For the last 10 years, the post-apocalyptic genre has really exploded, just like the very bombs that destroyed these worlds. It’s been Fallout that has really dominated the genre, with plenty of games trying to emerge out of its shadow.
For me, the Metro series has been its more linear younger brother. It never really tried to copy Fallout and was more of a standard FPS with a post-apocalyptic skin. But the latest Metro changes things up and really tries to push the series in a bold new direction. Does this change pay off though?
When I first heard about Metro Exodus at E3 some years back, I genuinely thought it was trying to be a Fallout clone by becoming another open-world post-apocalyptic game. I thought to myself “Why bother? It’s only going to come off as an inferior Fallout”. Thankfully, Metro Exodus manages to stand out from the pack and almost becomes something pretty special.
You play as Artyom, a man with a dream of leaving the Metro underground and finding a better life with his wife Anna. Artyom becomes obsessed with the idea that there are other survivors out in the world other than those underground. It’s this obsession that leads him to discovering a massive secret and that begins his journey with a team of comrades to search for a new home in the irradiated land of Russia.
Once this journey truly begins, that’s when the game’s story really shines. Unlike a lot of other open world and FPS games, Metro Exodus feels like a real journey and actually takes place over many months. You, your wife, and your comrades are all riding through Russia on board their train- the Aurora. Along the way, they’ll stop at numerous, memorable locations in an effort to search for a new home, or simply to help get their journey back on track (pun intended).
Metro Exodus Storytelling
The way this story is told was the reason I was so engaged by it. The story is told over multiple chapters and each chapter felt unique in its own way, both from a story and gameplay point of view. Like the original Metro games, some chapters were like your usual linear FPS levels, shooting your way through monsters to eventually make your way to the end.
Then there were some chapters based solely on the narrative, were conversations would occur that progressed the story forward, as you all planned your next course of action. These chapter were a nice break from the action, and gave you a chance to get to know your teammates more personally. These chapters were normally very short but were just a nice change of pace.
Then there’s the chapters you’ll be spending most of your time on- the open world chapters. Rather than being set on one massive open world, Metro Exodus opted for multiple, but smaller, open worlds to explore. I thought this was a fantastic idea! These maps were certainly big enough to feel like a true open world, but were small enough to not feel too overwhelming.
By doing this, it allows each of these maps to be more ‘focused’ than your traditional open world. It can be easy to lose track and veer off the story and be stuck with many side quests (we’ve all been there), but Metro Exodus really reigns it in and gives what I feel is just the right amount to do. There’s only a small handful of side missions and bandit camps to clear, but the game rewards you well usually in the form of upgrades to your gear, like extended battery life, tougher helmets to increase armour, and so on.
The main missions generally take you around the whole map, and doing side missions along the way gives you a better feeling of accomplishment, while never feeling like you have a massive ‘To Do’ list. Even though I’ve said these levels are more focused, they don’t have to be if you don’t want them to, and that’s the beauty of it. You can still head off and explore, but you’ll just have to make do with a smaller area.
Yet another benefit of this new take on the genre is that because there are multiple open worlds, instead of just one, it allows for more diverse locations. Regardless of whether it’s an open or linear map, there’s a good variety of destinations to explore and admire. This was a nice change of pace from the originals that mostly took place in the underground subway. Even Fallout games don’t have this much variety of locations, so it’s nice to see Metro Exodus really change things up.
It’s not just the location of each open-world map that makes them unique, but the creatures, gang factions, and side plots gives each area more personality. It makes the overall journey even more memorable and I looked forward to each and every chapter.
Metro Exodus Survival Elements
It wouldn’t be an open-world post-apocalyptic game if there were no survival elements now would it? In Metro Exodus, you’re able to craft items and ammo to help you survive. You can also upgrade and customise your weapons and gear to suit your play-style. It’s this survival element that encouraged me to want to explore, as ammo and materials for crafting feel rare, and you’ll want to grab as much of it as possible.
You can walk around feeling like Rambo, then after one battle have your ammo pouch feel quite lighter. You can never feel too stocked up for too long, and you’ll always feel motivated to open every box and pick up every scrap you find.
There are workbenches around where you can do all the crafting you want, but you can conveniently do it anytime thanks to your backpack. Obviously you can only craft a certain amount of things, so it is limited, but it’s great to be able to craft the necessities on the fly.
Metro Exodus Shortcomings
My thoughts on this game so far have been rather glowing- just like radiation, but there are some shortcomings that prevent Metro Exodus from true greatness.
The game’s controls and movement can feel rather stiff, another common trait it takes from Fallout, and lacks the polish and refinement we’ve seen from the likes of the new Doom and Wolvenstein 2. Selecting from your range of weapons can also be slow and is frustrating when you’re being attacked and need a new weapon. There is a quick select, but it’s only between two weapons and may not be the weapon I want.
Also the characters themselves seem a little forgettable. I’m afraid that maybe a month after finishing this game I’m going to completely forget them. It’s great that you are given moments to get to know them in those shorter chapters, but it’s still not enough. It doesn’t help when the main character is a mute, which is a real missed opportunity to have better character interactions, and really help make the characters worth caring for.
Metro Exodus Review Summary
Overall, I had a very positive experience with Metro Exodus. I’ll admit my expectations were rather low, but I was pleasantly surprised with the journey I was taken on. It took on multiple ideas from different genres and I believe pulled it off well.
The bite-sized open-world levels just felt more focused and like they had purpose. Thanks to the survival elements, they felt worth exploring, and scavenging supplies and crafting ammo/items was so satisfying.
The main story had some good twists and turns, and I was always excited to see where it would take me next. I do wish the characters were just that little more interesting because it would’ve elevated the story and the journey they were going on.
The movement and controls feel like they could’ve had more refinement, but it doesn’t hold the game back too much. I still had a blast during my time on Metro Exodus. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did, and because it combines different ideas from different genres, I can comfortably recommend it to anyone.