By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
ELEX is the latest title from Piranha Bytes, the studio that brought us both the Gothic and Risen series of RPGs. There are some similar themes to their previous titles, but the major difference is the setting. While Gothic and Risen were set in fantasy worlds, ELEX is set on a high-tech world that was met with calamity, destroying their civilization and splitting the remnants of humanity into a handful of factions with different ideologies. It also introduced Elex to the world, a mysterious substance that can power technology, enable humans to cast magic or unlock psi abilities. There’s no doubt that this all sounds fantastic on paper, but lets see how it stands to review.
Unfortunately, you don’t get much to change when it comes to your character’s looks. Really, it comes down to your gear. However, you do have a ton of freedom when it comes to customizing stats and skills. You’re free to develop your character however you like. You just can’t change things like his background, voice, the way his face looks, etc. I’m not upset that these features aren’t there, but I would have probably felt a bit more invested in my character if I actually had to create him.
While it doesn’t look as incredible as some AAA titles, ELEX is certainly a beautiful game. If you’re the type that likes to stop and take in the view, you won’t be disappointed. I’m not blown away by some of the attack effects that a few of the monsters have, but overall combat is a joy to watch. Not too over the top, but still impressive. I love it whenever a game constantly has my finger on the screenshot key, and ELEX certainly got me to take a ton of screenshots.
ELEX was obviously designed with a controller in mind, which means that (at least for me) there was some clunkiness when it came to using my keyboard and mouse. I have a PS3 controller hooked up to my PC that I could have used, but I decided not to use it. The clunkiness was only ever an issue in combat, and I eventually got used to it.
ELEX is flat out one of the best RPGs I’ve played in recent history. If you found yourself enjoying the Gothic series or the original Risen, you’ll more than likely have a blast with this game. A lot of work was put into crafting a wonderful post-apocalyptic setting that has something for everyone. If you’re a fan of RPGs with action-style combat and exploration, look no further. ELEX definitely has what you’re looking for.
ELEX has your standard single-player RPG style quests, with a lot of running around and talking to people during the first hours of the game. There’s an tutorial quest that introduces you to some concepts of the game, but I feel like it’s not quite as in-depth as it could be. I felt a bit under prepared the first time I adventured into the world. Perhaps it was just the way I played the game, and I’m sure I’ll have a much smoother experience with my next playthrough, but I felt like I was way too weak early on.
Most of the quests were quite interesting and there are a lot of enticing stories that unfold. The world that ELEX takes place in is a bit larger than you might initially think. There’s a lot to explore and a lot of NPCs to meet, all with their unique backgrounds and struggles. The reason I loved the Gothic and Risen series was the attention to detail that the games gave to the RPG portions of their games. I never got tired of interacting with the virtual world the developers had created. It’s the same with ELEX.
I was initially surprised with the size of the game map. It was bigger than I expected. The world design itself tells a story of a world, much like our own, wrecked by catastrophe. You can see remnants of the old civilization all over. You can explore ruins that seem foreign and strange from the perspective of the main character, but will be familiar and make sense to anyone from our own.
Combat is pretty fun most of the time. Honestly, it felt tedious in some instances. You can only fight the same monster so many times before you get bored of it. Perhaps it was just the way I played the game, but I felt like the early game was really slow to get going. However, once I got some momentum in my character development I was able to have a lot more fun and the combat became a lot more interesting.
There’s a decent number of weapon types and weapons to choose from, whether you want to be up-close-and-personal with an axe, or shoot from afar with a plasma rifle. There’s also psi abilities (if you go with a more modern or sci-fi themed faction) or magic (if you go medieval/viking with the Berserkers) to thrash your enemies with. I chose to go with the Berserkers for my first playthrough and I had a blast. I want to go with the Clerics my next playthrough, as it’ll be a vastly different gameplay experience.
What makes combat – and exploration – more fun are the jump jets. You can use them in short bursts to get around. Whether you want to get up to the second story of a building to shoot arrows at a crazed mutant hound, or you want to slow your fall so you don’t instantly die from fall damage, you’re going to find them useful. Be careful, though, as some may not act kindly to such overt displays of advanced technology.
Speaking of, each faction has its own unique culture. The Berserkers are techno-phobes who will get angry if you start using your wrist-implant to look through your inventory in the open, or jump around using your boosters. The Clerics have a religious-order feel. Because the factions are so unique, you will probably end up playing the game several times to get a different experience. There’s a lot of little fluff things that make each one unique and fun to interact with, so I can see myself sinking at least a hundred hours – perhaps a lot more – in this game before I even begin to get bored.
The world feels truly alive, too. When you’re in a city you’ll see people walking around and doing tasks that make sense. When you find a house out in the wilderness and the owners haven’t invited you in, they’ll tell you to get out – and if you don’t, be prepared for a fight. Stealing is possible, which had me nostalgic for the original Fable. The developers were able to create a world that feels like it’s living, rather than a bunch of NPCs placed in specific spots. I’m not saying they didn’t do that, but it didn’t feel that way.
ELEX is a fantastic addition to the Piranha Bytes line up of RPGs. It has a setting that allows for just about any type of RPG players to have some enjoyment, whether they want a fantasy experience, sci-fi, or perhaps a bit of anarchy. It’s also a massive improvement from the experience that was Risen 3, in all areas. If you get the game, say goodbye to your social life for a bit because it’s going to suck you in and take you for a ride you won’t forget. Should you get ELEX? Yes.
- Features: 4/5 – An impressive array of features.
- Customization: 3/5 – More freedom to customize the background and actual features of the main character would have been appreciated.
- Graphics: 4/5 – The game is beautiful.
- Controls: 3/5 – If you’re playing on PC, I would go with a controller if you have one.
Overall: 4/5 – One of the best RPGs I’ve experienced in the past few years.