Wednesday, December 13, 2017.
by Brent Roberts

ELEX Box art For me, and yes, this is my opinion, I think that one of the greatest genres in gaming has to be open world RPG's. If developed just right the right mix of a fantastic story, incredible graphics, and a musical score that steals your heart, then an open world RPG can become one of the best gaming experiences you can have on a console system.

Now let's talk about Elex. Developed by Piranha Bytes, Elex's premise turned heads from the early stages of the game. They were set on developing a game that Action RPG fans would enjoy. So, has the dev-team managed to tick all the right boxes to become a fantastic, open world RPG experience, or has it been banished to the realm of mediocrity?

Throughout the beginning of the game, you're treated to a cinematic that explains the overall story. Think of this as a "previously on Elex" moment. You are on the planet Magalan and different factions have formed in the wake of a meteor strike. The first faction, the Albs, ingest Elex so that they are granted heightened powers and abilities at the expense of their emotions, which make them perfect killing machines. Clerics, the next faction, are known as Elex embracers who consider the material to be magical in power and use it to implement technology. The Berserkers are a faction who are on the opposite end of the advanced technology spectrum. Finally you have the Outlaws, a faction who are basically an over weaponized army that focuses on firepower and not Elex. The meteor strike has marked the discovery of Elex and has provided the planet with a new resource that all factions are now desperately fighting for control over.

In order to survive Elex (the game) you will need to complete quests, of which there is no shortage of, for each of the various factions. It almost seems like nothing would ever have gotten completed on the planet had you not been betrayed and left for dead, hmmmm. While the main quests will net you coin and XP, the bulk of Elex's adventure will fall within the realm of the side quests.

The side quests can be trivial quests all the way up to severely challenging. Not only will they provide you resources for completion, but more importantly, they will provide you with favor with the corresponding faction. This favor will help you as you begin to search out trainers to spend learning points on skills and abilities, but there's a problem here, and that they are outrageously priced, and once the first skill is learned, any subsequent skills will cost you a fortune. In other words, get ready to grind your hours away.

However, when dealing with these quests you'll be dealing with what I think is quite possibly Elex's biggest disappointment, the voice acting. To say it's bad is an understatment, as unfortunately it is really bad. Every single NPC you manage to talk to will have some form of digital apathy as there is hardly any emotional connection, and the what emotions that do show are overplayed to a massive stereotypical cliché that you will find yourself caring very little for these digital characters. In doing this though, Elex effectively drains all importance of the game away and leaves you with very little reason for exploring the rest of what it has to offer.

As you would expect, it will be up to you to decide what faction you want to play as, because the game will shape to your choices and lock you out of others. This aspect, if done right, will naturally generate incredible replay value thanks to incredible quality of support. Sadly, the execution of Elex's other elements pretty much result in making you want to finish even one play through tough to do and that's heartbreaking. Single player, open world RPG games can be incredible experiences. Fallout, for instance, or Elder Scrolls, provide numerous pathways that are enjoyable from all playthrough variants, but after playing Elex, you don't get that same sort of enjoyment. It's not because it was poorly developed, but because it felt more like a beta experience than a polished game ready for the public. Let me give you an example.

When the game starts off you find yourself betrayed by your fellow Albs and left for dead. The game starts you off on a quest to find out who betrayed you and why. You will encounter a Berserker who helps start you on your path. This is also where you're going to be exposed to the absolute beauty of the environment. While the character modeling is average at best, the environments are absolutely amazing. While it may be beautiful, it's also incredibly deadly. Stray from the path to explore and you'll wind up encountering enemies that will drop you in one single hit. While this will naturally change as your character levels up and advances, there will always seem to be a feeling that anytime you set off the beaten path, you better be cautious because within seconds you could die.

While the environment may be beautiful, sadly there are other areas of the graphics that aren't. As noted, character modeling and the facial expressions are absolutely dismal at best. When they talk you almost wish they wouldn't because of the poor animation. Sometimes when my character was talking it looked like they were drunk. Then you have the combat. You're going to be getting into a lot of it so it better be good right? Wrong. The attacks for your character are tied into RB and RT and both of them are horrible. This is thanks to another underdeveloped characteristic of Elex, the gameplay.

You'll find that horrible camera controls combined with a bad user interface, and then topped off with a sluggish movement control system, combine for a completely miserable experience. Some of the most challenging things you can do in Elex is control your own character's actions. Countless times you'll try to climb something, or talk to someone, or even attack something if you wish, and you'll find that you have better chance of using 'The Force'. You get the feeling that this is part of the game that, if had it had more development time, would have been incredible and that actually adds to the disappointment.

As I continued to play I had that "it all makes sense" moment. Elex needed more time to develop. Gamers have always heard the line from companies that "We need more time to polish the game," and Elex is a perfect example of what happens when there is no more time. It's like when you rush a game to meet a deadline and then the gaming public descends upon the developer like an army of Gordon Ramsays that are eager to tell them what they think of their raw game. The biggest disappointment that I have with Elex isn't the poor control system, or the colossally horrific voice acting, or the overpowered enemies, or the character modeling from the 1990's. No, my biggest disappointment is that all, and I mean ALL, of these issues could have been addressed and refined if given two things: more time and more money. I feel that Elex could have been one of the best open world RPG games we have seen in quite sometime had it had the time and funding to develop into something wonderful, not just passable.

Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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