I originally reviewed Elex when it launched back in 2017. After playing through the game again I decided that a simple update to my old review wouldn’t be enough. So I’m writing another full review on the game in my current review style.
This is how an open world should be designed! Piranha Bytes has always been really good at designing interesting worlds to explore. Elex is the best world they’ve created yet. Elex has 4 very different biomes that are home to 4 very different factions. Every biome is designed incredibly well and every faction is very different from each other. Their homelands reflect their belief system and it was awesome exploring the world of Elex and getting to know every faction. It’s the little things that really stuck out to me though. Walking through the forest of Edan and seeing how the Berserkers managed to transform the landscape around them into a lush, green forest that overflows into the deserts of Tavar is not only a visual treat but a great way to tell a story as well.
There are no loading screens between the different zones. All of it feels natural and my exploration was often rewarded with crafting materials, weapons, or armor. To get the best armor you’ll need to join a faction, but we’ll get more into that later. Do you want to know another thing this game doesn’t have? Question marks littered across the map. You actually have to go out there and search for shit. How cool is that?
When you start the game you’ll be in Edan, the Berserkers homeland. You’ve also got the Outlaws of Tevar. They live in a Mad Max type desert and use Mad Max type gear. And, finally, you’ve got the Clerics of Ignaddon (The Hort) and their advanced technology. Think of them like the Mass Effect faction. They’re very Sci-Fi and high tech when compared to the primitive, magic-using Berserkers and the scrap making Outlaws. The 4th faction of the game you can’t actually join for story purposes and I won’t spoil that for anyone.
Elex has 3 very different playstyles. If you want your average fantasy setting with magic spells, bows, and arrows, etc then you’ll want to choose the Berserkers to play as. If you want a Mad Max type desert playstyle with guns, chainsaw swords, and some absolutely brutal/fantastic looking armor then choose the Outlaws. If you want a more Sci-Fi setting with a kind of Mass Effect feel to it then choose the Clerics. Every faction has their own strengths and weaknesses. In order to get the best armor sets in the game, you’ll need to join a faction and progress the highest rank so you can buy them from those factions shopkeeper.
Every faction has their own story to tell, NPCs to meet and quests to complete. And they’re all interesting in my opinion.
Elex isn’t the most beautiful game that released in 2017, but it’s far from an ugly one. Yes, there are some dated textures and character models, and the animations are something you would see in a game from 2010, but there’s a lot to like here. The lighting in this game makes everything look better. The way the sun beams down on the horizon in Edan made for some stunning screenshots. There are a lot of diverse terrains to explore in this game and you can tell a lot of love went into. Keep in mind that a really small team made this game. It’s an B-grade RPG and it’s one of the better ones that I’ve played in recent memory. I would even place it above Greedfall and I loved that game.
I do have some complaints though. This game is really buggy and I experienced some performance issues when I should have none with my current system. There are 11 different graphical options for you to tweak in the game settings, but I wish there was more. What’s there is what you would expect from a PC game releasing these days. It’s nothing on the level of a Ubisoft or Gears game.
My favorite feature is the fact that this game supports my ultra-wide 30-inch monitor. The main menu doesn’t (which is weird), but the rest of the game displayed beautifully at 2560x1080p resolution. I would have preferred 2560x1440p, but at least I didn’t have any of those annoying black bars on the side of my screen. This game can look fantastic. Especially on my current setup.
You don’t start this game off as a strong warrior. You can barely kill anything when you start this game. It will frustrate casual players that are used to playing RPGs like The Witcher and Elder Scrolls (especially newer Elder Scrolls games like Oblivion and Skyrim), but if you stick with it you’ll be rewarded with one of the most unique open-world games ever created.
The faction you choose to support depends on the type of playstyle you’ll have. I was a Berserker so using magic spells was a big part of my playstyle. Especially once I got my cunning to 60+. My magic was so strong that I killed the boss of the game in 5 hits from my acid spell. I also had a fire enchanted greatsword at +3 (the highest tier) for when enemies got too close to me, but for the most part, I was a caster character and I really enjoyed it once my spells did good damage.
