My sort of review of Metro Exodus
When hearing the word family people tend to think of four people, all related by blood. Two parents, two children. It’s the common way it’s portrayed in the media, but as Fast and Furious has shown us, family has nothing to do with parents or children, or blood, it has to do with the people. These are people you can trust more than anyone, even people that are in your family in the conventional sense, they are people who would go the lengths for you, no matter what.
I talk family because in my experience of Metro Exodus it is a focal point. A series that is more commonly known for its bleak and depressing atmosphere is able to show its purest moments in the series most recent release.
Going off topic for a moment, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Metro Exodus. At the time of release and the people that I follow, it seemed like a mixed bag. People weren’t as fond of the new presentation the title had, Exodus decided to leave the claustrophobic metro and emerge outside in the wilderness that is the Russian lands after the devastation of a nuclear war. It’s been something explored in the previous titles, 2033 and Last Light, but never to this extent.
It’s a pretty big departure from what people liked a lot about the previous games, so it was understandable that not everyone was fond of the change. The Metro games have always been slow, Exodus is no different and mixed with bigger environments it is a very slow moving game. I thought I was going to fall on the side of not enjoying the game and putting it down after the first couple of hours, as you can probably guess but that didn’t happen whatsoever.
After finishing the main game I put in about 17 hours, normally that would be pretty long for me, but under the circumstances currently I have time to play a game for that long in less than a week. Ever since finishing it it’s been lingering in my mind, what do I think about it? What does it say? To answer the first question; I think Metro Exodus is an incredible game.
My mind is a mess and I always want a specific type of game to play at certain moments and that can either last for a month or a day. Lucky for me Metro Exodus is exactly the type of game I want right now. It’s slow, it’s punishing, it’s dark, but as I mentioned earlier it’s hopeful. There’s this constant sense of dread surrounding you as you explore the environments you’re put into, it always feels that you’re about to be attacked by a mutated creature or ambushed by bandits. And the game usually acts upon that, I remember crouching through the marshlands to sneak up on a bandit camp and out of nowhere a huge mutated fish climbs out of the water and attacks me. Out of fear I shot at it hoping to kill or at least scare it away, this resulting in the bandit camp becoming aware of my presence and my stealthy attempt had been ruined in a quick moment. I feel that if this was a different game or I wasn’t necessarily in the mood for this type of experience at the moment I’d be pissed about what had happened and either load up a checkpoint or turn the game off. But I’m glad I did neither of those things and instead stuck with what had happened.
To me, this was Metro Exodus showing me firsthand that it’s world is unpredictable; however, not out of my control. None of that could’ve happened if I stayed away from the water and instead of facing the bandits head on after being found out I could’ve run out of sight and snuck back in again. This game has the good kind of punishing to me, if you aren’t completely aware of where you are and what’s at your disposal things can go wrong, but if things do go wrong; the game hasn’t taken control away from you. There’s still a chance to remedy what’s happened and change it so it can play in your favour once again.
Throughout the entire game, Metro Exodus continued to remind me that its world is punishing and will try to take me out when it can. Despite that feeling and sense of dread, Metro Exodus is one of the most visually pleasing games I’ve played. I gravitate to stylistic art styles over more realistic ones, but I can’t help but just look at Metro Exodus’ environments, which is probably why I get attacked so much when I’m exploring.
Visuals are one aspect that help give this immense sense of presence within the world, another aspect is that you are never taken out of the world. What I mean by this is if you want to access something it will be within the game, not the menu. There is no button that opens the map in the menu and pauses the game, you have to pull out a board that has a map attached to it with a compass. The world doesn’t pause for you, if you’re in combat and not in a good hiding spot you’re most likely gonna get pelted with bullets and die. If you want to find out your current objective you can flip the board around it’ll tell you.
Metro Exodus very much wants to keep you in its world as much as possible and I feel it greatly succeeds at it. You want to clean your weapon? Go to a workbench. You need more resources for crafting? Go out and explore the lands for materials. Because I’m a bit of a hoarder in games I never felt that I was running low on resources, so in my experience, there was a good amount of resources to the player that they never felt they were constantly running. Maybe that’s different on the higher difficulties, I don’t have anything to prove, so I never play on higher difficulties.
It’s world building rivals Dishonored 2 for me, there’s this deep layer of history throughout the world and from what people talk about. For example later in the game you find yourself coming to a place densely packed with trees and what used to be homes. Exploring early you can come across a building that looks as if it was a school, exploring you find out it was a school. Coming across a forgotten tape recorder you can listen to who was a teacher talking about being left with their students whom none came to pick up amidst all that had been happening.
