A history with open world.
Piranha Bytes is no stranger to open world RPGs and players who are familiar with them either. Having notably worked on Gothic and the Risen franchises, these developers have a history of being able to create some unique worlds and systems, but with plenty of caveats. Well the good news is that those who have been fans of them before almost assuredly will have a great time with Elex, but other players…that’s still up for debate.
The setting for Elex is probably going to be the biggest attention grabber for most as it’s quite interesting in its style and set up. Set on the world of Magalan, a meteor struck the world and now the survivors are left to reclaim the land and forge a new world with those still around. With the meteor came the resource of Elex. Some fear it, others embrace it, and multiple factions want to recruit the player for their side. Playing as Jax, a recently exiled Alb, it’s time to forge a path and decided which decisions to make, who to trust, and how to play. He is cold, burly voiced, and as plain as a main character can probably come, but it’s not so much about him but how players play him.
Price I’d Pay:$39.99
How long to beat: 30+ hours
The world itself is a mixture of high fantasy and sci-fi thrown into a blender. For every cool creature or monster a player runs into, an equally cool set of environments like snow or desert are discovered. It’s not to say the themes thrown into Elex are particularly unique, but I’m not sure I’ve seen so many together in one game. From barbaric melee weapons, to laser guns and magic, Elex really has it all, even a jetpack. This makes exploration fun and a tad unique considering most games just allow fast travel or horses for transportation. Just make sure not to run out of energy at the top of a thrust, death from jetpack is a very real thing when the ground suddenly meets with body, it usually results in death.
Exploration is probably the most fun here as nothing is held back or blocked off. A fair warning though, with that comes monsters at extremely high levels that can absolutely ruin the day. So running away isn’t always just a last resort but instead should be considered a normal and highly used strategy that players need to use in the opening 10 hours or more. Leveling up helps this, but it can be a slow process at the start and using PB classic trainer and learning system, various skill points need to be attained in order to simply learn specific moves and abilities. It really boils down to an experience that feels a bit different than most open world titles, but is familiar with those who have played the developers previous games. It takes time, the game is a slow burn, but stick with it through the hardships and players can reap the benefits.
Combat here is fun and definitely experimental, but with the frame rate can feel rather lack luster and not nearly as smooth as it could. Using a stamina system that reminded me of Dark Souls and others, it’s competent enough. Just don’t expect a smooth, dynamic combat system. It never felt quite right to me, but I didn’t hate it. Using ranged weapons are fine enough but a lack of impact doesn’t give me the feeling I’m even making a dent in an enemy aside from hit points going down. Dodging also doesn’t feel great, which sums up combat in general really.
Open world funk
Every open world game, especially RPGs, seem to have a wide assortment of glitches or issues, and this one is no exception. While combat is decent enough it just lacks a smooth feeling and punch. When I’d rather explore more than get into another combat situation, that speaks volumes. I can look past it though. Everything from weird lighting bloom effects from inside houses, to oddly placed camera positions during chat conversations. There are little inconsistencies everywhere, and I’d think a developer that has been making these games as long as they have might have grown a little bit in terms of what works or doesn’t but still we see the same issues.
It’s par for the course and underneath it all there is a lovely world of factions, big cities, and some interesting quests and choices that must be made that alter how people treat you or the story plays out. System performance is a mixed bag, having played both the PS4 version and reviewing the Xbox One version, frame rates seem super variable. Before the day one patch on Xbox One it was definitely a worse experience with screen tearing, stuttering at times and more. Glad to see that cleaned up a few things in that regard even if it’s not perfect yet. I’ve not even mentioned the voice acting, which all ranges from bad to decent. It’s serviceable at best, laughable at the worst.
Elex is a game that I like on a core and fundamental level. The exploration is fantastic and the world they created is this place that truly feels like a mixture of so many other games before it, yet it still stands out on its own to do its own thing. The mythology is interesting here but I tended not to care for any characters I met or myself, I had fun with the gameplay mechanics and world. This is still for the hardcore open world RPG fans that have been fans of PB before or able to accept games of this caliber knowing the plethora of issues that can occur. We know what to expect at this point, I just hope one day they can go past those expectations, keeping what makes their games great, and fixing more of what hold their games back.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.