At E3 I had the pleasure to play Metro Exodus for a good 45 minutes or so. Having previously played Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, I was already familiar with the general setting, a post-apocalyptic Russia, where feral mutated monsters stalk you, and you try to survive and improve the lives of those close to you, as well as strangers you encounter. In Metro Exodus, you reprise your role as Artyom, a member of the Polis Rangers, an elite group of individuals who roam the wasteland helping settlements and fighting bandits and mutants.
Off the Rails
Previous titles in the Metro series were lauded for their excellent story-telling, which was provided mostly through extremely linear adventures. In Metro Exodus, Ukrainian developer 4A Games steps outside of their comfort zone and get rid of the rails. Players will have an entire open world available to them, being able to choose from multiple quests and many side quests, and entirely being able to decide their path. This is a significant departure from prior games and is what sets Metro Exodus apart from its predecessors the most.
Given the dangerous nature of the wasteland that Artyom roams and the volatile tempers of its inhabitants, players are given a mobile base of operations that will follow them through their adventure. The Aurora is a refitted train that serves as the home for Artyom and his team of compatriots. Ironically this train is, of course, on rails, even though the game itself is now so wide open. The Aurora is where you will return after your adventures to trade in trinkets you collected, upgrade weapons with new parts that you’ve acquired, and to have conversations with NPCs in your group that will help push forward the narrative.
The Wide Wild Open
During my hands-on time with Metro Exodus, we left the Aurora with only a vague direction towards a small settlement and the desire to discover if any friendly survivors inhabit it. The mechanics will feel immediately familiar to veterans of the series as the first-person shooter controls are pretty standard and everything is coated in typical Metro post-apocalyptic grime. Your weapons have seen better days, you’ve got a gas mask on your hip, ready to save your life at any moment, and you’re always keeping an eye out for environmental hazards. The environments are dangerous, even without mutated fish trying to eat your rowboat, and humans desperate to take the things you carry in your backpack.
The map and quest system are simple enough to understand, and your typical experience will include heading towards an objective, turning over anything that’s not tied down in search of materials and useful items. When you encounter other survivors, you’ll never know if they’re happy to see you, or in the case of the demo I played, are religious fanatics that want to convert you to their cause. Resources are scarce, and you’ll be counting every bullet along the way. It is up to you how far to range from the relative safety of the Aurora, but as with most open world games, the higher the risk, the higher the potential rewards.
The Choices You Make
The Metro series has never shied away from presenting the player with hard to make decisions. Upon encountering a seemingly friendly congregation at a church, Artyom quickly discovered that the welcoming folks were, in fact, religious zealots that were looking to convert him to their way of thinking, no matter the cost. 4A Games told us that we’re able to choose how to deal with any situation we would encounter, and in my case, I decided to let my bullets speak for me. To be honest, it wasn’t my first choice. I initially attempted to sneak out of the church, but when I encountered a mother and child held against their will, I changed my tune.
A few frantic moments later, the church was silent, my gun’s magazine was empty, and the family was on their way to safety. Or at least on their way out into the wasteland, a place not safe for anyone traveling alone, as I would discover later. Interestingly, I ended up having to switch PCs during the demo as I encountered a nasty bug. Yes, Metro Exodus is not coming out till Q1 of 2019, so there’s plenty of time for 4A Games to resolve any issues. However, the PC I switched to had a different journalist playing on it before me, and as I took over his character and returned to the Aurora, I was lauded by how I resolved the issue at the church by using my words. Clearly, this guy had taken an entirely different approach to the problem at hand.
It was nice to see how the choices you make as Artyom in Metro Exodus are remembered by the world and will impact your future progression and experience.
Just a Sneak Peek
After scouring through the remains of a crashed airplane, narrowly avoiding being eaten by a mutated animal of some kind in the river, and returning to the Aurora, I was excited to learn that I could craft and upgrade my weapons with the local tinkerer. I got the sense that exploring the vast wasteland will result in many secrets to uncover, interesting items to collect, and then turning those items into useful upgrades that will help Artyom survive. While my time with Metro Exodus was limited, I got a pretty decent look at the free-roam format of 4A Games’ latest offering and have firmly placed Metro Exodus in my most anticipated list of games in 2019.