In its opening hour ELEX finds new ways to be terrible

Magalan – a planet that sounds like the name of an early 80s high street shop that would have rented you a telly – has been ravaged by some evil space goop or other, turning a once Earth-like civilisation into warring bands of Character Classes, addicted to Blue Space Goop and all very cross about something. ELEX is very definitely about something.

You play Jack Videogames, a man whose generic nature has caused him to rise to the very middle of obviousness, his peculiarly unruly right eyebrow a threat to the opposing forces on his homeworld. Abandoned by his Angry Goop Colleagues, he’s shot, falls off a cliff, and is then stripped of his armour and weapons. For some reason he decides to get better, and get his revenge, or not, or something – the game really doesn’t sweat the details.

It really doesn’t sweat anything at all, for that matter, from animations to menus, explanations to dialogue, this all feels phoned in, then put on hold. Immediately giving the impression of something in very early access, this is apparently the finished goods, a game in which just moving the camera makes me feel as though I’ve got a heavy flu, before even trying to contemplate how Jack Videogames manages to do that slide-forward diagonal jump move when I try to climb a wall. The opening sequence, after a download of boilerplate scifi bilge more akin to an expository truck crashing and shedding its load, sees Jack (I decided his name had to be Jack before the game revealed his name was actually “Jacks”) falling out of the sky and crashing onto the planet surface. Then getting shot.

He grunts inane drivel as he clumsily stumbles about, and your challenge is to not stop playing for as long as possible, to see if you can find out what the game’s actually about. But the game isn’t going to make that easy for you! To learn about your dreary goals, you’ll need to access a sub menu that the game never thinks to introduce access to (it’s Tab, then the sixth anonymous icon along). When you find it, you’ll learn that you are intended to both “Survive” (as in, “play”) and take part in a “Campaign of Vengeance”, in which you’re supposed to assume the entire backstory of this generic whitebread nothing-man whose former captain, a man I’m assured was called Kallax, ordered that he be killed.

I shall demonstrate how appallingly written every word of this game is by typing out Campaign of Vengeance’s text in full, with my additions in [square brackets]:

“Kallax was waiting for me. Why else would he have been right there when I crashed? Someone tried to kill me. [Yes, it was Kallax.] And if they are prepared to go to those lengths then they won’t stop until I am dead. [Generally people prepared to go to the lengths of killing someone won’t limit themselves in these ways, yes.] It will be a long way through many adversities [how do you know?!], but I must find answers. I have to find my old strength if I am to stand a chance against Kallax.”

By his old strength, he means prior to his addiction to ELEX, the Space Goop that gives the game its enigmatic title. There is a group of mercenaries or somesuch called the Albs, who are all infused with blue goop and as such gain super powers, but lose all their emotions. (Apart from anger, but no one seems to notice this.) In the time during which JV magically gets all better from being shot in the stomach, by having a lie down in some grass, he apparently escapes his addiction and is therefore about to experience emotions for the first time.

But! But by god it’s funny. It’s not meant to be funny, but it is. The first encounter you have in the game is with a chap who punches you full in the face for no reason, then helps you up and tells you off for attacking people unprovoked. This guy, with his peculiarly tiny head, then proceeds to talk nonsense at you in a voice that sounds like it should be explaining the medical side effects of a drug in a US commercial. He does this through the medium of a cutscene during which every shot is out of focus. And then he demands you say sorry! For what?! For falling off a cliff when he apparently stole your stuff, and then walking toward him a few days later. The choices are:

“I don’t apologize for nothing, asshole.”
“Prove you’re not the thief, and I might trust you.”

Well, 1) is definitely the more reasonable option given the peculiarity of the situation, but such grammar is never acceptable. 2) is more entertaining, since asking someone to prove they didn’t steal something from you is quite the task. “Um – I’m NOT currently holding the item that was stolen?”

He apparently liked the second choice, congratulating me for not trusting him, and then wanted to be my best best friend. This game is so incredibly stupid.

I can’t get past the cutscenes and conversations being out of focus. It’s like they had a development team meeting and brainstormed new and inventive ways for the game to be bad.

“What if we make the menus a meaningless muddle of exclamation marked lists of items, where sometimes clicking clears the mark, sometimes assigns the item to a quick slot, but other times uses the item?!”

“That’s great stuff, Dave, good work. But it’s a bit Mass Effect: Andromeda. We need to be even more original.”

“Hannah’s been experimenting with something where the music volume gets louder and louder in each cutscene, until you can’t hear what’s being said?”

“The minimap could be a blank grey circle?”

“LET’S CALL LOCKPICKS ‘PICKLOCKS’!”

And scene.

It’s beyond this first hour that the game opens up, lets you go off where you want, do what you want, and seemingly align with who you want. Barely any of it in focus. Perhaps here it will flourish. But for first impressions, this one’s a doozy.

226 Comments

  1. dsch says:

    On tonight’s, “John Walker Disliking Things” …

    • Hans says:

      You can’t really be surprised this time though. These guys have been putting out notoriously shoddy rpgs for decades now and somehow keep getting by on this minority of hardcore rpg freaks that continue to insist that all the badly broken gameplay mechanics are “just more realistic”

      • JDR13 says:

        Have you ever actually played any of their games? For how long?

        • waltC says:

          If you have played any of the Gothic games as PB left them, that is, played them without *any* of the community patches and the great texture, d3d11 mods and so on made by third parties for them, *then* and only then can you say you have played a PB game…;) It took a decade + plus for third parties to make these games playable, incredibly enough. They are all really good games today, little thanks to PB, however. Take Gothic 3, for instance, PB abandoned that game after the 1.6 official patch–just try playing that version today…and may God have mercy on your soul…;)

      • dsch says:

        You can’t really be surprised this time though.

        Neither this time nor any other time.

      • carewolf says:

        The first two Gothic games were legendary, and number three was one of the best RPG ever made with some of the most bugs, making it a bit of an oddity. The last ten year have no been good though.

      • commander keen says:

        The reason they’ve been making games for decades is because they can make great games.

        Gothic 1 & 2 were better than Morrowind. I enjoyed them far more

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      jythanatos says:

      I’ve played 31 hours so far, and I can say that it is not really a good game. People talk about enjoying the steep difficulty, and that only those “Dedicated” will make it past the first few hours. These things can be good in a game if it requires skill. This game really does not.. It requires you to play off of the crappy Monster AI to kill things for the first 20 or so hours. After that point, things became a little easier, but the combat is still crappy.
      Almost nothing is ever explained. That is not a good thing. I haven’t joined a faction yet, because they all kinda suck, and I dont really know what I can do in each. Oh, and getting to the other 2 factions is all but impossible at the begining.
      People love these games not because they are good, but because they have committed so much time to them and they are bad. You tell yourself that it has to be great, or else you would not have wasted so much of your time on it. You rationalize your time spent and keep telling yourself this until you actually start to believe it.
      Trust me when I say that all criticisms of this game are true. I respect that the Developers put a lot of time and effort into their product. I understand that some people like this game. But that does not take away from the fact that it is not a good game, and almost every aspect of it is flawed. That does not mean that you cannot enjoy playing it, but if you think this is a High Quality game, you are fooling only yourself.
      I absolutely love Shitty Junkfood. I like Ellio’s Pizza, but I also know that it is not “High Quality”. I can understand and agree with other people who say that the sauce is crap, and that the cheese may not even be cheese. Accepting these as fact, does not mean I enjoy eating it any less.
      Tell me how the combat is any way smooth, intuitive, or satisfying? Do you feel accomplishment after beating a difficult opponent because it took skill or becaues the actual combat was fun, or are you just overjoyed that the mob is dead and that the experiance gained may bring you a little closer to a point where you will START having fun?
      I expect I’ll play a few more hours of this, but I’m not sure I will finish the game.

      • Iskandar says:

        31 hours…into a game you say isn’t a good game. I, uh, gotta ask *why* would you do that to yourself? I know for me, my free time is limited and precious and if a game fails to deliver within an hour or three it gets shelved.

