Review: Elex (PS4)

Review: Elex (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Elex
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (29 GB)
Release Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Piranha Bytes
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), €53.99 (EU), £49.49 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Piranha Bytes, developers of the popular Gothic series, now brings us the ambitious Elex, an open-world role-playing action game where choice could be your best friend or worst enemy. With a fifty-hour story and a varied combat system, it looks like I’ll be at it for a long time.

Gameplay:
Elex begins with a dated cutscene but things soon get better once the actual game begins and I am free to fight all of the mutant rats, boars, and dinosaurs I want.

Yes folks, you read that correctly, in this game a comet devastated much of the land and wiped most of the world’s inhabitants away, leaving a sought-after mineral called elex scattered across the land and a few mutated dinosaurs.

The main character, Jax, was a commander in the most hated faction but is now free to do whatever is needed to survive in this dangerous world. Most of the time, in the beginning at least, that involves running away and sneaking past every red dot on the almost pointless mini-map.

It was only when I found some red high-tech sunglasses that the dots appeared. Up until that point I had no clue where the strange and ominous noises were coming from. That meant I was ambushed many times and most often I was brutally killed.

I didn’t think much of the little jetpack at first but I eventually grew to adore the handy machine. It got me out of many tight situations and allowed some sneaky ingress into dangerous areas undetected. Traversing the mountainous landscape is a doddle once I mastered its limits.

Elex does have a troublesome flaw that annoys the hell out of me: target selection in combat. The game relies on the mechanic so often and it must have been play-tested yet I would often, and for no conceivable reason, target one of my allies or companions during a deadly encounter.

It doesn’t happen all that often but when it does I’ve had those comrades turn on me, or worse still, I accidentally killed them and in doing so I changed the story. At least you are allowed multiple saves and there’s a generous autosave too, so all is not lost in these situations.

Now that I mention it, the autosave and my compulsion to manually save before nearing any structure meant I didn’t lose too much progress. Combining that with the ability to skip dialog by mashing the Circle button meant some absurd conversational outcomes didn’t result in the other party drawing their weapons and attacking.

The missions were varied and most are enjoyable but not being able to mark more than one on the map at a time became tedious and frustrating. I also found the freedom to choose whatever mission I wanted liberating at first but it sometimes meant I was severely outmatched and got my character’s ass kicked once or twice.

Elex has taught me many things. You can only have one companion follow you at a time and they listen in on the conversations you have. This can lead to them liking or disliking what you happen to say. They don’t always help out in a fight and they may even turn on you if you accidentally hit an ally. It’s only stealing if you’re caught. But, above all else, I save my game at every opportunity.

I know I keep harping on about saving the game but you wouldn’t believe the number of times I have stumbled upon a person or mutant that is outrageously overpowered or accidentally got into a fight because I said something that seemed harmless enough. I also managed to kill some story changing characters, by mistake, and on more than one occasion. Thankfully I had just saved moments before.

The missions are quite entertaining and the choices made do have an impact on others. I didn’t expect to be out solving murders like Hercule Poirot or Jessica Fletcher but I did expect the numerous fetch quests. It definitely pays to look around the area close to an NPC or structure away from the factions as there are teleporters that allow for free and quick fast-travel around the gigantic map.

This is a game that forces me to ask questions, like “How are the lights still on in abandoned and crumbling buildings?” How does everyone spring awake and get up as soon as you enter their quarters? Considering how lawless the world is, why are there so many things left lying around waiting for me to put them into the inconceivably deep pockets of my character?

There are several difficulty options in the game so you should be able to get the experience how you like it and I would be interested to see how much some of my choices impacted the story. If it weren’t for the many other reviews I have lined up I would have probably invested the time to find out.

Visuals:
Elex is a good looking game with some excellent lighting and above average rain effects but the graphics aren’t perfect. The highly detailed character models have some issues, noticeably in many of the cutscenes. It doesn’t break the game but can be distracting.

What I also found distracting, in a good way, are the countless picturesque scenes that made me pause in admiration. If it weren’t for the nasty mutants lurking in the undergrowth I would have probably paused for longer.

I found myself continually checking the touch pad menu’s map as the on-screen mini-map is pathetic and it can be all too easy to get lost in the dense forest of the starting area, Edan. Maybe I missed something early on that would have improved the detail on it. I mean I didn’t grab the glasses on my first playthrough. I had played for six hours before stupidly saving over it.

To combat the problem of being plunged into complete darkness at night Piranha Bites had the bright idea (see what I did there) to have some flowers and strange orb flora that emits a gentle glow. I still had to adjust the gamma level to make things a bit clearer.

Audio:
Another adjustment was needed in the audio department. I had to lower the sound effects in a few sections as the ambient noises were too loud and I couldn’t hear the conversations I was having. Then there is the echo in most of Hort. It’s too much and needs to be dialed back a notch or two. Voice acting is better than I expected and helps to convey an interesting story.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Elex has some flaws, most of which could be fixed via patches. The graphics are great and the minor inconsistencies are forgivable. The same can be said of the controls and combat. Once I purposefully distanced myself from any friendlies during an encounter, things went more smoothly.

I want to like this game more than I did. It has some fantastic ideas and the setting is superb but the inventory system and the constant guzzling of health potions felt somewhat dated. The freeform mission structure meant I often ended up in situations where my character was just too weak.

Once I had completed enough missions to toughen my character up to the point that he was able to take on a pack of raptors the game seemed to open up and become more about exploration than survival. Admittedly there were still the trolls and other more menacing opponents but it was only a matter of time before they were but a nuisance.

Elex might be rough here and there, but it is worth checking out.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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