We have been spoiled a little as gamers in the last few years when it comes to RPGs. We have non-AAA developers putting out some of the well-crafted RPG experiences out there. Earlier this month we had the much vaunted Divinity: Original Sin 2, to say nothing of Witcher 3, which still holds up two years on. This is why middling titles like Elex are tough to justify putting hard dollars down for.
Developer: Piranha Bites
Platforms: Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC (reviewed)
MonsterVine was provided a PC code for review
We open our narrative on the most Proper Noun packed prose I’ve maybe ever seen in an opening cinematic. You’re on the planet Magalan, it was hit by an asteroid which was made up of Elex which the four factions – the Beserkers, Clerics, Outlaws and Albs – use for various purposes. These include magic, plasma weapons and the ability to be next-level edgy. How does all this fit together? Beats me! The game is so quick to take a big ol’ information dump on the player that it’s tough to summon the ability to care. An actual conversation with the first living person I encountered went something along the lines of “If this valley is so dangerous, why come through here?” to which he responded with minutes of dialogue explaining the state of the world due to the asteroid as if I hadn’t just watched the intro cutscene 5 minutes ago!
They tried to cram too many sub-genres into one game. There’s the fantasy guardians of nature – your standard sword, shield and magic guys – who are unfathomably called Beserkers. There are the futuristic Clerics which have space lasers and mechs. There’s also the wastelands with The Outlaws rocking a Fallout vibe (where I did pick up a very fetching cowboy hat). Each faction does have a unique quest line that gives variations on the ending – your choices do affect the story, and yet there were rarely options to deal with an encounter any other way than “shoot all the guys”. Good macro level choice and consequence, but not so great on the smaller scale choices.
Furthermore, these disparate tropes could have been tied together with a better developed story or at least a protagonist who was more than a pair of pants for the player and a deep voice. Having a modern RPG where you’re forced to play the brooding white guy and the very hit-or-miss voice acting in general felt like a step backward. Overall it feels like they tried to jam Skyrim into Fallout into Mass Effect without making any of them feel fully realised or unique from other examples of the genre. Merely mashing them together does not make the world interesting.
This is not to say Elex doesn’t have its redeeming qualities. There’s certainly a lot of content to blow through if you’re feeling like a good ‘shoot stuff and explore’ simulator. The combat is decent, due to the wide array of genres you get to pick up guns, magic spells, sci-fi weapons and your more traditional swords and shields. Plus, depending on what faction you’re aligned with you can pick up interesting late game upgrades. Managing your stamina, weapons and abilities coupled with decently strong enemies meant that putting one down was rarely a pushover and felt genuinely satisfying. At one point I aggro’d a bunch of bandits and chased them into a troll who promptly beat them into a pulp. However these moments felt more like mechanics which happened to overlap rather than an experience intended by the developers.
The Final Word
There’s enough content here to last you a good amount of time. However I’ve never felt the dollars to hours ratio for game quality argument ever held much weight. But if you’re really just looking for the chance to delve into a generic dungeon with a generic protagonist I have a 3 for 1 genre special – but ends up feeling like 1/3 of a game in total.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 2.5 out of 5 – Mediocre