        • Lobotomist says:

          Haha. Got to hand it to you – you have point there.

          31 hours in game is a lot for such “bad” game.

        • Esin12 says:

          I mean, to be fair, he does explain his reasons for sticking with it. But it is still a good chunk of time to dedicate if it’s that bad.

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          jythanatos says:

          It is flawed in almost everything it does, and really is not a good game, but it keeps you playing because you think it will get better. After all this time, it still feels like its the introduction, and the real, good part is coming up. And that is what PB does good in their games. I have disposable income and spend a lot of my free time playing games. It is not the worst game ever, but in no way does it deserve the crazy defenses and outrage people express because they think it is a good game. If you have to pick and choose the games you buy, pass on this one. It strings you along way past the time you could grab a refund from steam. I’m stuck in the same boat as others, in that I have spent a lot of time playing it, and now I feel I have to tough it out to find some redeeming factor of me wasting that time. Maybe it will get better. But I doubt it. :)

        • Ericusson says:

          How about thanking the guy for sharing an extensive hands on experience of the game instead of indirectly attacking him for it eh.

    • lancelot says:

      There was a thread here about how JW would review life. There was one spam post in it, and the whole thread got deleted? Thank you guys.

      You can see the missing posts here: link to web.archive.org.

      • dsch says:

        It wasn’t the spam. John has a delete-what-I-don’t-like policy for comments. There used to be a notice about it above the comment box, but it looks like it’s just a silent policy now.

      • Tssha says:

        Woooow. Can’t see why THAT post was deleted!

        (yes, that was sarcasm…and thank you for noticing! :) )

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      MajorLag says:

      As a man who frequently dislikes things, I’d watch that, then I’d complain about it on the internet.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Ghostbird says:

    Albs, who are all infused with blue goop and as such gain super powers, but lose all their emotions. (Apart from anger, but no one seems to notice this.)

    Sounds like the blue goop is a pure form of toxic masculinity. Which may also account for the mansplain-y exposition and the inability to comfortably interact with other people.

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      wonderingmonster says:

      *applauds*
      I like your thinking.

    • GrumpyCatFace says:

      Oh what fun, let’s have some more sexist comments! Tweehehe!

    • Unclepauly says:

      I just bought 2 copies.

    • Daymare says:

      You mean testosterone?

    • mactier says:

      You might notice that a major part of criticism is a LACK of proper exposition. And unless you are overly aware of your “masculinity”, there is nothing intrinsically “masculine” about “not comfortably interacting” with people, which makes no sense anyway, as you (go figure), don’t call anyone an “asshole” for one (it’s made up), and secondly, you can very well please and befriend everyone as much as possible. What the “criticism” means, if anything, is lack of options… (With options figuring more strongly, perhaps.)

      Besides, I’m not a “fan” (never was), I’m just “wowed” but some of the stuff that is coming its direction.

    • April March says:

      Oh man! I came here to post this exact thing! AND AS I AM A MAN I AM NOT ALLOWED TO EXPRESS MY FRUSTRATION IN ANY WAY BUT ANGER. COME AT ME BRO. TONIGHT WE WRASSLE.

      Seriously though, it made me imagine a cyberpunk weird fantasy story in which toxic masculinity is the effect of an addictive drug. From what John says it might be better than the game 😜

  3. Chalky says:

    It feels like this game had some really weird development priorities. On one hand, it has loads of voice acting, character models seem pretty detailed and the playable area is huge.

    On the other hand, the UI is a disaster, the game world is astonishingly bland, the combat is terrible, the writing is hilariously bad and the mission scripting often makes no sense at all.

    They clearly had some budget to spend here, but I don’t see why they didn’t slash their voice acting budget so that they could afford someone with eyes to design their UI. Or perhaps halve the world size so they could spend some time making it look nice.

    • Imperialist says:

      So…every game this developer ever made.

      And yet, even the hilariously broken-at-launch-and-still-kinda-messy Gothic 3 ended up being a cult classic. I admit…they do have their charms…and ill probably play this because despite their issues, they deliver something fun.

    • Tssha says:

      It seems to me like they build their game(s) out of whole cloth without taking the time to iterate and refine the systems until they become fun, because then they might have to throw out some of this fine work they’d done because they just built it and didn’t spend the time to test it while it was being built to see if – you know – the systems they’d built were any fun.

      In other words, they should have failed faster. If they had, they might’ve had time to course correct on some of their bad decisions.

      (for more info on failing faster, see the Extra Credits video under the name Fail Faster)

  4. Baltech says:

    So, the usual Piranha Bytes jank? I swear, these guys stopped evolving as a developer after Gothic2. They’re like, the anti CD-Project.

    • Maxheadroom says:

      I just logged in to say pretty much exactly that. I loved and finished Gothic 1 – but that was 2001

      Played Gothic 2 on two separate occasions but could never make it past the first hour. The very first town you come to is filled with like 500 NPCs, all of whom seemed intent on dumping their entire dull expositional life stories on me with vast, meandering conversation trees that sometimes ended in a quest to collect a bucket of fish from about 6 feet away.

      15 years later and it seems their design philosophy hasn’t changed at all

    • Beanbee says:

      Yep, 100% plays like any of their other titles. This is the closest to a unity-asset game of any longtime developer that I’ve played.

      • Lurid says:

        I find it funny that it’s supposedly another planet, but all the wrecks strewn about are either modern day cars or old military trucks.

        And it’s hilarious that if you sprint at full speed, jump and then activate the jetpack, you lose all forward momentum and just go straight up.

        It’s 100% a Piranha Bytes game.

    • trashmyego says:

      I’ve never understood the following they’ve continued to somehow maintain after each successive release post-Gothic 2. Their games suck. They’re mediocre, lazy, and redundant. I mean, I can understand enjoying them, but I can also understand enjoying a shitty cheeseburger. But I don’t get this lasting loyalty to basically a universal lack of growth and quality control when their direct competition in the genre has only grown exponentially, both in size and quality. Why keep eating that shitty cheeseburger when it’s just as or even more expensive than numerous other options of higher quality?

      • Daymare says:

        Somehow this question nagged me pretty hard, so I gave it a few thoughts.

        I think my personal answer aligns pretty well with why I think people still believe in religions (esp. ones with deities)

        a) Most people grew up with them (Gothic series) to the point where they got so habitually used to them they don’t notice what exactly is wrong with them. Certain concepts and ideas (e.g. yanky combat as part of the intended difficulty) have become so ingrained in their mind that they essentially form part of their wider personality. Realigning their perception of reality (in the face of games like The Witcher 3 or Dark Souls) would mean realigning their perception of themselves. Which is like, the most tortuous thing for a human consciousness. The mind goes to insane lengths to justify its own perceptions, no matter how hard reality disproves them. Since everything is subjective, nothing can be truly proven to them.

        b) They haven’t really experienced anything that would challenge their belief, e.g. not played any game from which they came back and understood why some others are really bad in some aspects. I know a guy who’s played nothing but consecutive releases of Farming Simulators. He’s got no idea what makes a good MP FPS or Dating Sim or Survival Horror or anything.

        c) There’s no arguing taste. Some people just have kinda shitty taste, e.g. no clue about good writing (or just don’t care about it). Some people just like trashy stuff; same as some people really like the idea of a benevolent sky man who created everything.

        There’s probably more but those three form the main body of my thoughts right now.

        • JDR13 says:

          I love when people state their opinions as if they’re facts. Your post sounds like one big rationalization to claim their games are bad just because you don’t like them. PB has a following because their games do a lot of things right.

          I’m been playing their games since Gothic, but I also play a lot of games from other developers including Bethesda, CD Projeckt, Larian, Bioware, etc. I consider myself a fan of all of them.

          Each of those developers has strong points and weak points. There are some games I’m definitely not a fan of among them, but I wouldn’t be naive enough to claim those titles are “shitty” just because they didn’t turn my crank.

