I Don't Know What's Going On…
What do you get when you combine Sci-Fi, Fantasy and the Post Apocalyptic genres? Confusion. Complete and total chaos. Who in their right minds would ever sit there and go, "Hey you know what'd be awesome? Let's throw three broad settings into one, and make an RPG out of it."? The answer is Piranha Bytes. From the creative minds that brought us the Gothic and Risen series, notoriously love-them-or-hate-them games, comes the game Elex. A game that is suffering an identity crisis. A game that has left me saying more than once, "I don't know what's going on, but I like it."
With some of the screenshots, it's easy to mistake the setting as a post-apocalyptic Earth that runs the gambit from lush to desolate in nature, with a myriad of different stylings of settlements, people and creatures throughout. I'd forgive you for thinking that, because up until the day I actually started playing, I assumed as much as well. No, the game actually takes place on a far off world of Magalan, inhabited by humanity. All was normal with Magalan until one day when a catastrophe struck in the form of a comet that decimated the planet. Earthquakes, fiery storms and, of course, panic by the surviving population. Things went into a downward spiral quickly in the days, weeks, months and years after the comet. As the old world fell, new factions arose; and yes, for some reason they just happen to fall into the exact setting themes the game portrays. The game's most prominent factions are The Berserkers, Clerics, Outlaws and the Albs.
Berserkers are, as their namesake may imply, the 'fantasy' looking faction, with armors looking like something out of Skyrim or The Lord of the Rings, townships following in a similar fashion. Despite their name, I would argue that they are the most peaceful of the factions in the game. Blaming a lot of what happened to them in the past on technology, they swear it off almost completely.
Next up are the Clerics. I wouldn't call them peaceful, but isolationists with lust for technology. Essentially the exact opposite of the Berserkers. They fill in the 'sci-fi' quota, along with the Albs which we will talk about later.
Last, and least, of the factions which you can ally with are the Outlaws. The Outlaws are essentially the lovechild of Wasteland and Mad Max, there's no way around it. Anarchy reigns supreme, strength is the rule of law and each man is a kingdom. Drugs, guns and other frowned-upon activities and hobbies abound with them. They aren't necessarily evil, they're just so without a real system of rule that it’s basically anarchy. I listed them as my least favorite faction for this reason, as well as for the fact that they seem a bit upstaged by the other two factions you can ally with.
The Enemy Within
The Albs are the main antagonist in the game and a faction that the player used to belong to. Even more isolated than the Clerics, the Albs have one driving goal: obtaining all Elex, a magical resource left behind by a comet, and spread across Magalan. Feeling as though humanity isn't responsible enough to harness Elex, let alone restore society, Albs, in their cold, calculating manner, have stripped themselves of emotion in favor of harnessing Elex in its purest forms, vanguarding their way to the next stage of humanity. Their totalitarian ways have brought war over much of Magalan.
The player, in the role of a man named Jax, begins the game as a prominent face among the Albs. Sent on a recon mission before an impending invasion, things go wrong and Jax is left for dead by his own comrades. The longer an Alb is parted from Elex, the more their emotions begin to return. As Jax gains his emotions, his choices go from strictly calculated to those of moral dilemmas. Despite the interesting introduction, the story feels flat. It's there, it gets you from point A to point B in different ways, but it never really pulled me in.
Now the environments? They did pull me in. The combat, however clunky, pulled me in. Loot farming, like in any RPG, pulled me in. But several hours into Elex, I'm just not caring about the story, and that's a bit disconcerting to me. I'm hoping it will pick up, but right now I'm just not seeing it heading that way.
An Explorer’s Dream
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.
Massive world to explore, pulls off mixing three themes into one package well, addicting combat, plenty of loot to search for.
A story that fails to pull the player in after the introduction; despite of being fun, the combat is pretty clunky.