Reviews November 7, 2017

Elex

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Reviewed By: Andre Thomas
System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, PC)
Genre: Action RPG
Rated: M
Players: 1
Cost: $49.99
Release Date: 10/17/2017
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Piranha Bytes                

There isn’t much more frustrating than playing a game that feels incomplete. Exemptions like Early Access titles aside, some games just shouldn’t be on the market before their bugs have been worked out – developers are seemingly using software patches as a crutch to allow games to come out before they should. I don’t believe that to be the case with Piranha Bytes. That said, I feel that Elex is a prime example of how to ruin a great game by sending it out “incomplete”.

Now of course, developers aren’t out to sabotage their reputations with poorly received titles. And I totally understand needing to release something in hopes of recouping some of the money that went into creating a game. But when deliver an experience that’s filled with technical issues, you risk alienating your customers. Or at the very least, make them weary of your future titles.  

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Elex has some promise. Set on a Maglan – a planet that was nearly destroyed by meteor – where multiple factions battle one another for survival. The key to outlasting their rivals is a substance called Elex that provides power for machines and magic. Most use it for forge a future in this bleak world. Others, namely the Albs, were transformed after ingesting Elex; they’ve become powerful, emotionless beings. Our protagonist hails from this group. After experiencing a tragic event, he was able to change his ways (sort of speak) before joining a different faction. What follows is a memorable journey through the wastes with charming characters, deadly monsters, and interesting if not fully realized mechanics.

Things start out rough. Due to the lack of Elex in our hero’s system, he’ll start to feel emotion that he couldn’t beforehand. One would think he’d start down the path of self-enlightenment or be pissed after being left for dead via the tragic event I mentioned earlier. The thing is though, I didn’t know what he was after. Though the plot is engaging, the character development for the protagonist is awful – after several hours of play, I still don’t know what his true motivations were. Well, besides my personal choices (like choosing who to side with). In a game like Fallout: New Vegas, the player chooses how the story unfolds. At the same time, the focus is always on getting answers from Benny, the mobster that tried to kill you at the start. That’s not the case here. There is a plot but nothing that could be tied only to the protagonist on a personal level.

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The gameplay doesn’t make up for this shortcoming. Moment to moment fighting, switching between melee and ranged abilities can be fun. But poor camera angles, balancing issues, and troublesome AI hurts the experience. Enemies will randomly go from putting up a decent fight to being nearly unbeatable. This makes not fights where I can’t properly see what is attacking me worse; not only is this dodo bird-turkey-monster fusion thing hard to kill but I can’t rightly land my attacks thanks to the camera angle. My AI partners were no help as they often failed to acknowledge enemies who were hell bent on killing us.

On top of all this were poor quality of life systems and rampant technical issues. For instance, at certain points, the game won’t show you where to go next. I spent over an hour in a faction’s zone, being told to “find people in the camp to help”, with no direction on who to talk to in order to begin these missions. When I was presented with a location of interest, sometimes the game wouldn’t recognize I was there; it’s super frustrating to go to a place only for a bug to stop the game from triggering an event. Other times Elex would glitch, causing the wrong thing to occur. I wasted 20 minutes in a tavern speaking with the owner expecting to eventually get a mission based off the conversation we were having, just for him offer me a drink that I never received. I see him pour a glass, I get the option to pick it up, and then the tavern owner and other people in it treat me like I stole the drink. My wife and I sat there in utter confusion as I ran out of the tavern and reloaded from my last save point so I could reenter the camp.

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I don’t need hand holding but I would like some indication of what I’m supposed to do. And when I get to that location or finish a task, it would be nice if the game recognized it for what it was – me completing a mission. Odd design choices and bugs like these were everywhere, which made it difficult to complete Elex. The premise is cool – it’s like Fallout with magic – and it’s visually pleasing at times. The story isn’t bad either, sans your character. But the rest of the game felt rushed. It isn’t exactly broken, but it does feel like it could have used a few more months of polish. Here’s hoping Piranha’s next game doesn’t follow suit.

Gameplay: 4
It can be fun, sparingly. The technical issues/bugs and odd game design hurts the experience.

Graphics: 6
The game looks like a current gen title, but that’s not saying much.

Sound: 7
The voice overs and sound effects are decent.

Replay Value: 5
There are different endings and such. Personally though, one playthrough was enough.

Final Score:

5.5