          • Daymare says:

            Hello, forum member,
            I see you responded to my comment with this: “I love when people state their opinions as if they’re facts.”

            Now, I would like to refer you to my second paragraph wherein I wrote this: “I THINK my PERSONAL answer aligns pretty well with why I THINK people still believe in religions (esp. ones with deities)”

            I put the important parts in capslock for your reading comfort! You have a nice day now with ELEX!

            By the way, did you know that ELEX stands for “eclectic, lavish, exhilarating, xenial”?

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            Nauallis says:

            Um, no. This is the part that indicates that you believe your opinion is a fact. I’ll put it in caps so that it’s easier for you to read comfortably:

            “SOME PEOPLE JUST HAVE KINDA SHITTY TASTE, E.G. NO CLUE ABOUT GOOD WRITING (OR JUST DON’T CARE ABOUT IT). SOME PEOPLE JUST LIKE TRASHY STUFF”

            But here I am, four replies down on a thread about why peeps consume not-high-quality arts and foods. Yay, arguing!

          • Daymare says:

            … and if you read the part you capslocked within the context of my second introductory paragraph, you might realize that this was STILL part of my opinion. (Or don’t!)

          • Dewal says:

            Daymare, look :
            1 – “This game does that thing this way, I don’t think it’s good and I don’t like it.”.
            2 – “This game does that thing this way, it’s bad and people that like it have shitty tastes”.

            I both sentences I’m expressing a personal opinion. In the first one I state my view on the game without insulting anybody else. In the second one, I state my view while insulting everybody that doesn’t agree with me.

            Now I let you read your comments again and you will understand to which category your comment belong and why people are answering a tad angrily to you.

          • Daymare says:

            I like the fact that you think you need to explain why people respond angrily to me. As if that was something I seemed particularly fuzzed about.

            If you read more, you might realize I wasn’t just voicing my opinion about a game, I was answering somebody’s question as to why an – in their opinion shitty – game could still be liked by a number of people. Context.

          • aerozol says:

            I never thought Daymare was doing anything except expressing some musings. But I don’t want to rain on anyone’s ‘got to argue on the internet’ parade, so don’t mind me.

          • Daymare says:

            Nooo don’t tell them! That makes it sound like I was actually being thoughtful about the human condition instead of just dissing on a game!

        • aepervius says:

          Way to go to pass off your taste as fact and other people taste as shitty and assholic opinion.

          The simple fact why so many like gothic like game, is that they usually offer 2 to 3 different branches to explore , which usually have different often (vastly different) gameplay, while offering you a role, that is your choice really do affect the world.

          I am not sure if I could give spoiler, but you can go different faction in gothic 3 and get diametrically opposed endings.

          Many of the rpg today, are more skills and stats calcualtor rather than giving you such vast change between factions.

          Now, the fight is janky and I dislike it (how often do those 2 handed guy swing at the air and still hit me, while I can barely combo 2 or 3 times ?), the story somewhat bland, but in spite of that I like Elex. Why ? It gives me freedom and somewhat real story change that other game do not. If it is the illusion of choice, it is pretty elaborate. Because so far having tried the 3 faction at least up to a certain point, they feel very different enough.

          But yes most of the criticism are warranted about the fight and UI. In fact it feels like a gothic retextured, down to some of the mobs (shadow one for example) and down to the herbs (flame, wolf, king sorel… if you played a gothic it will be damn familiar).

          But in the very end, I *still* have far more fun with it than many other rpg i bought in the last decade.

          The difference is that contrary to you, I won’t pretend that some taste are good, some are bad. All taste are valid in rpg. What is important is recognizing the limitation of a game and its negative sides. Futuristic Gothic (Elex) would be fantastic if the combat was not so janky and the difficulty curve so staircase like.

          • Daymare says:

            Maybe read the comment I responded to first, to put some context into what I wrote?

            I’d also like to refer you to my response to the commenter right above you.

            There’s something like shitty taste. To re-use my own metaphor: You can like a badly written book (you agree those exist, right?) because you lack the understanding for proper writing. Then your taste in writing is poop.

          • Hans says:

            “This game would be amazing if only it weren’t such a shitty broken mess!”

            The rallying cry for all these guys’ games. They should put that on the box.

            P.S. I could probably entertain you with a shiny object, but that doesn’t make the shiny object a good video game.

        • grimdanfango says:

          Perhaps it’s actually:

          d) Some people with over 25 years of gaming experience, game libraries of over 400 titles, and interests in almost every genre imaginable, have the depth and refinement of taste to appreciate the wealth of hidden complexities and nuance to the best of Piranha Bytes’ games (while not being so slavish as to not be able to point at the likes of Gothic 3 and Risen 2/3 as distinctly poorer entries), and while they’d obviously welcome those same qualities coming packaged along with a higher level of aesthetic polish, a better written script, and better voice acting, they still find plenty to like in the entirely unique approach this dev takes, and the fact that the goofy presentation often masks a genuine gem of game design lends that earnest, unknowingly comedic presentation a genuinely appealing quality.

          Or maybe that would be a tad smug and condescending…

          • Daymare says:

            d) is obviously also true, especially since none of what I wrote can ever be universally applicable.

            But it doesn’t really fit into my comparison with religions.

          • April March says:

            I don’t know, I know some religious people who would use that argument…

          • Daymare says:

            Ha, yeah …

          • grimdanfango says:

            I don’t understand where you’re coming from with this “religious” nonsense. I would get it if *anyone* here was slavishly defending Piranha Bytes as some beacon of perfection due to some lifelong sense of loyalty… but they’re not. The most anyone’s saying, me included, is essentially “Yes, they make janky games with a LOT of apparent flaws on the surface, but from experience, *some* of their games have hidden depths that it might be worth digging for”. What’s so unthinkingly dogmatic about that?

            Meanwhile, you’re here passing off condescending, obnoxious remarks about anyone who actually enjoys these games as “just your personal thoughts”, and then making smug remarks when anyone attempts to point that out, as though you’re making some insightful point about them just by prompting a negative response.

            You’re actually just trolling, and the responses to that don’t say anything about the mindset of fans of these games, they just say that most people don’t like being condescended to. Sure, it’s all just your opinion… it’s just other people’s opinions that you’re full of it. Don’t feel so pleased with yourself.

          • Daymare says:

            You know what, that’s true: I didn’t want to apply any of my points to everyone who likes these games. Not that I explicitly did that anywhere, I did write “most” and “some” at some points, but I could’ve made that clearer.

            Many of my “obnoxious remarks” are responses to people who didn’t seem to care to read or think my post through, nor consider their responses.

            Nah, people aren’t slavishly defending this game (here), but let’s not kid ourselves, there’s some posters being quite angry about John’s article. Nor was this part of my argument; in fact, my argument was that people like this game despite its glaring flaws. And where did I write about dogmas?

        • Scraphound says:

          Regarding crappy writing, I think I’d lump in almost every game ever that’s been lauded for its writing. For example, Mass Effect.

          Paragraphs of truly awful exposition spoken at me by uninspired aliens, and awkward robotic “romance” that I can only imagine was written by someone who lost his virginity to a Real Doll.

          Elex’s writing is terrible, but in a medium where bad writing is praised I can’t fault it that much.

          • Chaoslord AJ says:

            Aside from say PS:Torment or the character dialogue from the Witchers (Lambert, Lambert what a prick), 90% is made for skipping.

          • Daymare says:

            I’d say there’s writing that’s not good, but passable most of the time … and then there’s writing that makes you stop wanting to read any more of a text. Mass Effect games (been a while since I played them) may have shitty writing in places, but there’s still some levels down from there.

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          Phasma Felis says:

          It sounds like a shitty game, but this “people who like things I don’t like are probably psychologically damaged” bit is not a good look on anybody, and shoehorning in a religious argument too is just an extra layer on the shit sandwich.

          • Daymare says:

            … or you could read and think about what I actually wrote.

            Then maybe read the comment I responded to for good measure.

