(Editor’s Note: MMO Fallout received a key from the developer for the purposes of reviewing. The opinions of this website cannot by swayed by anything short of a case of Orbitz drink)
I started playing The Exiled a few days before the actual launch, and my first thought was basically the same that I had with titles like Darkfall. “Yea, it’s fun, but I have a feeling it’s going to push a lot of people away very early.” It’ll be hard to move forward with an impressions piece without talking about the ten ton elephant in the room, so I’m going to get it out of the way now: The whole labeling as free to play is going to annoy people, and already has. The game has a seven day trial, after which you have to chalk down at least twenty bucks to keep playing. Overall it isn’t a huge deal, but I feel like not mentioning this would bring up issues later on.
The Exiled is a PvP sandbox MMO with nearly full loot and a considerable number of you just crossed this game off of your wishlists. You control your character with the WASD keys, attacking through a combination of mouse buttons and keyboard commands. Your character can make, equip, and use any weapon or armor in the game without having to deal with a class system.
The rules in The Exiled are that while you keep your gear on death from other players, your inventory is open for looting. There is some solace in the fact that you drop to the ground and start regaining health, after which you get back up and can continue whatever you were doing without having to trudge back from a spawn point, since most gankers are willing to loot your bag and leave you be. The game, as you might expect, instantly turned into a numbers game with gangs of clans roving the countryside and wiping out random solo’ers.
I’m not making any big discovery by saying that this is a niche game in a niche market, if you could take the perception that games like The Exiled has and give it a physical manifestation, it’d be somewhere in the realm of opening a store, locking the door, hiding the key under the doormat and standing at the window giving the middle finger to whichever carebear customer has the gall to ask “are you open?” And if the store owner himself isn’t enough to drive away customers, you can bet that the tiny vocal minority of obnoxious, mostly toxic cult followers of the genre will do their part to make the game as intolerable as possible, be it running train through the starting zone to harass new players, shouting “gg kill yourself” in chat, and generally operating “for the lulz” because the game lets them do whatever they want and they’re too busy telling people to go back to World of Warcraft to notice the population decaying around them.
And this is where The Exiled falls shortest, in that I don’t think that the developers at Fairytale Distillery looked at similar games when they were creating this, or if they did then they didn’t learn anything. There are zero repercussions to acting like a jackass in The Exiled because there are no safe zones and no reputation system. Like I said, you can just run train through the starting zone and nothing’s going to stop you, outside of there being nobody to kill. While it’d be nice to imagine clans going up against one another, we all know that isn’t happening. Instead you have the hardcore gank squads, some of the most risk averse gamers in existence, only going into fights where the odds aren’t even close to even.
The bulk of the game is pretty shallow at the moment, comprising mostly of activating nodes and fighting off waves of mobs that try to destroy said node, hoping that at no point during the five minute wait that a clan will come along and steal the node out from underneath you. The AI is incredibly basic at the moment, as mobs mindlessly make their way toward the node with no ability to navigate the terrain aside from a straight path, not bothering to move around whatever is blocking their way.
The farming technique perfectly encapsulates how The Exiled exists now: A long, arduous grind that can and likely will be stripped from you at any given moment. Some people love this, and I won’t vilify them for their tastes. But when it comes to the genre, there are other games that have long established themselves and managed to throw in some semblance of fairness, even though you are never 100% safe.
In a way I like and can appreciate how The Exiled handles its inventory management. You gain experience through killing mobs, however there is a wholly separate material called Flux that can be used in crafting new gear or it can be converted to straight experience, which also means that if you get attacked you can at least scuttle the flux, level up in the process, and not come out of the encounter completely empty handed. Even abilities are subject to looting, since you obtain abilities as scrolls and must bring them to a dojo in order to learn the associated skill. Each class relies on a specific reagent in order to level up said skills, so killing and looting players isn’t just about stealing their stuff, you can also gain some heavy leveling materials in the process.
I suppose what makes me reel in agony even more than the long grind splattered with setbacks due to ganking is that the game wants me to do this all over again every month when the servers reset. No thank you, if you’re going to give me a job then it can either be fun or you can pay me for it. At the very least, while the MMO genre is all about a continuous carrot on a stick, gearing up to where you can run dungeons with the best until the better dungeons requiring the better gear comes out, you’re always making progress. Stripping that away on a regular basis only ensures that The Exiled will appeal to a limited portion of an already limited audience.
Right now The Exiled suffers from long time to kill on basic creatures, a lack of diversity within weapon subsets, and motivation outside of grinding resources, among other problems. That being said, the game is still in early access and early on at that. I’d recommend holding off on your seven day free trial for the moment, but keep the game on your radar. It might become something one day.