Have you ever tried to randomly pick words out of a dictionary to make a sentence? Fairytale Distillery seems to have done so for its description of The Exiled, a “social sandbox survival strategy with skill-based PvP”. The game tries to blend the fast-paced action of a MOBA with a no-grind MMO and sets it in a semi-persistent gameworld. To some extent it actually manages to pull it off.
When The Exiled started off on Kickstarter (then as Das Tal) it claimed to be the world’s first open world battle arena. The game promises semi-randomly generated worlds, with unique environments and rules. Players are able to form groups and clans to perform raids, sieges and diplomacy. You’ll not want to be friends for too long, though, as PvP is at the heart of The Exiled. With little to no NPCs or PvE enemies, you’ll be doing a lot of in-fighting. To help you there are five weapon sets that your character can equip - scythe, bow, staff, totem, and a spear/shield combo - along with four armour types. Fairytale Distillery plan further weapons further in the game’s lifetime, with daggers, slings and swords expected.
Combat is based around skillshots (plus a hefty dose of luck in my case) and precise movement using WASD controls. Ability combinations are crucial if you’re to win group fights. Perhaps even more pressing is the need to avoid hitting your allies: The Exiled has friendly fire enabled by default. This can be both irritating and amusing, especially when your stunlock ability sends an erstwhile ally spinning into an eternal black hole. The same applies to support-minded players, who will find themselves buffing and healing enemies that get too close to their friends. The mechanic is a simple but impactful one, and actually makes the game stand out amongst its peers.
What might niggle with some players, though, is the developer’s destruction of the game world. The game resets itself every “season” - around a month or so - to prevent high-ranking players from owning everyone in sight. A whole host of PvE NPCs spawn into the game world, triggering the removal of every player’s respawns. This effectively turns it into a last man standing free-for-all and can create a blob of panicking players all trying to come out on top.
The Exiled also features a minimal amount of stat boosting. Players can increase their mana, movement speed, ability cooldowns, armour and HP by minimal amounts but each adjustment must be reconciled by removing a tweak elsewhere. It’s another attempt to make the gameplay as fair as possible for beginners. Despite this admirable desire to stop higher-ranking players from destroying newbies, it still happens with irritating regularity. Once I had left the tutorial stage I wandered around the environment for a while, trying to pick up crafting gear. The first player I ran into murdered me in a heartbeat. Other players have reported issues of high-level opponents camping the spawning areas to rack up kills.
Graphically, The Exiled looks very similar to games like League of Legends and has a semi-isometric art style that reminded me of my youth playing Diablo. Skill effects and ability triggers are pleasing to the eye and don’t get in the way of the action too much. It’s only when a melee involves a large group of people that things get out of control. I played on a temperate world, filled with greenery, but have seen both a desert and ice setting that players can explore.
I’m usually loathe to praise a game that has different price points. Especially one that has three despite still being Early Access. The developers initially offered a seven-day trial period for players, but have since made the entire season free-to-play due to confusion with Steam's listings. It is also likely the game will remain free-to-play while a core player base is built up. The Exiled is definitely a game that has a lot of potential, but with players already reporting deserted servers and without a proper solution to a steep learning curve, that potential might not be fully realised.