        • Chaoslord AJ says:

          I can only speak for myself but I’ve played everything RPG from Final Fantasies, Zeldas, Chronotrigger to Daggerfall and Skyrim, Diablos, all Divinities all Black Isle Dnds all Witchers, Dark Souls, Fallouts, Dragon Ages and Mass Effects, all obsure games like Arcanum or Pathologic prob. everything above 70% rating yet I still enjoy PB games even finished G3 which was really crappy.

        • Unclepauly says:

          The whole religion bit is a bit(:D) condescending. I don’t know if religions are 100% or 10% or 0% right, but the fact is you won’t know until you die. So I’m not sure how you can state they are wrong. Have you died? I’m not going to claim you haven’t because I don’t know. For all I know you’ve died 16 times and been recycled by The Great Ethereal Toad Who Eats Lost Souls And Poops Them Back To Earth. If you know things like this I have a million other questions for you.

      • E_FD says:

        I haven’t played a one of their games since the first Risen, so maybe I’m not the best one to comment on lasting loyalty to Piranha Bytes, but looking back on that one and the first two Gothics, there’s a lot in their design that other modern RPGs don’t really attempt (and “modern” isn’t really the right word, since even back when they were released, the Gothic series felt like this throwback to early Ultima-esque RPG design), and I wish they would.

        The wide open world lacking in guidance for what to do or where to go, but with this distinct, hand-crafted touch that the Elder Scrolls games lack. The way the world’s completely unforgiving at first, filled with creatures that could kill you effortlessly before you’d built up your skills. NPCs with schedules who’d navigate and interact the world the same way you do, and who’d react to trespassing/stealing. The way you got better at things by finding people to could train you. The interconnected webs of favors you needed to accomplish to increase your standing in one of the communities, excruciating because everywhere is filled with utterly insufferable dicks who hate your guts and/or have no regard for you beyond whether they can exploit you, but you’ll still need to suck it up and eat their shit because you can’t survive without somebody’s help. Everything is geared around grinding you up and showing you the world doesn’t revolve around you, you’re going to have to run, hide, bow, and scrape to get anywhere (and to an extent, the clunkiness of the actual gameplay mechanics further emphasizes how nothing here is doing you any favors), and making you savor every small victory you pick up along the way.

        These are all things that’ve been done in RPGs before and after Piranha Bytes’ games, but the whole package of how they fit together in Gothic/Risen has always felt distinct, and I’d love to someday see a game that can replicate all the strengths of that package while smoothing out the roughest edges. Sounds like Elex isn’t that game, unfortunately.

      • UncleLou says:

        CDPR aside for a moment, who are their direct competitors that grew “exponentially in size and quality”?

        Bioware?

        Bethesda? Almost as janky as PB’s games, but somehow they manage to pretend their AAA.

        Serious question, because I honestly don’t see the growth in quality when it comes to RPGs, quite the contrary.

        • DoctorDaddy says:

          Obsidian
          Inxile
          Larian

          These all seem to fit the bill fairly well.

          • UncleLou says:

            Hm, fair enough, but they are not really what I would call “direct competitors” though, they are all making top-down, party-based and/or turn-based games (and arguably not better ones than 20 years ago).

            I would say Bethesda was always the most fitting comparison, and, to a lesser degree, “modern” Bioware.

            I would agree that CDPR is on an entirely different level, though.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        Gothic 1 and 2 were great, Gothic 3 was a mess with a few good ideas, and subsequent games (Risen) have simply tried to do Gothic again while missing crucial ingredients. The cult status of those early games was entirely deserved. They had their rough edges but they also had a lot of charm and clever design.


        (A Love Letter to GOTHIC’s Open World Design )


        (Gothic tribute highlighting various features)

        I don’t know what changed at Piranha… maybe key people left and those remaining didn’t have the same eye for what made those games. The fact that people keep wanting to like their new games is a 100% down to the goodwill of those first few games. I haven’t tried Elex but based on the reception I think I’ll give it a miss, though I still hold out hope they’ll be able to recapture the magic one of these days.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          That said I only played the first Risen and didn’t finish it (got sidetracked and never returned)… maybe I’m being unfair to Risen 2 and 3, though from what I’ve read probably not?

    • carewolf says:

      Gothic 3 was awesome. Buggy, but awesome. It puts so many other big open world RPGs to shame by how open and open-ended it is. It just has a lot of bugs, but they got managed by user fixing, and even on release I managed to finish the game with only a few major side quests broken.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Swordfishtrombone says:

    “Someone tried to kill me. And if they are prepared to go to those lengths then they won’t stop until I am dead.”

    Wow… This is Plan 9 from Outer Space-level bad

    • mactier says:

      Firstly, I’m pretty sure this is not a whole consistent monologue, in one piece, as it’s presented here but more contextual. And in this case, I’d say he was talking about “betrayal” and setting up an execution. And he’s talking about whether he was LEFT ALIVE or “sloppily” killed or “left to die”, champs. It is not near as bad as it’s presented here, in fact there is nothing at all to it, the impressions that is conveyed here is just twisted.

    • Marclev says:

      It reminded me more of something Lt. Frank Drebin would say during a voice over in The Naked Gun.

    • hprice says:

      I have to say that most vicheo games are pretty badly written in my book. I’ve picked up games that people said were really great, well written, masterworks, and found them wanting. I remember trying Dragon Age: Origins. Wow … talk about verbose, prolix, too many bloomin’ words. Even a friend of mine who doesn’t normally play many games commented on this before I had even tried it. So many words … Still … could be worse … could be … TWO WORLDS!! (he-he … great fun that game even with the crappy dialogue) …

      ps …

      • Yglorba says:

        There are a few decently-written games. Part of the reason Danganronpa v3 can get away with asking $60 for a fancy visual novel is because that series usually manages it and has built up a good reputation with the first two games (the first game is nearly the only videogame I can think of with genuinely memorable lines – memorable for something other than being bad, that is.)

        I guess by extension the Ace Attorney games have ok writing? Visual novels that don’t use T&A to sell are the genre you’re probably most likely to find good writing, because they pretty much have to depend on it to succeed.

  6. Chekote says:

    The article is spot on and hilarious! But I get a weird masochistic satisfaction out of playing this game. XD

  7. Solidstate89 says:

    I had this sitting in my wishlist on steam on the off chance it might not be a steaming pile of shit.

    Shame.

  8. Darth Gangrel says:

    Games like Elex, or any Piranha Bytes game I think, isn’t something you play for the story, but for the open world exploration. Without the combat, their games would be very nice walking simulators.

    I wouldn’t bet that it’s as good as Risen 1, but I’m not convinced it’s as bad as everyone says. For whatever it’s worth, a 70 on Metacritic aint bad, Risen 2 got 69 and like that game, you probably have to play several hours before you get to the good/less annoying stuff.

    • CronoRay says:

      I could definitely not handle more then 30 minutes of this game, it is so bloody bad I alt-f4ed and uninstalled it as quickly as I could. I needed to save my sanity and eyes from another second of visual torment, I was about to bleed from every where on my body that blood could leak from. The combat alone felt like your player character was extremely high on LSD swinging at things that were not there.

    • Archonsod says:

      I’ve always played them for the story. Mainly because the story is so bad, and so awful in it’s execution, that they turn into a kind of genius parody of the genre as a whole. It’s like they have a list of things that an RPG should do, but no idea of why they should do them. The end result is usually unintentionally hilarious and honest.
      I mean John has a prime example up there. It’s silly yes, but then no sillier than the whole “join my party” most RPG’s offer up (i.e characters who’ll willingly follow some heavily armed stranger due to their amazing prowess in returning objects from three feet away) and far more sensible in others (characters willing to tell you about themselves before you go off and commit mass murder rather than afterwards, like some weird kind of reverse PTSD).

  9. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Huh, that’s too bad. For some reason I’d heard of this game a few times lately, but I didn’t expect it to be quite this much a steaming pile.

    Happens, I guess. At least it lead to an amusingly written article!

