SOL: Exodus Review
Space is boring.
Endless swaths of nothingness do not make for a compelling setting in any game. Still, the romance of space-bound dogfights is not lost in our collective imaginations. From Star Wars to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, fighter pilots have fought alongside immense capitol ships in ways that game developers continue to try to capture. SOL: Exodus is a noble but failed attempt at grabbing the throttle, launching into space, and adding a few more kills to the side of your ship.
SOL: Exodus is a bare-bones space shooter that adds little more than a game of Asteroids. The player pilots a single fighter with the basic guns/missiles load-out, plus a blast that overheats the main guns, but fires a powerful shot. Beyond a few basic upgrades to damage, armor, and speed, what you see is what you get. The options for each battle are very limited, often resulting in chasing fighters around in circles while conserving missile use.
Each mission is cut directly from the last -- the resistant Earth military versus the terribly flat, uninteresting religious fanatics who also seem to have amassed an enormous fleet of capital ships and enumerable, and expendable, fighters. Each fighter is piloted by an angry zealot that sounds like a cartoon super-villain; it's a lost opportunity to develop interesting antagonists in the heat of battle.
Mission objectives are rarely more imaginative than eliminating the enemy force, altered only by the manner in which you do so. Small mini-games are added for functions, such as hacking into the enemy ship's systems to disable their weapons or reveal weaknesses, but performing these functions while piloting through a dogfight is irritating while also begging a number of questions.
Why am I the only ship? There are times when other fighter(s) are present, but why wouldn't this occur in every battle? Are they on a union break? Being the only ship in the field makes the player feel like a nanny rushing around handling every little situation that comes up. Failure is normally a result of not being able to do everything fast enough.
Why is the pilot of a single fighter performing complex computer hacking? Why isn't someone on the capitol ship doing that? Don't they have computers?
Flight is confusing, which doesn't help in poorly laid out levels. You are given a radar, but a 2-dimensional radar is of little help in a full 3-dimensional space simulator. Tilt up or down too far and the radar swings the enemy behind you, forcing you to use that tendency as a make-shift y-axis indicator.
Given that SOL: Exodus is an independent title, there is a lot of leeway, but Seamless Entertainment didn't make the most of the freedom of being an indy developer. Rather than take the gamble for innovation, they played it safe. Very, very safe.
What Seamless Entertainment has in ambition, they lack in polish and gameplay. SOL: Exodus fails to achieve a shade of what Digital Anvil's Freelancer did nine years ago. While only five dollars less than Freelancer's current value, its still not a better deal.