“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.” –Andrew Wyeth
After the events of Metro: Last Light, Artyom grows weary of the infighting amongst the Metro. Abandoning the Spartan Order, he makes frequent excursions to the irradiated surface to listen for signs of communication from the outside world using a radio. His wife, Anna, and her father, Colonel Miller, grow tired of his insistence. When Artyom is captured by Hansa soldiers on one excursion and Anna is captured, Artyom sets off to rescue her and in the process, manages to destroy a radio jammer, revealing that humanity had not gone extinct. The two manage to capture a Hansa train and take it out of Moscow with the Spartan Order, knowing that Hansa will execute them for discovering the truth. As it turns out, during the war, the Russian government decided to jam transmission in Moscow and feign destruction to stop the destruction. After reaching a bridge crossing the Volga River, Artyom disembarks in search of a way to lower the bridge across. He encounters religious fanatics, and rescues a mother and daughter. After Artyom secures a train car and speaking with the religious leader, they cross the Volga River and head towards the Mount Yamantau complex, where radio transmissions suggest to Miller that the government remnants may be taking refuge. This is Metro Exodus after its first quarter: while the game begins conventionally, with Artyom wandering through the ruins of Moscow and its cavernous metro system, after Artyom frees Anna from Hansa captivity and steals a train, Metro Exodus brings players to quasi-open world. This represents the first time where players are free to explore a space to the extent that Metro had envisioned when the Metro: Last Light ten-minute demo was released six years previously; a far cry from the claustrophobic tunnels and narrow streets of Moscow, the level of freedom and opportunity to explored a landscape dotted with ruins makes Metro Exodus a first in the series, providing players with a refreshing new experience.
Besides an increased degree of freedom, Metro Exodus also differs from its predecessors in that the old inventory system has been given a dramatic overhaul. Pre-war grade bullets no longer act as a currency, and ammunition found throughout the game now is merely ammunition. The inventory management system has been expanded so players can craft resources depending on necessity, making use of metal scraps and chemicals to create various items. Vital elements such as filters and medical kits, plus reserve ammunition for the Tikhar pneumatic rifle and throwing knives can be crafted on the fly. Dedicated workbenches allow for repair of damaged gear, cleaning of dirtied weapons and crafting of powerful items (ammunition and explosives), but they are much rarer. The more involved inventory management system comes into play with a more flexible weapons attachment and modification system: while Metro Exodus is like its predecessors in having weapons modifications, it also provides the means to change out weapons in the field, allowing players to very quickly customise their weapons to fit whatever their needs are. The basic revolver, for instance, is a powerful close quarters weapon, but with a stock, long barrel and optics, becomes a makeshift sniper rifle. The plethora of options in Metro Exodus far exceeds those of its predecessors, and the game appears to have finally reached the level of openness that previous titles strove to achieve, striking a balance between linear, action packed segments and the opportunity to explore the ruins and quiet of the Russian countryside.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Moscow looks more or less the same as it did in previous Metro titles, and consequently, while I made my way through Metro Exodus‘ first section, there aren’t many screenshots that were particularly noteworthy. These sections are very linear, although players still have the option of using stealth and non-lethal take-downs on the Hanza soldiers. The benefits of this option is two-fold: besides saving ammunition and preventing unnecessary combat, it also helps Artyom’s karmic balance positive.
- After stealing a train from Hanza, Artyom and his fellow Spartans end up at Zavodskoy Rayon, on the outskirts of Saratov some seven hundred kilometers away from Moscow. Here, the Volga reaches a width of three kilometres in width, and there are indeed small islands that dot the river’s main banks. By winter, the Volga is covered in ice and snow, reminiscent of the Volga map of Battlefield 1. As the first truly open area in Metro Exodus, players will have a chance to explore, but shortly after disembarking from the train, Artyom follows Anna to a large church on an island.
- In this church, the goal is to reach the tower and scout around. The fanatics will be hostile towards Artyom and shoot him on sight, but they aren’t the enemy, and a stealth approach will be preferred. I traditionally map my key bindings so that the knockout key is easier to reach than the kill key so I don’t accidentally use lethal force on an enemy. Upon ascending the tower, Artyom will find a mother and her daughter, whom he rescues and brings back to the train.
- With the scouting done, Artyom can take a boat to traverse the frigid waters of the Volga. Rowing the boat is extremely slow, so I fell back on using the boat to only cross bodies of water and then leg it where possible. By day, the number of monsters is fewer, and visibility is better, but there still are the shrimps of old. The Kalashnikov I have here is a decent enough all-around weapon for combat with both monsters and human foes, and in the beginning, I equipped it with the suppressed barrel and red dot sight. The basic 20-round magazine is not suited for sustained combat at close range.
