Lords of Exile Review (Xbox X/S)

Lords of Exile is an homage to linear 8-bit Action Platformers and within the first 20 minutes, I knew I hated it. As a callback to classic NES games,...
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Lords of Exile - Official Release Date Trailer

Lords of Exile is an homage to linear 8-bit Action Platformers and within the first 20 minutes, I knew I hated it. As a callback to classic NES games, it features all the archaic physics and controls that I had hoped we had abandoned by now. Lords of Exile cannot hide behind technical limitations or limited resources like its forefathers can, so I expect better from modern interpretations of older games.

Anyway, 10 hours later and I absolutely LOVE Lords of Exile. Once I embraced its outdated game mechanics and hammy storyline, I started to appreciate it much more. The turning point for me was the bosses. I don’t usually like boss encounters but for Lords of Exile, the creative boss battles are its crowning achievement. When you finally complete the main campaign, you unlock a Boss Run mode, allowing you to trim the fat and focus on consuming the tender meat instead.

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Looking back on my playthrough, Lords of Exile has reminded me of playing my GameBoy as a kid when owning games meant wringing them dry regardless of how exhausting and frustrating they were – it was all you had, so you bled it dry. I’m certainly guilty of giving up on games too quickly now that I have easy access to so many but I’m thankful I gave Lords of Exile a second shot because otherwise I would have missed out on a gem.

Now that I’ve expressed my delight with Lords of Exile, it’s time to highlight its absurdities – and that’s predominantly its plot. I’m assuming its story is purposefully bad to better align itself with 80’s Martial Arts movies, which don’t particularly stand the test of time.

Lords of Exile, for example, is set in the fictional Eastern-inspired land of Exilia. The opening cutscene establishes that its main character Gabriel was raised as a noble swordsman in the West, who becomes a samurai for the evil tyrant Galagar. Threatened by Gabriel’s strength, he murders his wife as a warning. This has the opposite effect, turning Gabriel into a vengeful, bloodthirsty traitor who vows to end Galagar and his dominion over Exilia. Here are a few things that don’t make sense:

  • Gabriel is a knight but he becomes a samurai in Exilia.
  • Gabriel looks like a ninja in the opening cut scene but looks like Conan the Barbarian in the game.
  • Galagar should have known murdering Gabriel’s wife would lose his most powerful samurai’s loyalty. This is a contrived plot point.
  • The title Lords of Exile implies Gabriel and others have been exiled. A better title would be Lord of Exilia because Gabriel is a lone knight (or a samurai) in Exilia.


Skip this paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers for Lords of Exile. You have been spoiler-warned!

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When Gabriel finally defeats Galagar, he rescues a female prisoner who has no relevance to the plot or any of the characters. She’s just there, at the end, for no reason! Wouldn’t it have made more sense that the prisoner was Gabriel’s wife and he was intent on killing Galagar to rescue her? I know it’s a tired, chauvinistic crutch to lean on but this is an homage to 80’s Action Platformers after all. It would have given Gabriel more agency at the very least!


Okay, no more spoilers from this point on. Mildy-angry rant over.

Should you play Lords of Exile? If you can train yourself to play like you had no choice 40 years ago, then definitely. It’s a difficult game but not an annoying one. It’s beautiful to look at, although the screen can feel cluttered when there are a lot of animations and assets going off like a fireworks show. The chiptune soundtrack is a delight to listen to, which goes a long way to immerse you in a retro experience.

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Final Score: 8/10

Reviewed on Xbox Series S

Developer: Squidbit Works

Publisher: PixelHeart

Playable on: Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4/5, Nintendo Switch, Steam, PC

Released: 14th February 2024

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