ELEX (Xbox One) Review

By Gabriel Jones 25.10.2017

Review for ELEX on Xbox One

Over two centuries ago, the planet of Magalan was struck by a comet. Instantly, an entire civilisation was destroyed, the ruined buildings serving as mausoleums for the catastrophic loss of life. In the wake of the disaster, an element known as ELEX was discovered. Before long, the survivors formed factions and fought wars over this precious resource, which led to more deaths. It was in these conflicts that the Alb came to power. Human by only the vaguest definition, they consume ELEX, trading away their emotions and free will for limitless power. Jax, a commander in the Alb forces, was chosen for an important mission. However, after being forced to make a crash landing, he was immediately branded a traitor to the Alb. Although Jax survives the attempted execution, he's lost the source of his unparalleled strength, and is now stranded in enemy territory. The odds of survival don't look good. Join Cubed3 for this review of ELEX on Xbox One.

Be anyone, go anywhere, and do anything. The promise of absolute freedom is the open world RPG's allure, but it's also a crutch. Some developers, like Bethesda, forget that with freedom comes failure. Due to the copious amounts of level scaling, no matter where the player goes, they are guaranteed to face enemies that are at or around their strength. All of the gear they acquire is certain to be only slightly better than what they are already carrying. Exploration is trivialised because there is neither risk nor reward. Even the act of slaying a legendary creature, such as a dragon, is rendered meaningless, when it can be done with little preparation and poor equipment.

ELEX not only understands absolute freedom, it takes every opportunity to embrace the concept wholeheartedly. Magalan is filled with innumerable dangers, and no attempts were made to restrict new players from running into them. In fact, someone can very easily stumble into an encounter with the wrong adversary, and then watch in horror as they are struck down by a single blow. Consider for a moment Risen, Piranha Bytes' previous game. It takes around five hours for the protagonist to find shoes and a decent pair of pants. Every step forward has to be earned. In order to progress, one must be willing to work. Given enough time and effort, anyone can become an incredibly powerful hero.

Screenshot for ELEX on Xbox One

Until that time comes, however, players must be willing to deal with failure, constant failure. There's no way around it. Jax starts off weak, weaker than almost all of the local fauna. If he's to have any chance of discovering the reasoning behind his current predicament, he needs to help others and build his abilities up. There are a large number of quests, and they tend to award a lot of experience points. While it's expected that most of them devolve into "collect this" or "kill that," there's usually some story or lore attached to every task, which keeps them from becoming dull.

The three factions are differentiated by their philosophies, as well as talents. In the region of Edan, where Jax begins his adventure, live the Berserkers. They believe in strict anti-technology laws, and focus their efforts on cultivating the land. They are also capable of spell casting. The Clerics preach the greatness of their god, Canaan, while using PSI techniques to crush their enemies. Finally, the Outlaws have only one belief: profits. They develop ELEX-laced chems and devastating weapons. Joining a faction and moving up the ranks is an arduous process, but it's essential to survival. Loyalty is rewarded with exclusive skills and armour. Thankfully, joining one faction doesn't completely lock Jax out of any of the others; it's still possible to visit their bases and complete quests.

Of course, that just leaves the problem of actually reaching these distant locations, with all limbs and organs intact. The world that ELEX takes place in is vast, and the fast travel teleporters aren't all that common. There's no shame in running away! Jax has a jetpack, which makes for easy exploration and evasion. Even if he doesn't have the strength to fight anything, he can still scout the area, dig through ruins for valuables, and collect necessary quest items. From a world building perspective, this aspect of the game is quite ingenious. The mutants tend to be more powerful than any one human, so it makes sense that the ruins are mostly abandoned, save for whatever creatures that have taken them for a home. As long as Jax handles situations in an intelligent manner, he can make a lot of progress relatively quickly.

Screenshot for ELEX on Xbox One

While the writing isn't particularly strong, and the voice acting borders on abysmal, Jax's dealings with the factions are very compelling. The storyline can be impacted in a myriad of ways, and NPCs will respond differently depending on what the main character says to them. Quests can also have multiple resolutions. This interconnectedness makes for a very cohesive world. If somebody important loses their life, there are usually one or two other persons that stand to benefit. The consequences are impactful and far reaching.

Eventually, however, all roads lead to battle. The main character has a number of melee and ranged options available, although his foes are usually just as capable. If, for example, the hero is standing on a high ledge, the enemy will either pull out a gun or spit projectiles. Due to the prevalence of rocket launchers and other explosive weapons, it's usually less trouble to rush in with swords or axes. Combat is essentially rhythm-based; if the player times their button-presses just right, then Jax will swing his weapon faster and more fluently. Stamina must also be managed, as an empty gauge means that attacks can't be blocked or dodged - so be wary of that.

The issues creep in when dealing with multiple foes at a time. In most cases, melee weapons will only damage whatever the player is "locked on" to. This makes dealing with two or more adversaries a little frustrating, since they can just swipe at the hero's sides. Recruiting a companion helps, but they tend to get knocked out fairly quickly, or forget that they are in the middle of a fight. When dealing with a small army, it's better to kite or lure them, moving in such a way so that only one or two can attack at a time. Also, it might be worth scouting the immediate area for any mutants. Although they are not exactly friendly, they can still assist in battle by thinning the crowd.

Screenshot for ELEX on Xbox One

Considering the size and depth of ELEX, the presence of bugs and glitches shouldn't be all that surprising. They are not prevalent to the point of "wait for a patch," but they are notable all the same. Early on, there is a quest to find and kill an Outlaw that was spying on the Berserkers. At one point, while running away from mutants, during the review process, one was accidentally lured to where the Outlaw was hiding, and was promptly killed. However, for whatever reason, the quest couldn't be completed. Thankfully, this was the only instance of a quest-line failing witnessed.

Other issues, such as crashes, are a bit more common, but they aren't too bad. After all, players are saving the game constantly, so they are never liable to lose more than a few minutes of progress. Auto-saves are set to occur every three minutes, and a back-up is always made for those rare bugs. One time an auto-save inexplicably occurred while Jax was trying to pick a locked chest. Shortly afterwards, he was killed, so when the save was loaded, Jax became stuck. The sound of the lock pick could be heard, but moving around or doing anything wasn't possible, except for pausing and loading a different save. Also, one of the stranger oversights is the reaper blade weapon; the fourth attack in its combo always misses.

Screenshot for ELEX on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

There are few worlds more exciting to explore than the one in ELEX. Each location is intelligently crafted and filled with valuables items. The factions are clever and have their own nuances, and working for them is beneficial in a number of ways. Growing from a chump that gets knocked down by a slight breeze to the mightiest warrior takes quite a long time, but it's very fulfilling. However, while players can get accustomed to the combat, it never becomes enjoyable. The glitches, minor as they are, still detract from the experience. That being said, it is impossible to imagine an impeccably polished open world RPG. For this game, Piranha Bytes focused entirely on its strengths, and the results are very impressive.

Developer

Piranha Bytes

Publisher

THQ Nordic

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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