Monday 11 March 2024

Lords of Exile Review (Switch)


There have been a lot of indie games over the years that have used Castlevania for their inspiration. However, most of these have taken the Metroidvania route rather than the more linear level-based approach. Set over eight stages, Lords of Exile is very much in the platform hack and slash category and is clearly influenced by the 8-bit Castlevania games and other titles of the time such as Ninja Gaiden.

In terms of how the game looks everything is absolutely spot on. This could easily fit in with the NES Castlevania games in terms of style and even the music fits the part. Luckily it plays a bit more fluidly though with you character feeling a whole lot better than an 8-bit Belmont. The only issue with controls we had was the double jump which seemed a bit temperamental and inconsistent to get working at times which led to a few unexpected deaths.

Of course, when you are taking influence from some of the toughest games to have ever existed the game you make is also going to be on the difficult side. For the most part Lords of Exile walks the line between difficulty and frustration well. Levels are tough but they aren’t impossible. That is until you reach the final stage. Here things tip over too far into the impossible side of things. One section in particular with instant death spikes on the ceiling was simply not fun. Everything else though is pitched really well, with the checkpoint system keeping frustrations at a minimum.

Each of the eight stages is varied visually and you’ll take in all manner of swamps and cursed places on your quest. After each stage is completed, you’ll take on a new ability of some kind. Some of these are simply buffs such as adding more throwing objects or damage while overs offer new abilities like the double jump or adding in a shadow creature to summon. Adding in the new elements keeps things fresh as you know you’ll have something new to play around with when you get to the next stage. These abilities don’t open new areas though as progression through stages is completely linear.

Each stage also ends with a suitably epic boss fight. Initially daunting, once you work out the pattern these can normally be downed with some suitable button mashing and appropriate use of throwing objects. But they prove to be interesting obstacles to overcome and some of their design is quite clever.

Overall, Lords of Exile is a solid homage to the Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden games of old. As with all these sorts of games this is aimed at a particular niche audience, but it does everything it can to make sure that it hits the mark. Seven of the eight stages are excellent with only the final one being unbalanced in terms of the fairness to death ratio. With a little bit more polish this would be really excellent. As it is it’s still very good and well worth checking out if you are busy working your way through the better 8-bit inspired games out there.

Overall 8/10

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