ELEX, what a great game.
I loved the first two Gothics, and I have liked all Piranha Bytes work ever since (even the undeservedly infamous Risen 2), yet this time they really outdid themselves.
Elex combines perfectly the Fantasy, Dieselpunk and Sci-Fi genre merging them in a coherent mix of ambient creation and plot where plasma rifles can be seen side to side with sword and sorcery.
Let's start with "the bad": as you can expect from a relatively low budget game made by a team of 30, graphic fidelity is not top notch and the animations leave much to be desired.
Still, the map design is superb (as a guaranteed PB mark), and even if the four areas (the green and lush Edan, the "Madmaxish" desert of Tavar, the lava wasteland of Ignadon and the frozen Xacor) are enormous in scope there is a maniacal attention to detail, plenty to explore, a masterwork of verticality made even more valuable by the jetpack found right at the beginning; all sidequest are varied and have serious impact on the outcomes of the main missions, the factions are unique and believable and the amount of choices is immense.
It is true that at one point you need to join one of the three factions, but the character building allows plenty of freedom. You want to adhere to the standards and be a fighter-mage Berserker, a psionic laser shooting Cleric or an aggressive, junkie Outlaw filled with explosives? you can, but you can also choose to stray from the path and be everything else without any penalty - if you manage to assign your skills cleverly. You like to be a priest but you want to take things personal? All right, train yourself with melee weapons and modify them with your technology. No love for magic but you need ranged attacks? Grab a silent bow and throw dirty grenades. The possibility are limitless.
Many complained that after Gothic 2 the Piranhas let the story side slide a bit, but this time the plot is stronger than ever and the cast of NPCs and companions is charismatic and very well written, slapping in the face all those Bethesda preachers (Piranha Bytes' racial enemy, for some reason) claiming that the German team wasn't great at story telling, and the effort to put together cohesively and coherently all the pieces of the puzzle is evident and rewarding. Also, while the main events are portrayed as seen directly from the player, there are many details hidden in notes and audiologs that expand the backstories of many characters and give information of the pre-apocalyptic world and how the factions came to be, adding another level of depth à la Looking Glass.
Also, your use of Elex and your emotions will play a major role in game-defining choices, but I won't say anything more to avoid spoilers.
Unlike what you may have heard, combat is a timing combo based fluid and well balanced work, even when you are a useless whimp at level 1; of course, you will have the need of companions during the early phases, but you can go solo soon enough, if you want, and in the latter stages, where missions start to become very risky and require a more tactical approach, it is probable that you'll find companions more an hindrance than an help and you'll want to go solo. Also, remember that every character,companion or not, will remember your words and actions, leading often to serious and unpredictable outcomes.
Melee weapons, shields, low-tech tools, guns, energy rifles, explosives, heavy weapons, magic, psionic power: every alternative is valid, and while the animations are largely the same for everything the variety of effects is stunning. Cut, backstab, explode, shoot, poison, burn, freeze, mind control, modify gravity, phase, hologram, heal... they are just a fraction of the whole.
The crafting skill set contains thieving abilities (lockpick, pickpocket, hacking and all the relative powerups) and the "real" crafting abilities like chemistry (nothing is more useful than that, especially for elex potions that give permanent stat boosts), mining, weapon modification, gem working and goldsmith. This game has EVERYTING.
Also, there are several charisma abilities that will allow you to be more diplomatic, raise the amount of experience you get from missions and combat and make your companions stronger.
Just one thing may bother you: there is no hand holding. You have to learn everything from yourself, and I admit not all the mechanics are crystal clear right from the start, so you may take a while to understand which thing does what, and it is likely you will have to start over after the first two hours because you haven't focused on a viable set of abilities. Here you need careful planning, and you can achieve the “jack of all trades” status only at insanely high levels, so spend those points wisely.
I have enjoyed immensely this title from start to finish as a Cleric, but you can be sure that I will play it again with the other factions to see the good third of content I missed out in my 60 hours playthrough.
I warmly recommend Elex to every gamer with good taste, and since the end hints on a possible sequel I hope to see the developers expand this new and fascinating universe. As true an action RPG as you can be, Elex brought me back in an era when videogames respected and challenged the player while offering plenty of awesome content; if you forget the modern standards, you will love this title, too. Well worthy a full price and the highest score even with its flaws.
Post edited November 05, 2017 by Enebias