Elex is probably one of the most unique games I’ve ever played when it comes to world design. A post-apocalyptic, sci-fi RPG with fantasy elements with core gameplay comparable to The Witcher but with slight variations. Sounds almost unthinkable right? Well it’s real, and regardless of what’s said in this review Elex can safely say it is the only game (as far as I know) to actually mix up all those genres for a world design and pull it off well.
From the beginning of the game it is made clear that factions play a massive part in the story, progression of your character, and gameplay overall. There are 4 factions in Elex: the Berserkers, Clerics, Outlaws and Albs. Each of these factions has their own lands, laws and ideologies which play a massive role in the game’s world. How the player interacts with all these factions is completely down to them and which faction they prefer to be in the good graces of and join. The Albs excluded however due to plot reasons. Before joining a faction it is very important to get an understanding on each of them and what they have to offer for the player to use because once you ally with one you’ll be locked out of the others. Obviously if you pick a faction then the others will have all their faction specific quests locked out so it can give players a reason to go back and see what new things you can do with a different side. Due to factions specialising in different things in terms of weaponry and abilities they also act as an extension of the character’s build.
Progression in Elex is painfully slow and tedious, especially early in the game. Weapons and armour don’t become available for purchase until a couple hours into the game and until then you have to get by on whatever you can scavenge from the world. Sounds fine right? It’s an RPG so you can level and do fine without good equipment. Wrong. In Elex, your equipment is pretty much your level. There is no scaling for enemies so they remain consistently difficult throughout the game and even with the best stats in the world unless you have the armour and weapons to take them on you will get torn apart. There is a level system with individual stats but these are only useful for unlocking skills to expand your abilities and meet requirements to equip things on your character. About 95% of the time you will be running away from fights at the start of the game and this can become a little frustrating in that even your standard encounter can be an impossible fight at the beginning.
For when you finally get access to different equipment to use and get yourself in a faction there is a lot to choose from in terms of combat. There are bows, guns, various types of melee weapons, even magic and technological abilities. It opens many doors for different playstyles if you tough out all the repeated deaths from bumping into random encounters with mutants or any other enemy that can one shot early game characters. Companions can also accompany you into battle, some associated with specific factions each offering their own personality and requirements to feel comfortable following you.
Despite all its options and how deep the combat looks from being outside of it; being in combat on Elex is disappointing to say the least. Melee combat relies on doing combo attacks to inflict damage upon your enemy but each attack has long wind-up times and costs stamina. For the player the animations are limited so you can only really attack when the time is right, usually after dodging or parrying (which also costs stamina). Overall it just feels too slow which is fine in 1v1 situations but for the most part you will find yourself fighting multiple enemies and completely outmatched in most cases.
Enemy design is interesting and varied. Each enemy has their own individual designs which makes them interesting from random wildlife in the world to mechs and mutants made as a result of consuming too much of the substance which the game is named after, Elex. Just as the enemy design is interesting I can safely say the same for the world. The environments are all extremely interesting and varied. You can tell each region has had its mark left on it by the individual factions that settle there and especially by the other inhabitants of the world. The world is on a very large scale and the fact it can maintain interesting and varied designs around every corner is easily the game’s strongest point.
Exploration and interaction with the world is something I had mixed feelings about. The ability to pick a spot on the map and head straight to it is always satisfying. With a jet pack available for getting to those heights where a jump won’t do and being able to find plenty of lore at every location it is brilliant exploring all the different areas of the map. However, this is let down by the fact a large portion of areas can’t be explored if there’s enemies there until you level up in the first place. Then there’s the jerky animations which can be very off putting when trying to get around. NPC’s are also a mixed bag, with some areas of script not being the best sometimes the dialogue isn’t great but the voice acting is fairly solid. There are various dialogue options which effect some NPC’s individual opinions of you and in some cases the future of that NPC, especially in the case of quests which can pas to multiple outcomes. When around different factions, NPC’s react according to what you are doing and if that falls in line with their laws and customs. So for example if you use technology around the Berserkers then various NPCs will scold you for no respecting their rules. It adds that little bit extra authenticity to the world.