    • April March says:

      It’s Piranha Bytes. You know that thing about how if you’re a pessimist, every surprise is a good one? That’s how you have to approach their games. They have some good things, but you’ll only appreciate them if you believe the game to be pure jank.

      • grimdanfango says:

        Haha, that’s a good point… the problem is when people who aren’t familiar with Piranha Bytes look at screenshots, and go in expecting a refined, polished experience. Piranha Bytes fans know better than to expect their games to be “good” in the classic sense, and always approach them expecting to be disappointed :-P

  10. percydaman says:

    I’ve probably played a dozen hours give or take, I’m not keeping track. First Piranha Bytes game. It’s not a great game, but I’m continuing to slog through for some reason.

    The graphics are average to pretty bad. Whoever was in charge of the character models needs to relearn how to create clean normal maps.

    The combat is indeed clunky and not alot of fun. It makes the game loads harder than it needs to be. If you try and button spam you won’t fill up your damage meter and the amount of damage you deal will be anemic. Once you get that down it does improve somewhat.

    What probably pisses me off the most is that I’ve found loads of weapons but I can’t friggin use any of them because they have HUGE stat requirements. So your damage continues to suck and you’re forced to run past alot of stuff because every third enemy is something you’re not supposed to fight until waaay later in the game. Who puts mid to late stage game enemies in the area you are basically starting at? You also don’t get alot of experience from killing stuff so I guess that at least is a plus? I dunno. Most enemies can kill you in just a few hits, but it will take you and your companion dozens of hits to do the same. Even beginner enemies still take a few hits even when you’re massively overleveled for them.

    It feels like whoever wrote all the dialogue was the same person. Because for the most part they all feel like the same person. There’s very little difference between them all. The voice over work is indeed pretty bad. As the article suggested, it was money better spent elsewhere.

    Crafting. There’s crafting. But it’s stuck behind more stat requirements. I finally was able to upgrade the weapon I had been using. Yay! 12 more damage! But because of their bad UI I only realized after the fact that the upgraded weapon now had new..you guessed it: stat requirements. And nothing I was going to be able to reach anytime soon. So I basically destroyed the weapon, because by the time I would wield it, I would be able to wield other weapons that did more damage or had extra capabilities. DUMB

    Animations are average to janky as hell. Anytime you jump or fall, no matter how small, your body just becomes this rigid line like you’re a corpse.

    It’s one big long quest fest, where I started just skipping all dialogue because it just took too long. They’re rarely straight fetch quests, but not much better. Spend way too much time trying to please everybody so you can progress in the game.

    The AI is pretty bad which isn’t surprising. I don’t think I’ve come across an enemy that didn’t have both a ranged and a melee skill. They’re totally fine with spamming some acid splooge that hits a rock right in front of them. Problem is, your companion will do the same. Oh, and the hitboxes are atrocious. They are way too generous with them. A fireball that should have clearly missed you because it wasn’t anywhere near you, will still hit.

    The world is indeed pretty large. But you start to see repeated assets pretty early.

    I’ve bashed on the game enough. I’ll continue to play it some, but I could definitely see stopping in the near future. Just too many instances of half baked execution. I felt like they tried to throw in too much poorly executed stuff to warrant the $50 price tag. Get it when it’s on sale and hopefully has been updated a couple times.

  11. orren77 says:

    Thank god i did not get my hands on any of the articles like this one before i picked the game up. Bought it on an impulse, like what the heck, gothic and stuff.

    Steam tells me i currently have 39 hours played, and i can’t wait to get back in after work and play some more. This game is a (very) rough gem currently buried in a pile of journalist poo. It needs some polishing for sure but…

    Don’t believe the poo. You’d be shooting yourself in the foot.

    • Darloth says:

      May I believe the other commentors who also didn’t like it?

      I’m not saying you don’t like it, I’m not saying you -shouldn’t- like it, I’m just pointing out that it’s not exactly only journalists who dislike it.

      • orren77 says:

        Believe what you want. But a steaming pile of a game like this article would you have believe elex is would not get a 7.0 user rating on metacritic.

        And keep in mind this game is not for everyone. It does not hold your hand at all, and is very brutal especially in the beginning, which is where the non-dedicated players throw their hands up in frustration and give up because they got 3-shot by what’s basically a slightly larger featherless chicken.

        The game’s strength are the great map design that rewards exploration, and the sense of accomplishment once you overcome what at first seemed like an impossible obstacle(and that won’t happen fast!). Few modern games give you this. They are so afraid that you might not like losing that they make losing next to impossible, and in turn make the game boring as shit. Elex might frustrate you at times, but it won’t bore you.

        • Daymare says:

          What about all the great modern games that DON’T hold your hands, though?

          What about those, hm?

          • orren77 says:

            There are some good games out there, but the last time i felt like i do playing elex was back when i played gothic 3. I mean, dark souls 3 for example is an excellent and unforgiving game, but i miss the open-world exploration.

        • hfm says:

          I’m going to grab this on the next Steam sale, because I do typically like PB games. But lets not pretend that the metacritic score doesn’t have a +1 to +2 PB legacy bump.

        • percydaman says:

          I’m not seeing this reward for exploration. You don’t get these cool moments for having trekked to this out of the way place. I came across this building. Found a safe. Spent way too long looking for the code to it. Finally opened the safe, and it had absolute trash in it. And that is repeated ad nauseum. If you clear out a cave system that has a boss, you should get something decent for it. So unrewarding.

  12. grimdanfango says:

    I’d gotten the impression from various reviews that this was a return to Gothic 2/Risen 1 enjoyably-janky-form for Piranha Bytes…

    The John Walker seal of curmudgeonly disapproval pretty much confirms it. Sold! :-)

    • BattleXer says:

      It definitely is a return to Gothic 2/Risen 1. And I’m enjoying the hell out of it.
      Yes, it’s flawed and really hard to recommend to anyone who hasn’t played the these 2 titles, but man, I love the fact it’s a game with a distinct personality and difficulty cliff as opposed to another run-of-the-mill hoover-all-icons-off-the-map simulator with no challenge at all.

      And, John Walker, you used to be cool. Now, it seems, you’re just angry…

      • DinoSteak says:

        Exactly. I was super frustrated with the ‘mini-map’ at first but it’s nearly perfect as is, functioning as radar essentially. I’m playing an RPG and looking at the screen, not map markers, and it’s fantastic.

    • rgbarton says:

      So I read Alec’s Review of the studios previous game Risen 3,

      link to rockpapershotgun.com

      And one controversial point he brought up was how it was an incredibly sexist in how it treated women. Is this game any better?

      • grimdanfango says:

        I haven’t played Elex yet, so no idea in this case. I wonder if Risen 3 was maybe a ham-fisted attempt to inject some chauvinistic period flavour into the setting. In the past I’ve gotten more the feeling that Piranha Bytes default position was tending to steer well clear of writing any developed female characters, just from having no idea how to “write women” and so sticking to only perfunctory roles – the end result inevitably coming across as a bit of a sausage-party, with women relagated to being conversation topics rather than characters.
        Of course, they don’t know how to “write men” either, but a world full of block-headed generic manslabs is such a common video games trope that it serves as a solid default.

        Anyway, as I said I’ve no specific reference for this particular game, but just suggesting that it might be worth bearing in mind that Risen 3 could have been an anomaly from their usual approach, and it seems likely there’s no malice in it.

        Of course, it might still hint at the devs maybe having a bit of the classic “can’t understand these crazy, irrational women people” attitude… but I suppose that’d be presumptuous of me without them expressing such views personally.

      • DinoSteak says:

        Yeah they don’t do great here either, I think it’s more necessity though, maybe budget as well. There are what…4 women in Elex? 2 are companions and another is a stripper, so yeah not exactly progressive. There are female bg npcs to populate towns. In some ways it makes sense since most areas are combat zones or occupied and there are military parallels to how that plays out.