Upon sneaking through camps beyond the school you can hear the people who live within those camps talk about a teacher and what they taught them. Quickly learning that these are the students who were never picked up during the war, they talk about their teacher as their mentor; telling them how to behave and what their values should be. You can still see that childish sensibility inside of some of the characters, they’re split up into two groups, Pirates and Pioneers. You can hear them argue about whether they should react to your character’s intrusion onto their land, Pirates believe you should be killed and used as an example for others who wish to walk onto the land. The Pioneers believe you should be reasoned with and don’t see the need for excessive violence that the Pirates want.
It adds humanity to just common NPCs that you come across throughout, you realise that these are people who grew up in a school and the forest that surrounds it and weren’t given the most attention they should’ve been given. Even though they’d attack you on sight, I still did my best to avoid conflict where necessary because I saw them as children who were just playing together.
For the second question that came into my head, and this is coming back to what I was originally talking about at the start, what does Metro Exodus say? I believe that Metro Exodus is saying that no matter what an awful place the world is, as long as you’re with your family, you can make it through it. The protagonist, Artyom doesn’t have any parents or siblings, the only family he has in the common sense of it is his wife, Anna. The story is about you, your wife's and fellow comrades’ journey to find a new place to call home. After certain events early in the game you must all escape on a train to leave the Moscow metro, I don’t plan on going further into the story for spoiler reasons.
Each location you visit isn’t home to people you can call friends, the first place the game has you explore is home to religious nuts that believe technology is invented by the Devil. Thus resulting in them killing anyone who dares to use it, you see how this belief has made people scared of you for no reason. Even if you save them from bandits they will still believe you have bad intentions simply because you use a flashlight. It’s a glimpse into how people use fear for their own measures to rise to a higher power, similar to the Pirates and Pioneers, I didn’t wish to harm any of the followers. They’d been taken advantage of and used to make someone who does not deserve it rise to power.
The world of Metro Exodus is full of terrible people, they might be some religious maniac, a part of a cannibalistic tribe mimicking as a doctor or a slave owner. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of awful people who mistreat others and will take advantage of anyone. It shows that no matter how fucked up the world becomes people will still only look at situations so that it can benefit them solely. They do not see the need to build a community of people who aid everyone, they see power, the satisfaction of being an oppressive dictator, mislead people, kill them and feast on their flesh.
It was somewhat odd to play Metro Exodus in this moment, the world obviously isn’t in the same state as the game, but it’s unbearable to see the people in positions to help or make change do nothing. The world has never needed billionaires, but those who are, do nothing to help and instead sit in their homes pretending people are dying to uphold their economy. Celebrities moan about being locked up all day and all they do is sing songs together whilst the people who do their makeup or make their clothes struggle to pay this month’s rent.
They praise the people who are essential workers as heroes, there is nothing heroic about being looked down by the system and used as a pawn for the economy. I can’t imagine how scary it must be for people who work in retail right now, but I’m sure they don’t feel heroic right now. I don’t feel like a hero going into work, I feel like an object for something bigger than me. Leaders of countries doing absolutely nothing or getting in the way of progress being made. I’d like to say I didn’t see similarities between Metro Exodus and the current world, but sadly it’s there.
I keep coming back to the cult and how the leader used fear to trick people into believing that that way of thinking was correct. It’s like how the media would continuously use Asian people in images when discussing the virus making people believe that Asian people spread it, creating this mass amount of racism. They used people’s fear and used it to target a group of people who should not be the target, and if I remember it was white people from the US or Europe ignoring the signs and continuing like normal, spreading it.
In the midst of a situation that ruined a lot of people’s lives, including their mental health, it’s made it very hard for people to be motivated for anything. I know it’s been tough on my friends and I know very well it’s been hard for me as well. But I’m extremely lucky to have my family, them, and I’d like to think they have me too. Despite how things are now and how bad I’ve become mentally, I’m glad I have them to be there for me and that’s the aspect I think is most important about Metro Exodus.
Everyone in the game is there for each other, whether that be people you meet along the way that decide to trust you or people you pick up and take along with you. There is this massive emphasis on family and being better for each other. One of my favourite moments is when everyone surrounds your wife and plays a song to accompany her after an incident. It is one of the game’s most genuine moments and I wish it’d lasted just a little longer. People change for others and become more accepting people, people even risk their life for the sake of others. It shows that even though the world is full of horrors, the small moments can be the ones that keep you going.
There’s a lot for me to like about Metro Exodus, the way the weapons are made from old pipes and duct taped together, that the only accessible car has a bike’s steering wheel as a wheel. That I was able to take out an entire enemy camp from the shadows without any of them knowing where I was. That it has some of the best lighting and atmosphere I’ve experienced in a game. But it’s best aspect for me was what it says through its world and its characters, that as long as you’re surrounded by people who will go the lengths for each other, everything will be okay.