- Climbing to the top of a tower to meet a local named Krest, who despises the fanatics and wishes to lend his mechanical skills, I am afforded with a stunning view of the Volga region. The clouds are very lifelike, matching the quality of those seen in the Frostbite Engine. Compared to the narrow confines of the tunnels and Moscow streets of earlier titles, Metro Exodus offers true open areas for players to explore, and by day, the reduced number of mutant wildlife means it’s possible to truly take in the scenery. On the matter of taking in the moment and enjoying things, I’m finally done with constructing the new furniture and now have a dual-monitor setup, plus additional space for a mousepad. When August started, I built a new desk and closet wardrobe: the latter was tricky and took an entire day to assemble. After stopping for a delicious lunch of fish and chips with both potato and yam fries, I then worked to finish the drawer, enjoyed some cheesecake and Roobios tea and then played through Metro Exodus.
- The revolver is one of the most enduring and reliable weapons of Metro, and in Metro Exodus, it begins its journey with a meagre three-round capacity. Depending on its setup, it can be a dependable backup weapon for close quarters stealth engagements or even a mid-range solution that allows Artyom to put rounds downrange more accurately than the Kalashnikov. I typically carried a Kalashnikov for its all around versatility and then swapped out weapons as I needed, using the revolver for open areas and switching to the Ashot shotgun for close quarters engagements. Despite its commonality and simple design, it packs a punch and is well-suited for dealing with mutants.
- The Bastard Submachine Gun also makes a return, and unlike its Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light counterparts, is now chambered for the revolve ammunition rather than rifle ammunition. Performing more like a pistol-carbine in its base form, it can be upgraded to become a respectable weapon with a high rate of fire for close quarters engagements. However, it also burns through pistol ammunition quickly, and in general, the Ashot’s lower rate of fire is preferred because ammunition in Metro Exodus is even rarer than it was in its predecessors, so making each bullet count becomes even more important.
- The low reliability of the Kalashnikov at range meant that for my part, I kept the revolver kitted out for intermediate-range combat. Metro Exodus has bandits camping at certain points in the map, and there’s no penalty for taking them out. However, after Artyom eliminates a certain number of bandits, the others will surrender. They stop being a threat at this point, although I will still knock them out for their supplies.
- The wide open spaces of the Volga represent a first for the Metro series, and it was worth the time it took to climb to higher places and admire the scenery. Exploring the maps are also important: Nastya will ask Artyom to find her stuffed bear, a gift from her parents, and one can locate this at an abandoned chemical plant. There’s also a guitar hanging around: after freeing some fanatics from bandits, Artyom can retrieve it at his leisure.
- Here, I wield the Tikhar pneumatic rifle, a custom-built weapon that fires steel balls at high speeds. When fully pressurised, the Tikhar can be devastating, although as it is fired, it becomes increasingly less effective. The initial tank cannot be overcharged, as it will leak, but at a pressure of anything past six, it is fairly effective, acting as a totally silent solution for dispatching enemies. Because ammunition can be crafted in the field, the Tikhar ensures Artyom will always have a ranged weapon to use.
- Sunsets in the Volga are stunning, as every bit as impressive as the Volga map in Battlefield 1 was. It turns out that for all of the exploring I did in the Volga, however, I did not find several gear pieces that may have been helpful for later. One aspect of Metro Exodus that I am thoroughly enjoying is the well thought-out side-grade system: different gear pieces have different attributes, and since Artyom can only swap them out at workbenches, it becomes important to consider what scenarios one might encounter before picking gear. My goal moving through the Caspian will be to do more exploring for these pieces.
- Once the mechanic is rescued, Artyom is tasked with retrieving a train car located in an abandoned factory that’s flooded. While I would normally prefer to complete story missions by day for their improved visibility, excitement meant that I chose to push forwards and visit the factory by night, with the invariable result that there were numerous mutants to fight off. I’ve never been fond of fighting mutants, since they attack via brute force and do not drop anything, so every confrontation translates to a net loss of resources.
- The Ashot is the best weapon against mutants: the buckshot does massive damage and will deal with weaker enemies in one shot. While its default configuration only allows for a shot before reloading, it can be fitted with a double barrel. In this form, it is superb for dealing with mutants, and having gone through the process, I find that having plenty of shotgun shells is imperative if one prefers to play during the night hours, since the shotgun is the most effective means of melting through mutants.