        • grimdanfango says:

          Ah, so it does sound like it might be back to their typical form then – mostly brush the ladies under the rug, and act confused if anyone asks where they went :-P

          Not remotely progressive, but maybe not particularly egregious either.

  13. mactier says:

    Frankly, in my neutral opinion, John Walker should be relegated to do no first impressions, especially of games with (ironically) some rough or “darker” edges (unless in some clichéd British or “indie” way), or get his own corner with a warning sign. There is a lot of personal hatred in a lot of what he writes, and not so much differentiated on his side, but infused into the product he’s talking about, sort of like a troll or gossip does… Or maybe he’s thinking his funny British rabbit accent (incidentally heard in a podcast) is also coming through in some of the more toxic writings.

    • Daymare says:

      So what do you think about ELEX?

      Btw I like how you write about toxic writing while your writing gets really toxic.

      That’s so meta.

      • mactier says:

        I have only played some hours, I like the “hands-on” feel of the gameplay, although I haven’t fought much so far, and was never a fan of “combos”, let alone in an RPG, and like the interaction which, though generally simple, feels more like emergent storytelling than cinematic as we’re used to. It’s simply another form of “RPG” than the two or three we commonly get. I think it’s alright and an interesting title at the moment…

      • aepervius says:

        I feel it is like gothic 2 / gothic 3 all over again. Average element in their execution , which put together make a surprisingly entertaining game, that is if you go past the initial 8 hours of being a weak character in a dangerous world.

        That is not for everybody, in fact I feel it is a bit more jankier than G2 or G3. It is niche. But if feels familiar for those who likes G2/G3 for example.

    • dsch says:

      or get his own corner with a warning sign

      The name is warning enough for me.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Putting “British rabbit accent” on my CV! No idea what it means, but it sounds great.

  14. asnakeofjuly says:

    You guys always make me laugh but this review was the funniest review I have ever read. Thanks for this.

  15. Firkragg says:

    I have to agree with John with most, if not all his statements concerning Elex. The writing goes from occasionally great, to downright hilarious. The combat is devisive; i’ve finally come to terms with it, though only from abusing something I don’t think is quite intended (HINT: It rhymes with “lump” and dosen’t cost stamina!). I’m up to 10 hours game time and have only managed to cover 1/4 of the map. My advice for any newcomers is to get a companion as quick as possible, don’t be afraid to run away from scary things (skull-marked) and do as many quests in the first city as humanly possible.

    I find it charming, it has heart of the sort I found in Risen, if you approach it in the right mind. I can clearly see where you are coming from John, but i’d comfortably recommend this for anyone who liked Risen (can’t talk for the Gothics, only dallied with nr. 3).

    EDIT: All that being said, could you PLEASE do a diary version of this? I could SO MUCH see the fun in it :)

  16. BaronKreight says:

    Shitty review or whatever it is. Game’s great.

    • syndrome says:

      Ladies and gentlemen, hereby I state that instead of reading John’s reviews, I will now exclusively follow the magnificent BaronKreight, in hopes that his reviews are at least as mouthful as his name, and that his rabbit accent is less British and more, say, German.

  17. DreadWulf says:

    I bought the game on a whim. I vaguely remember playing the original Risen and Gothic games years ago but this was the first title by PB to really capture my interest. I’m 30+ hours in so far and unashamed to admit I love it. Enjoying myself quite a bit.

    Getting off to a good start early on is the hardest part since you really don’t feel like you are making any progress until you have plenty of attribute points, skills, and weapons to play around with. I can easily see how someone could be turned off by the simple combat and insanely hard hitting (1-shot) enemies if they haven’t played for more than a couple hours.

    The game does not hold your hand. Quest givers must be sought out, no glowing overhead exclamation points here. The game forces you to choose sides with your decisions and most quests can have different outcomes. It’s a game of exploration and consequences (I said something similar in my Steam review as well). It ain’t perfect but it ain’t bad either. Anyways, to each his own.

  18. Niko says:

    ANGER IS NOT AN EMOTION! IT’S LOGICAL, RATIONAL, AND MANLY! WAAAGH!

  19. Hoot says:

    Cheers John, for telling it how you see it. Judging by your previous work, that’s generally how it is.

    We must have similar tastes because the only time I think I’ve disagreed with your reviews / impressions was with No Man’s Sky (One Man’s Lie, Please Don’t Buy, etc, etc). But even then I’m sure you basically admitted at some point that it was a trash game that had you trapped in a gameplay loop you found oddly compelling. Gotta get that 21 slot spaceship!

    • hprice says:

      Of course, just because he says it as he sees it doesn’t mean it’s correct. Everything is so subjective nowadays. Sighh …

      • Beefenstein says:

        “Of course, just because he says it as he sees it doesn’t mean it’s correct. Everything is so subjective nowadays.”

        Including your subjective dismissal of the reviewer’s subjective opinion as not ‘correct’. Correct to who — an objective god who views everything, or correct to you? If the latter (and I assume you don’t talk directly to any kind of god) then you’re being subjective too. This makes your lament of ‘everything is so subjective’ very poignant.

  20. Tim James says:

    “this all feels phoned in”

    Please do criticize games how you see fit of course, but don’t fall into the #lazydevs fantasy that so many clueless gamerz do, as if the team took a few months off in the spring to tour wine country instead of working on animations.

    Small teams and budgets require difficult tradeoffs. Judge the results as they are, not by the presumed effort behind them.

    • April March says:

      It’s difficult to criticize something that feels lazily put together when obviously more work went into it than you’ll likely do by yourself in your entire life, but if that’s how it feels, how do you criticize it?

  21. Marclev says:

    I was excited about this as it’s not like we’re drowning in sci-fi post-apocaliptic RPGs, but pretty much all the screenshots I’ve seen for this look like they’ve been taken from your typical medieval fantasy RPG (excepting the jet pack to be fair). I mean, the last screenshot in this review is basically “ye olde RPG tarverne #369”.

    What does the world of this game feel like? Is it just a fantasy RPG transplanted onto a different planet that looks the same as earth, or does it do its setting justice?

    • Jernau Gurgeh says:

      Perhaps it’s a ‘ye olde RPG taverne’ theme pub? For all we know, they could prove to be quite popular in Post-Apocalyptia. A bit of nostalgic homely comfort to take your mind off the horrors of the wasteland etc.

    • bill says:

      I was going to say the same thing. All the screenshots (on this article and on stores) make it look like the devs have just re-used their world and assets from their past fantasy games and then then stuck in a bunch of sci-fi dressed character models and called it a new game.

      A fair few of the combat shots seemed to by using swords as well, but i have no idea if that’s representative.

      It gave the impression of being a bit of a cash grab, even before reading this.

  22. Sin Vega says:

    “picklocks” is defensible, it’s no more or less right than “lockpicks”, if less common.

    • aepervius says:

      Picklocks is even the first definition you find in some dictionary (normally they are often ordered by usage …)

      e.g. dict.cc
      Dietrich {m}
      picklock (tools)
      lock pick (tools)

      As usual PB invested not enough money in finding a good translator…

      • Someoldguy says:

        I’m sure it’s not the first game or pnp RPG that’s used ‘picklocks’ but I’m not searching through my entire back catalogue to find other examples.

  23. mac4 says:

    Just logging on to say thanks for the lulz. Guess another E50,– saved until some future mega-sale.

  24. fish99 says:

    I saw someone streaming this who said it was just starting to get good after 30 hours. Hope it’s not 35 hours long.

  25. Jernau Gurgeh says:

    I was quite looking forward to playing this game, once the price had dropped. Now I’m *really* looking forward to it. I have a soft spot for unpolished janky RPGs made by Germans or Eastern Europeans, especially PB. The only reason I’m not playing Risen now is because it hasn’t got controller support and I like to sit back with a gamepad these days.

    Anyway, what I really want to see is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi jankfest made by the team responsible for Two Worlds. Oh yes.