Elex is a B grade RPG and it really does feel like one. The gameplay here is serviceable at best. This game can be very frustrating to play. I don’t mind that I have to earn everything. I think you should earn things in RPGs and not have everything handed to you. My problem is the combat is a big mixed bag for me. Ranged combat works alright for the most part, but melee combat is borderline at best. It works sort-of like Dark Souls by using a stamina system, but it’s a lot more forgiving than those games. This is NOT Dark Souls.
If there’s one thing I want Piranha Bytes to focus on in the sequel it’s the gameplay. The gameplay is serviceable. You’ll eventually get good at it, but it’s not up to snuff when compared to other games in this genre that has released in the last 5 years. One thing I really enjoyed was the jetpack though, I can just fly my way up mountains or use to break my fall when I’m falling from a really high height. It’s easily my favorite part of the game.
In Elex, you play as Jax, an Alb Commander that’s betrayed and left for dead. With his ship destroyed, powers gone, and gear stolen he’s forced to start from scratch while figuring out who betrayed him and why? The main story in Elex can easily be completed in under 30 hours. All of your extra time will go to exploring the world around you, meeting interesting companions, and getting to know your faction of choice. I really liked the story, but I really hate the alignment system that’s used since it’s tied to what ending you’ll get when you reach the final boss, and even though people claim the neutral ending is canon the developers have no confirmed this so it’s just guesswork.
The main story definitely had its moments and I even started to like Jax as I learned more about him. I also really like that he sounds like an emotionless being because… well… he spent his whole life that way so emotions are new to him. Keep that mind if you decide to play and criticize the voice actor they chose for him.
The soundtrack in Elex is fantastic. The voice acting is really good too. So why is this in the bad section? Because the soundtrack is too loud and it doesn’t matter how low I turned the in-game music down it stayed that way. I could barely hear my character speak in certain scenes because the music was just blasting away in the background. I had to pause the game and turn on subtitles (and I hate subtitles) just so I could understand what was being said. This happened multiple times to me and since it’s so many years after release it’s most likely never going to be fixed.
Romance in Elex is a joke. It’s as barebones as they come. This is nowhere near Bioware levels of good. I know this is Piranha Bytes first attempt at romance in any of their games so I’m willing to give them a small break here, but there’s literally no point in romancing Nasty or Caja in this game since it adds nothing to the story outside of ONE scene. And it’s not even a very good one. This game released in 2017 and it has romance like a 2003 game.
Stupid Story Decisions:
I hate the fact that the ending I get is determined by my cold level. Cold is basically a good or evil alignment and the only way you tell how good or evil you are is by reading what your cold level is. In order to get the ending that many people consider the “true” ending is to have a neutral cold level. The game DOES not tell you this or even hints that this game has multiple endings. I personally though the good ending was the true ending because it made the most sense.
Bugs & Glitches:
Elex is a very buggy game. I’ve had quest fail to load/complete properly. I had to abandon some interest side quests because I couldn’t complete them and I didn’t feel like going back 30 minutes of gameplay to start the quest again over from scratch. My Steam time clocks me at a little over 50 hours of gameplay in this game with a single playthrough. My actual gameplay time according to my save file is 36 hours. Why? Because I had to reload old save files multiple times in order to progress because of some really nasty bugs that I encountered.
Elex is an underrated gem. Yes, it's really buggy and has some optimization issues, but the world that Piranha Bytes has created here is one of the most unique open worlds I think I've ever explored in any game I've ever played. The story, companions, side quests, and factions are super interesting while the gameplay definitely took a backseat. I really enjoyed my second playthrough of Elex and I can see myself going through the game a third time one day while I wait for the inevitable sequel to release. If you want a unique open-world experience with 3 vastly different playstyles than I highly recommend Elex if you can find it for under $30. This B grade RPG is worth your time and Piranha Bytes has proved that they still make some of the best RPGs out there.