- In the flooded, derelict factory, stealth actually doesn’t really mean anything, but repeated confrontations with mutants left me desperately short of shells, forcing me to switch over to the Tikhar. By this point, I had found the sealed mechanism and could keep the weapon pressurised: it turns out that the Tikhar is effective against mutants, although it is still better to engage them from a medium distance. The weapon has a respectable firing rate and one will quickly burn through ammunition, plus lower the air pressure from firing quickly.
- In the factory, Artyom will have a chance to use a trap and neutralise the giant mutant catfish that’s been stalking him throughout the Volga. Worshipped by the fanatics, the catfish actually is of some help to the player, as it will take out shrimps and other mutants. Careful timing is required to properly make use of this trap – if one can time it correctly, it will drop a massive weight onto the catfish that finishes it off. After finishing this segment, I was stuck trying to get the rail car out, only to realise that I needed to open a great gate before I could leave the facility.
- While most players dislike the hitmarkers, I personally find them to be immensely useful to determine whether or not I hit my mark, and if so, whether or not it was a regular hit, headshot or killing shot. The hitmarkers of Metro: Last Light were not aesthetically pleasing, but in Metro Exodus, they are smaller and much more useful. Knowing what a shot did means I can plan ahead: seeing a kill marker is important, as it means I can stop firing on a target and shift my attention elsewhere. This feature is immensely valuable in Battlefield: since Battlefield 4 implemented context-sensitive hitmarkers, I’ve always used red to indicate a headshot and green to indicate a kill.
- Because I was foolhardy enough to attempt the rail car mission during the hours of dark, I had to contend with the anomalies, which are floating balls of electricity that deal massive damage: an unfortunate mutant gets too close here and is ignited. There is no way to deal with these, and having not played the Metro: Last Light DLC, I’ve not seen these since Metro Redux 2033: the only way is to go around it and give it plenty of space.
- The way back to the Spartans is fraught with dangers, including one section where one has to fight their way through a bandit camp. I ended up clearing the camp out after stealth failed, and made use of the Kalashnikov against the human opponents. While ineffective against mutants, carefully-placed rounds from the Kalashnikov are excellent for bandits. I ended up finding a thirty-round magazine and extended magazines for the weapon, plus a long barrel, allowing it to be turned into an RPK. While increasing its firepower and range, however, extended magazines and a long barrel also reduces its handling, lowering accuracy and increasing reload times.
- I actually picked up Metro Exodus early in June during the Epic Sale: while I had intended to buy this for Steam, it became an Epic exclusive. My final decision was that, since the Epic sale put Metro Exodus as being less expensive than the Ace Combat 7 season pass, I would pick Metro Exodus up first. While folks have been unhappy with the exclusivity, my work with Epic and the Unreal Engine during graduate school meant I actually still had an account I could use. I updated my launcher, picked up the game for 28 CAD and started the party after finishing Valkyria Chronicles 4 in June.
- With the train car secured, Artyom heads off to convince the fanatics to lower the bridge. While I equipped the Tikhar here, I ended up knocking out any and all opposition I encountered. Combined with my other actions earlier on, I managed to confront the fanatic leader, who reluctantly lets Artyom lower the bridge without further incident. I now enter the spring phase of Metro Exodus, and so far, I am very impressed with the game for introducing new settings that really change up the experience while at once, refining the core experience and gameplay.
Whereas the first two Metro titles were set in Moscow, moving Metro Exodus into the countryside pushes the series into a realm I’ve longed to explore. There is a great deal of intrigue in the remote wilderness of Russia, as well as surrounding abandoned structures. Previous titles were more limited in their setting, so the change of pace has allowed Metro Exodus to highlight the diversity of the Russian landscape, which remains one of the most remote and least densely populated places on Earth. As I made my way though the watery expanse of the Volga, I took the time to explore the map, finding some upgrades to my gear and even a small child’s teddy bear in the process. However, the open world presents new threats, and so, I took to exploring by day, where visibility was improved. After becoming more familiar with the crafting system and weapon customisation options, I felt comfortable in pushing onwards: after locating Anna and then stealing a train car, I saw Artyom push to the bridge, where he stealthily confronts the cult leader and persuades him to allow the train safe passage. Winter will give way to spring, and I am greatly looking forwards to seeing what Metro Exodus has in store as I press forwards into the latest instalment to a series I’ve come to greatly enjoy and respect.