Elex (PC Review)

Let’s take it from the top: Elex is an open world role-playing game set in a world that combines magic and advanced technology. This combination is fuelled by a mysterious element called Elex that crash landed on the back of a meteor in Magalan.

You enter Magalan as a member of a faction that relies exclusively on Elex to empower their bodies and power their machinery. Shortly after Elex starts, you’re gravely injured and left for dead, during which time your addiction to Elex wears off and you’re left to wander the land searching for your assailant.

From this humble beginning you’ll travel the land seeking vengeance and understanding while completing quests and taking part in the feuding between the land’s three non-hostile factions: Berserkers, Clerics and Outlaws. Each of these factions has a different outlook on Elex and technology so you need to be sure to choose the one that fits you best. Berserkers shun all technology and rely on their fists and magic, Clerics rely solely on technology and shun Elex, and Outlaws are very much as the name implies, lawless and anarchistic.

There is a fourth faction, the Albs. A race of emotionless Elex junkies who are sweeping across the world subjugating every people and tribe they come into contact with. There is a deeper reasoning behind this than simple human ambition but, NO SPOILERS. This is also a faction you can’t join, given they’ve already tried to executed you once. They parade around with advanced weapons, armour, and giant walking battle mechs. They are hostile bunch and you’ll have an awful time should you bump into them.

The world of Elex is interesting too. It’s full of mutated Fallout-style creatures with a fantasy twist. From mutated skinless dogs, to hulking trolls and (for some reason) raptors. These enemies seem to roam freely and have their own feuds amongst themselves as you’ll often find dead enemies just lying around on paths and in the forests. These enemies are also one of the sources of one of the game’s many glaring issues.

You see, Elex does not give a damn about level balance. There doesn’t seem to be any border point on the map where weak enemies give way to stronger enemies. You don’t steadily move up the power hierarchy as you level up and complete quests, because there doesn’t appear to be a solid power hierarchy. Walking in amongst low level enemies are high level enemies who will kill you at a moment’s notice. Even around the exit area to the game’s starting point. Even scripted during quests.

Quests add to the problem, with there being no way to know what level you should be for any given quest. On top of that, there are quests you can get at the beginning of the game that have you fighting enemies that you literally cannot kill short of divine intervention. One minute you’ll be strolling from the starter area (the Berserker homestead) with a potential robot friend, when suddenly you’re quest-ambushed and immediately torn to shreds by enemies you can barely damage. With this quest in particular, I eventually had to cheese my way over a mountain, Elder Scrolls style, to avoid fights while my robot buddy slowly made its way to the destination. One upside is I found an Easter egg up there, a family of skeletons taking a selfie. That was nice.

Less nice was the 45 minutes I spent dying over and over because the quest for robofriend involved stealing from a base full of even more enemies. I was unable to do anything. Eventually I managed to sprint through, grabbing what I needed, and continuing onwards through a backdoor to a wooded area.

That became a theme in Elex: Running into an incredibly dangerous environment, grabbing quest items, and sprinting back out. But I know what you’re probably thinking. “This is a skill thing. You’re just not good enough to do the combat well”. No sir, let me tell you about the real downfall of this game.

Combat in the world of Elex is…awful. Genuinely awful. It feels like they added it in in the final month of development, and that’s not a controversial opinion. It’s THAT bad. It’s unbelievably bad. It’s so bad that it makes me suspect that this game was never properly playtested. I cannot believe that someone honestly played this final product, got into a fight and then said “Yup, that’s how we want it”.

Enemies constantly break combat and casually stroll out of the range of your attacks, sometimes your swings just whiff and do zero damage. Your character automatically locks on and enters combat mode. So, when you’re trying to run past a strong enemy, you’ll automatically lock on and steer directly towards the cold embrace of death. Aiming with ranged weapons feels horrible, not to mention enemy health bars will often disappear when you start shooting at them rendering you unable to tell how much damage you’re doing. Stood there plinking away, not knowing if you’re actually doing anything while your target stands still, not reacting in any way. And that’s when they’re not appearing out from behind the camera and immediately killing you.

The whole nightmarish experience of the combat mixed together with the horrendous difficulty spikes to almost completely ruin any joy that could be found in Elex.

So much of this game is so solid, too. The visuals, while not mind-blowing, do a really great job of showing off the world you’re travelling through. Nature gives way to machinery in a believably apocalyptic manner. It runs well on PC, too, although I can’t speak for the console versions.

It’s also the one game I can think of where I’ve been able to zip around fantasy setting on a damned jetpack. It makes it a whole lot easier to pull off that Elder Scrolls mountain walking stuff I mentioned before, but it’s useful for a whole number of reasons. You can use it to boost away from the many ridiculously difficult enemies, you can use it to extend your sprint, as your stamina recharges while you’re boosting. You can hover in mid-air and rain arrows down upon your borderline invincible foes. It’s just such a joy to use, and it’s a shame that it just can’t make up for the rest of the experience.

The audio in general is solid, with some forgivably stilted voice acting being the low point and the great musical score being a high. Ambient sound is engaging too in the rare occasion you get the chance to get lost in Magalan.

But, as an experience, Elex has extremely limited appeal thanks to the horrendous combat and seemingly mindless balancing issues. Even habitual RPG players will be put off by these problems, and that spells doom for almost anyone outside that little niché.

Elex

Elex
5

Overall

5.0/10

Pros

  • Good Visuals
  • Great Soundtrack
  • Interesting World Building
  • Jetpacks

Cons

  • Extremely Buggy
  • Infuriatingly Abysmal Combat
  • Ridiculous Difficulty
  • Terrible Enemy Placement

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