With the newest instalment of the post-apocalyptic Metro survival horror series just around the corner, we’ve been replaying the first two games to get ourselves ready for Metro: Exodus.
We’ve also made a handy guide to the story so far, so if you won’t have time to play through all of Artyom’s adventures in advance, you’ll still be able to start Metro: Exodus with all the knowledge you need.
Keep in mind that where we’re going, there’ll be darkness, demons, and quite a few spoilers…
The world of Metro
In Metro’s universe, the year 2013 saw the world ravaged by nuclear war, with major cities getting flattened and the fallout causing animals to mutate into unrecognisable monsters.
Moscow is reduced to a wasteland populated by mutants and supernatural beasts, and the few remaining human survivors have retreated underground into what remains of the Metro system, setting up cities in old stations, and only venturing up to the surface to scavenge what they need to survive. The air above ground (and also underground in places) is heavily irradiated, making it impossible for humans to explore much without gas masks.
Those that survived the nuclear war have split into warring factions, Communists and Nazis, with a hefty sprinkling of smugglers and bandits working somewhere in between. Bullets are the new currency, mushrooms pretty much the only food source, and survival the only way of life.
Metro 2033 (2010)
The first game in the series begins in the year 2033 and introduces us to main character Artyom, who was born just before the nuclear war began but has spent almost his entire life underground. He lives with his adoptive father, the commander of a Metro station-turned-city called Exhibition. Theirs is not a particularly easy life even by Metro’s standards, as the station has been under increasingly frequent attack by a mysterious mutant species known as the Dark Ones.
One day, a stranger named Hunter arrives at Exhibition, and shortly afterwards the station is attacked by a horde of mutants. After helping Artyom and friends to fend them off, Hunter (who turns out to be an elite soldier of the Spartan Order) suggests that the Dark Ones are the true culprits behind the mutant attacks on humanity. He then gives his dog tag to Artyom, with the instruction that he is to take it to a Metro station named Polis if he fails to return from a mission to track the Dark Ones. Naturally, Hunter does fail to return and Artyom sets out on his journey.
Before long, Artyom joins forces with a smuggler named Bourbon, who offers to help him reach Polis. Their exploration takes them through a significant stretch of the Metro and even into the ruins of Moscow, before Artyom and Bourbon are captured by bandits. Despite Artyom’s best efforts to save him, Bourbon is killed.
Fortunately, Artyom is then rescued by Bourbon’s friend, a ranger named Khan, and the two journey through the depths of the Metro together while battling hordes of creatures. Their adventures come to an abrupt halt as Artyom is captured by (and escapes from) both the Communists and Nazis in turn, befriending and losing several allies along the way.
Finally reaching Polis, Artyom is taken to speak to the Polis Council by a man named Miller, where he passes on both Hunter’s dog tags and his idea that the Dark Ones are responsible for the many attacks on humanity. The Council is more preoccupied with the need to fight the Nazis, however, and Artyom’s warnings are ignored.
Luckily, Miller reveals himself to be on Artyom’s side and decides to help him. He reveals the existence of a top-secret missile launch facility named D6, which he believes is capable of destroying the Dark Ones. Since the facility’s exact location is uncertain, Artyom must first set out in search of the Library, a gigantic military archive swarming with gorilla-like mutants called Librarians, in order to track down more information.
Several skirmishes later, and with the necessary information gathered, Artyom and a group of rangers head at last towards D6. Along the way, Artyom experiences a strange vision (one of several throughout the course of the game) in which a Dark One appears in front of him with a message of peace. Confused by this, Artyom and co. still continue towards D6, only to find the facility in a state of disrepair and populated with mutants. They are then forced to fight their way inside to flush out the toxic air, before restarting D6’s nuclear reactor in order to power the missile launch.
Separated from their allies in the chaos, Artyom and Miller must then climb to the top of Ostankino Tower to install the missile guidance system. Just as Artyom succeeds in installing it, he finds himself abruptly trapped in an ethereal landscape populated by Dark Ones, who plead with him to stop.
At this point, there are two possible endings to the game. In the canonical ending, Artyom can kill the Dark One blocking his path and unleash the missiles, wiping out the species. However, he then realises too late that the Dark Ones were attempting to approach humans with offers of peace and help, and only attacked in self-defence. Alternatively, if Artyom has made certain choices throughout his adventure, he can choose not to fire the missiles, understanding the Dark Ones’ intentions in the nick of time.
Metro: Last Light (2013)
The second game takes place in 2034, and revisits Artyom’s story. Now working as a neutral Ranger and peacekeeper, Artyom is based in the D6 facility and struggling with his canonical decision to destroy the Dark Ones at the end of the previous game.
One day, wandering mystic Khan arrives at D6 with the surprising news that a single Dark One survived the missile attack, and that communication with it could be the key to saving humanity. However, Miller, now leader of the Rangers, is convinced that the Dark Ones pose a threat, and he sends his daughter Anna with Artyom on a mission to kill the last survivor, which turns out to be little more than a child.
Just as he finds it, though, Artyom is captured by Nazi soldiers. With the help of a friendly Communist Red Line soldier called Pavel Morozov, Artyom manages to escape, only for Pavel to then capture him in turn in an attempt to learn more about the Rangers and the last Dark One.
Artyom then races against the Red Line soldiers to locate the young Dark One and rescue Anna, who has been captured by another Red Line spy. Artyom finds himself in a Metro station whose inhabitants are being massacred to prevent the spread of a highly contagious disease, which turns out to be an engineered bioweapon introduced by the Red Line. Both Anna and Artyom are exposed to the virus and are confined together in quarantine.
After being medically cleared to leave, Artyom resumes his search for the little Dark One with the help of Khan. Remembering a childhood encounter in which he was saved by a Dark One, Artyom discovers that not only does he have a psychic link to the species, he was actually intended to act as a bridge between them and humanity. Struggling with the thought that he was responsible for all but obliterating them, Artyom then decides to personally protect the little Dark One as they head towards Polis.
The Dark One proves to have the ability to read minds, something which comes in very handy when Artyom is confronted by enemies. One of these enemies, the Red Line militant General Korbut, is revealed to be planning to capture D6 as there is another bioweapon stored deep within its vaults, which he hopes to use to destroy all who refuse to follow the Red Line cause. Upon arrival at Polis, where a peace treaty is being discussed between representatives of the Metro, Red Line and Reich, the little Dark One psychically forces the Red Line leader to admit that the treaty is actually just a distraction to allow General Korbut to attack the D6 facility.
Artyom and his allies then rush to D6, where a battle against the Red Line army ensues. However, General Korbut attacks them with an armoured train before they can destroy the facility to keep Red Line from claiming it, and Artyom and co. are captured and sentenced to death.
Once again, there are two possible endings to the game depending on Artyom’s moral choices. In the first, Artyom succeeds in destroying D6, killing himself in the process. Anna is then later revealed to have given birth to Artyom’s child. In the canonical ending, the little Dark One is able to awaken a group of adult Dark Ones who had been hibernating inside D6, and they are able to both defeat the Red Line and save Artyom.
Either way, the little Dark One departs with the rest of its kind, promising to return one day to help rebuild the world.
Metro: Exodus (2019)
The newest game in the series is set in 2036, once again following Artyom as he travels through post-apocalyptic Russia. This time, he is married to Anna and is heading eastwards with the Spartan Rangers in search of a new life.
And for now at least, that’s all we’ve been told…