Come for the Flamethrower, Stay for the Story
In Metro Exodus’ main campaign, you find out that there are other survivors persevering through the nuclear apocalypse. Unsurprisingly, most of these survivors try to kill you, but there are some who are relatively sane. You also stumble upon another metro civilization, this one wiped out at some point in the past. The sole survivor of this particular underground haven is Kirill, a child who has been waiting for his father’s return. In the Two Colonels DLC, you get to play as Kirill’s father, Colonel Khlebnikov and witness the final months of their home as it descends into ruin.
One of the first things that you may notice about the DLC is that unlike Artyom, Colonel Khlebnikov is not mute. In fact, most of The Two Colonels’ story revolves around Kirill’s relationship with his father. The rest of the story covers Khlebnikov’s interactions with the leadership of OSKOM, the de facto government of their metro station. Merely being able to talk gives Khlebnikov the character development that Artyom in Metro Exodus’ main campaign sorely lacked. It makes him an actual character in a complicated world, one that you start to empathize with as things unravel.
Exploring a new underground world in Metro Exodus: The Two Colonels
At the start of the DLC, life is relatively idyllic, considering the circumstances. Your first task is to simply take a giant flamethrower through the metro tunnels and burn away a slime infestation. As other characters imply, this is a routine procedure, and as such, there isn’t much to fight here. Aside from a giant worm of course. If you’re squeamish, you may also have to contend with the impressively gross visuals of mutated slime. The chapter ends on fairly pleasant terms as the metro station hosts a New Year’s party. This brief snapshot into what passes for normal following a nuclear war certainly comes off as thought-provoking if nothing else.
Unfortunately, happiness is in short supply in the Metro universe, and Khlebnikov’s station used up their allotment. The situation deteriorates quickly after the New Year’s party. Knowing the station’s fate from Metro Exodus’ main campaign makes the opening chapter especially tragic. The following chapters test Khlebnikov’s morals as supplies of anti-radiation medicine run low.
Once again, Khlebnikov’s comparative chattiness pays off. The Two Colonels' story simply would lack the same impact if he were mute. Khlebnikov’s talks with Kirill drive the story and demonstrate how both adapt to the new normal. As the story progresses, the bond the two share comes off well. Khlebnikov’s character arc may not be particularly unique or revolutionary. However, the fact that it influences Colonel Miller’s character development from the main campaign does lend it some weight.
Metro Exodus: The Two Colonels Review | The best of times and the worst of times
There does appear to be a trade-off for all this story related content though. Unlike Metro Exodus’ main campaign, The Two Colonels’ levels are far more linear. It makes some sense since you are in a relatively secure metro station most of the time, but it also makes the DLC feel short. There’s no real need to explore either as you don’t have access to the same arsenal that Artyom has. After all, it's a lot easier to maintain a couple of guns instead of a dozen. Some sections literally have arrows pointing you in the right direction as if the developers really wanted to make sure that you take the most direct route from beginning to end. On the bright side, at least it’s impossible to get lost.
The final battle embodies this stark change in gameplay design to the letter. Basically trapped in the world’s shortest hallway, you just have to survive. It’s not a segment that you can sneak through and there doesn’t appear to be some creative way to skip the battle. There’s also no cover and no room to maneuver. Compared to the level design in Metro Exodus proper, it's actually somewhat disappointing. The ending itself is quite moving, but the decision to have such a potentially frustrating fight beforehand seems questionable.
To be fair, it’s impressive how succinct Metro Exodus: The Two Colonels is. The DLC has a story to tell and it tells that story with no lollygagging involved. You could probably take out all the combat sections and the DLC would be just as effective at conveying the tragedy of Colonel Khlebnikov. The inverse is not true by any means though. Without the story or the excellent world design, there’s not much of a reason to play the DLC. Thankfully, you can’t have one without the other, culminating in an experience best described as not great, but not terrible.
- New, Disgusting Environments
- Shows Normal Life in Metro
- Good Story and Character Development
- Unusually Short
- No Need for Exploration
- Final Battle Seems Out of Place