single-player experience, and if we take that into consideration, perhaps this isn't such a big deal. Once again, not a deal breaker although some will be disappointed.
The Final Verdict
SOL: Exodus is a triumph for indie games everywhere, and is living proof that Space Combat games belong in today's world. Seamless Entertainment have developer a compelling story, backed up by fun and challenging gameplay, great graphics and a reason to dust off our joysticks. If you're a fan of the genre, or have an interest in sci-fi, this should be flying into your digital collection.
By Stephen Heller