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Now that people have had some time to spend with Piranha Bytes' recently released sci-fi action-RPG ELEX, we can check out what they thought about the expansive open-world title. And just like with the early batch, there isn't any sort of consensus here and the reviews are all over the place, with some impressive highs and some abysmal lows. Have a look:
PC Gamer 64/100:
Elex is an ambitious game. As with all open world RPGs, it’s riddled with odd little bugs, though I never encountered one that prevented me from finishing a quest or progressing the story. Otherwise, it ran remarkably smoothly, with very few hiccups other than texture pop and nary a dropped frame on a five year old machine.
Elex’s flaws don’t really come from the bugs, but from how it falls short of its ambitions. Its world and visual design are top tier, and it’s a game with a wide scope and an eclectic vision—it's fun for the forgiving—but that ultimately leaves much of the game underdeveloped. Its RPG systems in particular, what it should rely on for a core, enjoyable gameplay loop, are lacking. Combat is difficult because of numbers, not because of gameplay. Building up a cool character isn’t about customization or uniqueness, it’s about putting in the time for new equipment. Those systems become the weak link that fails to hold the whole thing together.
Less easy to get used to are the game's technical and performance issues. Playing on a base-model PS4, I noticed numerous framerate hitches (often in places that didn't seem especially busy) and drops, as well as major drops during some in-engine cutscenes. The interface and text also remain optimized for PC, forcing console players to move close to their TVs to read stats or item descriptions, as well as deal with a fairly bland, mainly text-based menu system to manage inventory and equipment. The AI is also on the less optimal side of dopey, with both enemies and companions frequently getting caught in scenery or standing stock still when they should be fighting.
All in all, though, the game remains an impressive, if flawed, effort. Toting an interesting setting and some standout design choices, ELEX goes farther than any previous Piranha Bytes game in making the case for sticking with it in pursuit of a certain old-school ideal of RPG gaming, even if it can come at a cost in polish and presentation.
The best-case scenario for ELEX is that it’ll be worth picking up on sale a year or two from now after it’s been heavily patched to fix its rampant bugs and infuriating balance problems. It has enough good ideas that one day it might be talked about as one of those hidden RPG gems that people play and wonder why it wasn’t successful at launch. But the frothy mix of joy and frustration that ELEX presents today skews too heavily toward the latter. I wish it well, but I don’t think I’ll be calling it up for a second date.
Elex's world is no doubt enticing, but the good moments are heavily dispersed among some rough technical problems and odd designs that only serve to frustrate. The game offers an incredibly designed world and the basis of a compelling RPG that disappointingly fails to live up to its potential in almost every way. For a game that relies heavily on its combat for progression, it feels overwhelmingly geared against you, and with the added technical issues and lack of a compelling story to tell, Elex takes the wind out of its own sails at nearly every turn.
Hooked Gamers 8/10:
Magalan, while not always the prettiest to look at (the game isn't much of a looker) is so large and varied that it pulls off the hard-sell on mixing so many different themes into one. Whether it’s the lush forests, the arid deserts, or even the frozen mountains peaks and old world ruins, Elex is a game that I play for the exploration. I kill, I loot, I explore and I'll pick up quests along the way that I pretend I care about. But mostly I'm just aiming for that next big reward until something in the story happens that interests me. If you're someone like me who loves exploring open worlds, you'd be hard pressed to pass Elex up. But if you're looking for the sharpest looking, smoothest playing, go-to because you're finally bored of The Witcher 3, this one may not be for you.
To conclude, ELEX is a unique and charming game, that managed to convey the old school exploration experience while covered in a modern shell. Old Piranha Bytes fans will surely spot all the aspects that they loved in the company's historic series, with a more modern touch. For the rest of the RPG fans that maybe have been “trained” by streamlining to expect a more standardized game experience, it might look a little alien, hostile even, especially in the very first hours where the "End” screen is on display non-stop. Despite that, ELEX’s denial to submit to the "Modern RPG Gamemaking Guide 101" conventions make it unpredictable, and it is hard to identify what makes it tick behind the curtains. In that way, it is able to convey a mystical experience that was common in RPGs before the TES IV Oblivion era.
It might look like a lost title from the year 2010, but for those that want a pure exploration experience, real role-play, even with some unpolished aspects by our advanced age's standards, this is the place to be. I for one couldn’t wait to get home from work to lose myself into Magalan. Just like when I was young, playing Morrowind.
RPGWatch Very Good:
I would like to say that I hope Piranha Bytes decides to approach the development of ELEX 2 in the way they did Gothic 2 instead of Risen 2, despite the overall feedback from the mainstream media. ELEX really doesn't need an overhaul, as the foundation is solid, and it would a real shame if they end up drastically changing what could be the start of a very interesting franchise.
I can honestly recommend ELEX in a heartbeat to people who know roughly what they're getting into. Personally, I love it and I'm really looking forward to seeing where this franchise takes us. For people who aren't so sure about whether or not to get it, I'd recommend waiting for a patch or two, as some of the issues and inconsistencies can definitely be fixed in patches.