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ELEX (Xbox)

Developed by Piranha Bytes, ELEX is available on PC (Steam) for £39.99, PS4 for £54.99 (currently on sale for PS Plus members at £39.99) and Xbox One for £44.99 (currently on sale for Gold members at £31.49).

Since its initial release, ELEX has now received a patch making it an Xbox One X enhanced title and let me tell you that the difference is incredible. Aside from the obvious improvement in graphics, I feel that the actual game runs generally a lot smoother now although, it has still managed to crash on me.

As always, I will strive to avoid any spoilers throughout my review.

ELEX is an open world, action RPG set in a post-apocalyptic sci-fi universe. As you traverse the world of Magalan you’re surrounded by beautiful landscapes and mysterious enemies. The soundtrack and sound effects are of a high quality and really stood out to me, specifically the voice acting of all of the characters you can interact with. I am always appreciative of having spoken dialogue when conversing with NPCs rather than just having to read subtitles in silence.

First and foremost, it is worth mentioning that it took me a good few hours to start to really get into the game. I honestly had so many moments of wanting to give up completely rather than a desire to continue playing the game. Having said that, once I had managed to stop getting killed so often and started getting a few missions completed, it became a lot more fun to play but for the average gamer who may have limited free time to play video games, I could understand why some would probably leave the game and never return to it.

ELEX is not the kind of game where you can casually go on a jaunt in the hope of completing missions, killing enemies and turning yourself into a demigod. Even on the lowest difficulty (normally I like to stay on the default setting, but I reached a breaking point!), ELEX is absolutely brutal. Death is inevitable and the sooner you learn to embrace that fact, the sooner you’ll be able to adapt and improve. There are ‘easy, normal, difficult and ultra’ difficulties so they have catered for everyone.

It is incredibly easy to spend a lot of time in ELEX not really accomplishing much aside from gathering items and activating new teleporter pads which add to the charm of the game. There is a real sense of adventure and there are so many places to discover and explore so there is always something to do. I love that the enemies you encounter in the open world will also be enemies to each other and if seen (or lured towards each other) will engage in combat with each other. This has helped me a number of times when a mission requires killing a much stronger enemy than myself. Enemies can also kill NPCs so be extra careful as I made the mistake of attacking a troll which then resulted in killing the person who had just given me a quest. Needless to say, the quest was cancelled, and I was killed because the troll was insanely stronger than just me and a bow. Thankfully I had saved just beforehand, but I do like the fact that there are real consequences to organic gameplay.

So, you play as “Jax” who has literally been shot out of the sky (always nice to know that someone wants you dead at the beginning of a game). You quickly meet up with a Berserker and follow him back to Goliet. Here you will begin your journey into the game of ELEX. There are three factions (Berserkers, Clerics and Outlaws) and you'll get to choose which one to join depending on whose side you want to be on in this war. Each faction has their own special skills and abilities which can be unlocked so definitely think carefully before signing up to the first one that will have you!

Pick up missions by speaking to people, all of them will, of course, have something they need you to do! Sadly, there is no real tutorial to ease you into the workings of the game, so it was purely with persevering that I managed to figure everything out. I’m definitely in favour of games not spoon-feeding their players but at least give them a little nudge in the right direction at the beginning. 

The menus are fairly easy to navigate through and you can change between active missions however you desire. I love how you are not forced to do the main missions immediately and are essentially left to decide how you want to play the game. You can be the good guy or an absolute cretin if that is your wish. Completing missions, killing enemies and reading the notes you stumble upon will earn you EXP. Levelling up will award you attribute points which you must allocate to the designated trait (strength, dexterity, etc.) which will, in turn, allow you to unlock skills and equip better weapons and armour.

Out in the world, you’ll come across locked chests which you’ll need to unlock yourself. Unfortunately, the lockpicking in ELEX is absolutely nothing like in games such as Skyrim or Fallout. Instead, it is much more complex and even now I still haven’t managed to get the hang of it. You have an unlimited backpack carry space so earning money is pretty easy as you can get quite a bit from just selling random junk so once you’ve got the hang of it, you should be able to kit yourself out really well.

Frustratingly, the combat in ELEX is probably its biggest flaw. It is incredibly clunky, and the controls are often unresponsive. The ranged combat often auto aimed to something completely different to where you were initially aiming. I cannot fathom why the combat button was chosen to be ‘RB’ but it was a poor choice. Thankfully, once I managed to get a companion to follow me around I tried to hang back a little whilst they got on with taking the bulk of the damage.

My advice for anyone who starts this game would be to persevere and to save often. I have made the mistake of forgetting to save a few times now and each time I lost substantial amounts of progress unnecessarily. Now I have made a habit of saving every time I kill an enemy. That may seem slightly excessive and it most likely is, but I’d much rather save too many times than not enough and lose out.

Overall, I did (and still do) enjoy playing ELEX although, as already mentioned in the review it does have its issues. A game should have something pulling you back to it but I think the overriding difficulty of ELEX compared to other RPGs currently available will be its Achilles heel. If I had to give it a score it would be 7/10, issues aside, it’s a game with a huge amount to do and definitely worth picking up, especially whilst it is on sale. 

ELEX has 50 achievements available for a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. The majority of the achievements are progression based and will unlock as you complete missions, level up and unlock skills. There do seem to be a few which could be missed and may require a second or third playthrough, but I think with careful planning you could probably manipulate saving the game at certain points to be able to go back and change your mind in places. If you need any help or guidance then head over to True Achievements where you will find plenty of useful information.

A game code was provided for the purpose of this review. Thank you!
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