Usually, I start a review with specifying the genre of the game, but when it comes to ELEX, things start to get a little bit complicated. This is also the most charming part of the game.
Yes, ELEX is an action role-playing game by Piranha Bytes which is familiar with their lovely Gothic series. Saying ‘action role-playing’ defines the game, but there is something which is more important and charming: the world of ELEX. The world of ELEX is the game itself. Being set in a post-apocalyptic science-fantasy universe is not something you can look over. This science-fantasy part draws some attention, doesn’t it? Well, let’s see.
If Fallout and Skyrim had a baby
I won’t spend the little precious time we have here while stating how important the open-world feature is to us. I can just lighten up things with saying that you won’t see ‘you can not go this way’ warning while playing the game. Instead of that, I can say one or two things about the freedom you get while playing ELEX.
Trying to provide such freedom becomes a huge risk and even a heavy burden when it comes to games. ELEX offers us an original story filled with original characters, moral choices, mutant creatures, mutant humans (?) and much more. But, most importantly, it offers us a world of freedom. A world in which you can wield a sword or use a laser pistol, if you like. A world in which you will roam free with no borders. You want to live a life of fantasy or you want to live a life filled with science fiction? All is up to you. A world of freedom. A world filled with quests, combat, action, jetpacks, choices, splendid environment, and most importantly a world which is a hybrid of sci-fi and fantasy. Did I mention jetpacks?
You want to pick flowers? Go pick flowers then. You want to wield your Fire Horned Sword and chop some mutant heads? No one is holding you back! You want to wear a full leather armor and build your own world of ELEX with blackjack and hookers? Well, I am not sure about that.
No one can deny that blending sci-fi and fantasy would bring a huge risk for the developers. You must create something so great that will make us swallow the nasty words. Yeah, we are a little bit edgy, when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy… But, surprisingly, the game achieves that. The game successfully kept its promise about creating an enjoyable environment combining sci-fi and fantasy. To be honest, I was so hyped and equally afraid for ELEX until the moment the loading screen disappeared. After that moment, I was lost in the crazy and beautifully designed world of ELEX.
There is another aspect of ELEX which I admire. Everything is so clear and straight. When you delve deep into the world of any open-world game, you will find yourself carrying letters for some unimportant person or picking flowers for some unnecessary potion or killing people after rumours. But, in the world of ELEX, everything seems to be related somehow.
Everything changed when the meteor hit
ELEX is set in Magalan. A beautiful planet which was advanced in technology, civilized and home to billions, supposed to have a brilliant future. After a meteor disaster, this dream ended quickly. But with meteor, there came Elex. A limited power source that can power machines, open doors to magic and re-shape the life itself.
This is where sci-fi hold hands with fantasy. With the power of Elex, these two different genres came together and with them, specific items which belong to these genres came together, also.
There are three classes of Magalan: Beserkers, Clerics, and Outlaws. Berserkers use Elex to obtain magic, Clerics use it to have advanced technology and finally Outlaws use it to turn themselves into Elex addicts. Above all, we rise as an Alb militia. Albs managed to overcome their addiction of Elex. They used it to advance in technology and rise above other classes. And this is why we are the most hated and the one to blame.
After the loading screen, you will find yourself recovering from a crash in a glider jet with some items which are crucial for your survival –like a grenade launcher, a laser pistol, a Gore Chainsaber which totally looks like a weapon out of Fallout and such. You will find a dead body and a hostile creature with you just the moment you start the game. You went through a withdrawal from Elex and once again you can see the true colors of the world. You are Jax, a fallen soldier of Albs. A fallen soldier of the most evil people of this world. Now you are dead to them and alive again. How can an ex-soldier can turn into a level 1 protagonist which can be easily killed? Well, don’t ask me.
As you proceed, you will enter the huge world of ELEX with many roads lie ahead of you. You may choose any of them, but if I were you, I would choose a road which will lead me to a settlement since you start the game with no active mission and everything in this world is trying to kill you. The game kills you, the game does not help you, the game will not train you and look out for you. ELEX is hard and you are easy to kill. Don’t you ever forget that.
Before delving into the other parts of ELEX, I must warn you that there is no character customization screen or option. Of course you can change your appearance by changing your armor and accessories, yet Jax is your character and you either grow on him or ignore his bald head through your gameplay.
Hey! HEY! Teach me something?!
Like I’ve mentioned, you have all the things you need when you start the game. With a quick menu, you will learn everything about your character, you will check your inventory, you will distribute your character points like you do in most of the games in this genre. In this quick menu, you will find your not-so-good mini map, you will check your weapons and quests, you will read some notes. Actually, the only thing you have is this menu and the menus under it and it is not that practical, if I must say.
The progression system is rather simple. You will encounter with people who can teach you some skills if you have enough characteristic points and some currency. At first, you may find it difficult since there are some necessary and urgent skills you want to have but you can not, since you don’t have enough money to learn them all; and sometimes, you don’t know what you really should know.