    • Sin Vega says:

      There’s a programme called xpadder (and probably others) that lets you assign any keyboard or mouse function to any input on a controller. I’ve used it for everything from Mount and Blade to Hardwar, it’s bloody great. Doesn’t depend on the software itself providing compatibility: it just directly translates the input based on how you set it up. It ought to work fine with Risen too.

      • WJonathan says:

        I also have used and enjoyed xpadder. The only caveat to using a gamepad with a game that didn’t natively support it is the inability to have analog input.

      • Jernau Gurgeh says:

        I’ve actually got Pinnacle, and I think I tried it with that with my Xbox 360 pad. Too clunky really. Might give it another go though. Love me some Risen, before it went all piratey.

        http://pinnaclegameprofiler.com

      • Jernau Gurgeh says:

        OMG! HARDWAR! I rue the day I gave my copy away to a charity shop.

        “I had a girl once. She’s gone. I had a dog too. He didn’t understand…”

  26. WJonathan says:

    “…more akin to an expository truck crashing and shedding its load…”

    That’s a disturbing thought when you accidentally first read it as “suppository truck.”

  27. FrantasticFran says:

    PB games are an acquired taste. That has been known since G1. Why a person clearly unaware of that is reviewing it?

    • hprice says:

      Help … I can’t stop commenting …

      You’d think that anyone who knows Piranha Bytes would know that it was going to be a fairly tough game to get into, and/or finish (outside of the janky mechanics and dialogue issues). I’ve started Gothic 1 without getting anywhere near a third of the way through. I probably got halfway through Gothic 2 before having to give up for some reason. And I’ve only started looking at Gothic 3 before something else sparkly and shiny turned up to deflect my attention from it. Piranha Bytes games are like that. Tough to get into, and you have to really persevere with them. But once you are “in” them, you do get strangely hooked to them (well that was kind of my experience with G2 but I couldn’t go any further for some reason … quite a while ago now since I played it I have to say, though). I may have a go at the Gothics again soon as I’m going through my mediocre collection of games I’ve never completed.

      • FrantasticFran says:

        I recommend G2 and the somewhat silly expansion(which curiously foreshadows the direction Risen series took). If you want to challenge yourself play the mages.

    • grimdanfango says:

      If you’ve acquired the taste, you should know by now that their games will inevitably get a critical mauling from certain quarters, regardless of whether it’s a great-bad entry, or a bad-bad one. It’s simply not to everyone’s taste to see past the jank, and that’s a perfectly reasonable perspective to have represented in a review, as it’ll apply to a fairly large proportion of the gaming public too :-)

    • bill says:

      Because it’s funny.
      And I’m pretty sure John is familiar with what Piranha Bytes games are like.

  28. Mandrake42 says:

    I actually like Piranha Bytes games. In fact, the jankiness is part of the appeal. I find it hard to pinpoint exactly why I like them to be honest. I’ve yet to play Elex but it sounds like the usual PB game. Combat is a bit one note. The writing can be rocky. The difficult is kind of odd in that its incredibly difficult early on but towards the last third nothing can stand in your way. Bugs and technical. But despite all that, they just have a unique feel to their titles and I love poking around the nooks and crannies of their worlds. I’ve been reading lots of reviews of Elex and all the gripes people have had ended up just making me think “Oh, another PB game then” and that in no way turned me off. I honestly hope that it’s a success, it would be a shame to see PB disappear.

  29. racccoon says:

    I had my criticisms of this game at the start & went jugular – refund. The refund was lost in data translation. lol.
    Well, I decided as I had Elex sitting on gog galaxy I’d play it again.
    From the beginner this is a hard game to work out. It has very twisted avenues for you fall into with a very hard fighting field, makes making your way through a real task.
    The game is fun once you’ve overrided the confusion of the beginning as it can take a while to think & play out.
    Since being in the game over 20hrs I’m beginning to actually get somewhere & really enjoy it.
    In map size this is a big game. Its has a vast environments with lots of sharp changes. Modeled well, & it all pulls together ok. There’s hoochie cooche as the rampant plant in the game. :)

    I started a char towards lone wolf none faction points into dex/int, becoming a laser rifle/plasma char not what I thought I was aiming for – archer/mage type, never mind. The bow in the game is very useful in the early stages being a fairly powerful weapon at a distance, the game opens up a lot later on & you’ll get massive amounts of quests so there’s plenty to do, get all teleports as they help you to go off & buy supplies during half fought fight battles as the beasts in the game are sons of a’ beasts! they will kill you instantly. It can be off putting to a lot of gamers as its a mighty challenging game which will force you to either quit early like I did or overcome it by doing tiny steps & not strides as I did & I thank technology for data transfer mistakes as I’m enjoying it for those very reasons.

    Elex in nutshell:
    A good fun game, with wonky mechanics you can use!
    Vast avenues of land & loads of places to see & do, you’ll never see them or their beauty until you free roam.
    A game with hard floors to master & mad dialogs to be endure.
    Its a game finished & its playable.

  30. f0rmality says:

    review is hilarious, really enjoyable read :p

    But for those of you that are actually considering the game and want a real breakdown of it I recommend watching ACG’s review instead, it’s a much better and less bitter take on the game, he outlines all its major flaws, but also the areas where it absolutely shines.

    • skyturnedred says:

      Mr. Walker only played it for an hour, it’s first impressions if anything. From what I gathered Alec likes the Gothic series and there was talk of him maybe doing a proper review.

    • Jernau Gurgeh says:

      Hey, thanks for reminding me of that reviewer. Always enjoy his irreverent approach when I come across him.

  31. Jenne says:

    This must be one of the most shoddiest, arrogant, unprofessional pseudojournalistic works I’ve ever read. Piranha Bytes games have millions of fans and 15 years of tradition of putting out legends of the genre. And the author didn’t even bother to try to find out what it is that people see in these games. Instead he focused on superficial, irrelevant things like production values no real fan cares about – like the shallow millennial he probably is. I’d expect a review like that on IGN.

    • Beefenstein says:

      “Piranha Bytes games have millions of fans and 15 years of tradition of putting out legends of the genre. And the author didn’t even bother to try to find out what it is that people see in these games.”

      The reviewer reviewed the game being reviewed based on what the reviewer viewed in the game they were reviewing.

      You review the reviewer’s review based on the views of people who are not the reviewer.

      Who is being more ridiculous here? The person who gives their own opinion, or the person who demands that this opinion must be wrong because other people disagree? This is a rhetorical question and your reply is not needed; your only possible action is to not comment again in so ridiculous a way.

    • Jernau Gurgeh says:

      Steady on there, fella. Whilst I am a casual fan of PB games, especially the first Risen, I do recognise their ‘quirks’ and see where the reviewer is coming from. I also found their rantings thoroughly amusing. It’s nice to be entertained by something you might not necessarily agree with, yes?

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Isn’t John too old to be a millennial? I forget what the cutoff is. Anyway, he gave an honest account of his experience with the game. Only fair.

      “superficial, irrelevant things like production values no real fan cares about”

      Listen, I love at least two Piranha Bytes games (Gothic 1 & 2) and I care about those things. Rough edges are okay but graphics, audio and game feel ALL matter enormously in creating the experience that is a game. It can still be worth playing if one or more of them is lacking but it would always be better if they were not.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      You mean I wrote about what I experienced, rather than a reverential eulogy of a developer you like?! CAST ME INTO THE FIRES!

  32. The K says:

    So, if i understood this right, really liking Elex makes me a misogynistic, sexist, racist evil piece of scum, because the protagonist is clearly an embodyment of toxic masculinity. Alright.

    Aside from the fact, Elex has admittedly a lot of problems, but for me it is a return to Gothic 1 and 2, my favourite RPGs ever. So far it may be one of my favourite titles this year, but i also loved the heck out of “The Surge”, which is allegedly also terribad. So perhaps i just have strange tastes.

    But i am sure we will got a crapton of Ubisoft/New Bethesda “Hover up all the icons, oh and here is all the bestest equipment in the game in the first hour” games to gush over again. So, no worries there.

    • Beefenstein says:

      Yes, you do have strange tastes. You like janky games.

