I’m going to start this review off with a spoiler. Usually I like to save the big reveal for the end, where I say whether I like a game, but this time I’m going to lead with it and just ruin the surprise altogether.
Exile Sun sucks.
It’s like the designer said, ‘I really like Eclipse, but I just don’t have the patience for exploring. Or for building technology. Or making sure I have the income to make stuff. You know what, all I want to do is blow stuff up.’ Which I can get behind, blowing stuff up I mean, but when you take your game of blowing stuff up and then make the explosions the most boring part of the game, I think you may have made some errors in judgment.
Exile Sun is all about conquest and grabbing planets and winning fights and stuff. You get points for doing various things, most of which involves blasting the pee-pee out of somebody else. I’m on board with that. I am full-tilt happy with a game about wrecking people and stealing things. Body count makes me smile.
Right up until the fights start, there are a few interesting decisions to make. You can decide how to spend your limited income, using it to launch fleets or build ships or draw cards that don’t help very much (I wouldn’t do that last one, if I were you). Then when you move you can fly your fleets of warships to other people’s houses and throw rocks through the windows. Only the rocks are attached to chunks of C4.
Mostly, the part before the fights is OK. There is one weird, irritating mechanic where, at the end of the turn, you advance the turn timer – but you can move it backward. This makes the game longer. And that is not cool, because eventually all your ships will be stuck in fights somewhere and you’ll just be waiting for the battles to commence so you can see who wins and let the game end.
But then, sooner or later (probably later), you will get to the part of Exile Sun where people break out the laser guns and start to blasting. Now it should get good. Now it should be exciting. Now you should go make a sandwich and call your mom because you are about to experience the most downtime I have seen in any game I have ever played.
I’m not exaggerating. The downtime in Exile Sun is the worst I have ever experienced. We literally had a debate break out between two people who were not involved in battles, and it resolved itself in its entirety before the battles between other players had ended. At one point I jumped up to visit the porcelain throne, dropped a deuce and got back before the other players were able to decide who to shoot. In a two-player game, I guess the fighting would just be boring, but in a 6-player game, you’re going to want to have another game set up to the side so the people who are not in fights have something to do.
I could almost forgive the downtime in Exile Sun except for the fact that the fights themselves made me want to douse the game in kerosene and use it to warm my house in the winter. The game has these little sliders that you’re supposed to use to distribute your attacks, but they don’t work for a crap and you’ll be intensely frustrated with trying to set your secret attack matrix because the strips of colored paper get stuck in the slots until you finally get them set and then they just slide out on their own.
And the battles are crap, too. There’s a little rock-paper-scissors action where you try to decide if you should defend or attack, and then after one round, one dude is toast and the other guy is golden and there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it.
So, let’s sum up.
The turns before you fight are kind of interesting, except for the timing track that can go backward, and that sucks.
The downtime is bad enough that you could literally walk away for five minutes without missing anything interesting, and that sucks.
The fights themselves are frustrating and crappy with little room for tactics or strategy, and that sucks.
And now let’s reiterate.
Exile Sun sucks.
Made from paper, which is handy if you need paper
Exists at all
Exile Sun sucks. You’re not getting a link.