When it comes to dialogue options, I can say that there are various options you can choose. You may want to sound intimidating, you may want to sound friendly or you may want to sound submissive. It is all up to you. You will shape your conversation and this way you will shape the world of ELEX and your gameplay experience. But, the voice acting puts on an average performance which could be so much better.
One of the most important part of ELEX which I must draw your attention to is the combat system. ELEX has impressive weapons and all of them are wonders of design. If you are familiar with Piranha Bytes’ previous games, then you should know that they embrace a rather weird combat system. You can use a heavy attack or a light attack with your right and left mouse buttons, you can use a special attack, block and dodge. It may take some time to get used to it; but when you do, you will create patterns and go with it if you haven’t already broken your mouse. The problem is that you die very easily.
From the moment you step into the world of ELEX, you will encounter various enemies. Mutant creatures and bandits mostly. Some of these mutants are easy to kill, some of them are harder to kill, but you are always easy to kill. Doesn’t matter how strong or weak your enemies are, your health and stamina bars drain so quickly, you don’t even understand what is going on. Luckily, you have a jetpack, you can run –but I wanted to fight. This means that if you want a proper combat, you need to die a lot and improve yourself and your weapons in the process of time. How many grenades does it take to kill an enemy? Obviously, four. Even though I hit them with each one, I needed to launch four grenades to kill two common bandits.
The other unfortunate thing is that when an enemy attacks you from behind, you won’t notice them until they hit you. The soundtrack changes and you see a ‘draw your weapon’ warning on the screen, but in just two seconds your health bar will be reduced by half. Your enemies are restless and fast, so dying is inevitable until you figure out the mysterious ways of ELEX.
Jaw-dropping environment, regions and missions
Whatever you say, these three are strictly connected to each other. Near to your starting point, you will find your first friendly settlement and take your first quests. And maybe at this point you will feel relieved since usually this kind of places can provide you some nice weapons, a more useful armor or maybe some training before you bounce into this dangerous open-world. Well, ELEX won’t do that. It will provide you some quests which will take you far away from this warm and friendly environment of your first settlement. Cruel. So, stick around for a while and don’t do the same mistake I did.
As you proceed, you will witness the beautifully designed environment of ELEX. Since the regions are variable and classes carry highly different characteristics, you will encounter jaw-dropping scenes. A mission may lead you to the other side of a region which will allow you to explore the world of the game. Your jetpack will be highly practical at this point since ELEX’s world looks beautiful from an aerial viewpoint.
Usage of Elex shapes the world of the game and this way, you find yourself surrounded by people who has different reactions to usage of Elex and you will witness how it changed the world. Weapons they use and reactions they show to you will change, depending on which class your enemies belong. Usage of Elex separates people, brings different perspectives to people who are familiar with it and creates the various enemy types for us to fight or to be friends. You can try different approaches as you wish. You want to murder them all and take a blood bath? As you wish. Your attitude will change the behavior of others. You can go from ‘It is an honor, Dragonborn’ to ‘Wait, I know you!’ real fast.
You have various weapons to use during combat. And combat can be against mutants, humans, giants, trolls and even robots. Yes, this is how diverse the world of ELEX is. Again, you will die easily, yet using your jetpack will tip the scales in your favor. Starting from the first minutes of the game, you will realize that combat is hard in ELEX. It is not designed for low level players and you will have some hard time until you reach to a proper level in order to fight in a proper way.
ELEX indeed reminded me Fallout and Skyrim. Even if it features some brand new points of view to the genre, I can not shake the feeling that I’ve seen all this before. Except the part of combining fantasy and sci-fi in a glorious way, ELEX is something we know and remember from previous open-world games. Is that bad? I don’t think so. It is just a click away from the games we love, cherish and spent hours and hours while playing.
Along with that familiar feeling, there was something else I kept saying to myself while playing the game. It could be so much better. ELEX has so much potential and material which will make the game better. But, even while I was thinking that, I couldn’t just keep ELEX out of my mind. There is something addictive about this game and I think it is the endless possibilities and options you have along with the glorious environment.
Sure, I’ve encountered with some bugs here and there. Stuck creatures, failing jet-packs, insisting on not to run or even walk, not being able to see your enemy and such. Yet none of them were game-breaking bugs and I can say that overall performance is fantastic. Changing game’s settings can noticeably improve performance, luckily for us.
Ultimately, ELEX is a mash-up of the things we are familiar with famous open-world games like Fallout and Skyrim and an intriguing story which combines sci-fi and fantasy. There is so much to do and more time to spend on the game to make it better, there are things to fix and need to be changed, but I am afraid now I am addicted to ELEX and deserved my place in one of the game’s classes.
ELEX is now available on Steam. What’s not to delve into the cruel world of ELEX?
- Glorious environmental design, jaw-dropping visuals
- A successful hybrid of sci-fi and fantasy
- Lots of places to discover
- Weapon types
- Intriguing story
- Some bugs and graphical issues
- No character customization
- Hard to use the menu
- Combat, if you are not a patient person
- Voice acting
ELEX was reviewed using the Steam key provided by the publisher.