      You also seem to like false dichotomies. What a time to be alive where there are only two types of RPGs — janky ones and cold and heartless made-by-committee-and-day-one-paid-DLC icon hoover-em-ups.

      • The K says:

        Good to know that my tastes are objectively shit. I guess i have to turn in my “gamercard” now and melt in my rig?

        Btw, while i totally get that Elex is considered “janky”, i never understood how anyone could say the same about The Surge. I found it at least as responsive as Bloodborne, and certainly more than Dark Souls 1 and 2. Of course, if you just buttonsmash the controller and then wonder why your Avatar does not instakill the enemy, you have a point.

        • Beefenstein says:

          “I guess i have to turn in my “gamercard” now and melt in my rig?”

          You’re the kind of person who is asked ‘what would you like today?’ at a restaurant and you respond with ‘why are you calling my children fat?’

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      “So, if i understood this right, really liking Elex makes me a misogynistic, sexist, racist evil piece of scum, because the protagonist is clearly an embodyment of toxic masculinity. Alright.”

      Goodness gracious me, what a lot of things I didn’t say all in one place!

      I said that the player character was achingly generic and bland. You imagined the rest for yourself. You may want to wonder why.

      • The K says:

        Because i am obviously racist, misogynistic etc etc…to be fair, that part was only alluded somewhere in the top comments.

        Doesnt matter anyway, you can hate the game all you want and tell us how stupid some of us are to like it, i still very much enjoy it. And since you seem to hate almost any game to varying degrees, it matters even less.

          • The K says:

            I´ll take a clanky, unpolished bit of a mess game like ELEX over an (admittedly) extremely pretty, polished up but ultimately empty and soulless game like Far Cry Primal any time.

            Now dont get me wrong, a lot of the criticism you (and others) have about ELEX are entirely valid. The combat is clunky and questionably balanced, the english voice acting is atrocious (especially compared to the German one) and some of the Exposition Speak of the Protagonist is pretty cringy.

            It still has tons of charm, an actual open world to explore that feels “real”, a lot of very well done quests and a unique setting.

            I think the main reason people like me are defending it so rabidly is the fact that it feels like it is the last of a dying breed. How many alternatives are there? The witcher games were awesome, but we wont get a new CDPR game for years. There is Underrail, i guess…but apart from that?

            All i see on the horizon are more ingame-microtransactions in full-price titles, more markered up maps, more handholding, etc…

            Well, onwards to Fallout 5, with all the real-money loot crates and paid mods you´ll ever want to buy!

          • Premium User Badge

            John Walker says:

            I’m sure you’re about to apologise at any moment…

          • The K says:

            Well i falsely accused you of hating all games, and that was wrong. I think some of those games on your like list are utter garbage, but oh well, you have your tastes, i have mine.

  33. Halk says:

    Is KALLAX’ older brother called EXPEDIT?

  34. Beefenstein says:

    This game MUST be good. It has a 75% rating on steam meaning only a quarter of people don’t like it making it OBJECTIVELY an excellent game because I SAY SO.

    Look at the negative reviews on steam: “I would be lying though, if I didn’t say that I enjoy using the jetpack. It’s fun, but I’d adjust its speed slightly, because at the moment it feels like it’s being powered by two, very old and slightly malnourished hamsters.”

    Look that person is TRYING TO BE FUNNY meaning they must be WRONG because humour is for the WEAK as the only true way to live your life is through TECHNICAL PEDANTRY and APPEALS TO MY OWN NOSTALGIA because you are being SUBJECTIVE and as long as I don’t mention I AM TOO I can pretend to be BETTER THAN YOU.

  35. syndrome says:

    Thank you John!
    Here’s my comment from several days ago, I was in shock just by seeing the trailer lol. Apparently this is “The Room” of videogames?

  36. tanith says:

    Hmm.

    I like this game. Then again, Gothic is my favourite game of all time. And I really liked Gothic 2. Everything after that was okay. I kinda liked Risen 3, though.

    Elex is good. People say this game is janky but which game isn’t. Almost every game that I’ve played is janky, at least when it comes to games where you can freely move your character (something like Train Valley is not janky, for example).

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      People say this game is janky but which game isn’t

      I’ve just been playing Cogmind. I haven’t got all that far but it seems very solidly put together.

      Any other suggestions?

      • tanith says:

        Oh, it all depends on where you look. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, the best roguelike in the universe, is not janky. OpenTTD is not janky.

        But when you look at other genres there is a lot of jank. Just look at the Elder Scrolls games. I remember glitching through parts of Dragon Age because of jank. Even Divinity Original Sin has jank, which is also part of its appeal because you can do horrendously funny stuff in it.

        The best shooter of 2016, Shadow Warrior 2, was really janky but that made it so awesome.

  37. Lobotomist says:

    How many games have open world with sci-fi , fantasy and post apocalyptic themes coexist seamlessly. Sand box RPG open world where NPCs have their own time cycle, agendas, where no area is closed, auto leveled, where quests can be solved in many ways.

    This is why people love Piranha Bytes games. And this is why they are broken mess – they are simply very ambitious, but their coding skills are not up to par…

    Many other companies drop features when they see they will not work very good. PB does opposite, they implement them anyway, although they are half broken.

    So yes, the games are junky but unique. You will not find many similar scope RPGs, even done by CDPR

    • tanith says:

      Well said. :) This is what I always loved about the Gothic series. You can go anywhere you want. A friend told me that in the beginning of Gothic 2 he used to go to the location of the Black Troll, high up in the north of Khorinis, since it was possible to stand in such a way that you could hit the Black Troll the whole time without it being able to hit you and then you got loads of XP. It took ages because you could only deal 1HP but it worked anyway. :)

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      > And this is why they are broken mess – they are simply very ambitious, but their coding skills are not up to par…

      But they’ve had 4 games to get better?! I mean they already arguably perfected their formula in Gothic 2, then lost their way with 3 – blame the difficult transition to modern graphics I suppose – but even as a huge fan of their previous work I feel like they could have learned a little more since then from basically making the same game again 4 times! It only took CDProjekt 3 games to get to Witcher 3…

      I don’t know, maybe they should hire some new (experienced) people to get a fresh perspective.

      • Lobotomist says:

        Gothic 1, 2 were fantastic. 3 was failure ( although years after fan patches made it much better )

        Risen 1 was fantastic ( but only up to 3rd chapter , where game abruptly ends for no reason )

        Risen 2,3 were terrible crap.

        So yes, I agree

        They are all basically same game. Like for example Elder Scrolls.
        But instead improving the formula every time, its one step forward two steps back, for them

  38. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    I did a lot of proofreading and editing on Gothic IV, and to cut a long story short, JoWood/PB didn’t like it and changed everything back to Euroglish cliché. Sounds like the same thing happened with Beat Cop (although I haven’t played it, so can’t confirm), and probably here too.

    • tanith says:

      Gothic 4 was ade by Spellbound. JoWood was disappointed with what they turned Gothic 3 into and blamed Piranha Bytes for it, so they let them go. That’s why Piranha Bytes made Risen and never touched Gothic 4 or had anything to do with it whatsoever.

  39. frozbite says:

    I spent around 19 (11 + 8) in-game hours (almost double of that amoun as actual playtime) playing on difficult. Im not into modern RPGs, last was Fallout NV and 4, pass on Witchers. So, my experience may be a bit old-school, but somehow I like and hate this game. I like its role-playing part, its like uncut diamond. For example, i was munchkining around Goliat at the beginning and when later on i came to Rognar, i was barred from trading in the city, mentioning that yes, i solved quests but solutions was not bountiful for Goliat at all. If it is not trully RP-experience, i dont know what is… But! So many dialog option unavalible, since you not leveled enough to fit skills requirements. And that Suggestion thing in almost every second conversation, avalible solely to clerics…
    But rest of things… Its not openworld game, world is no way open. Progression is fully linear, you cant progress futher before you fully farmed all possible (and impossible) quest in one location. Character building… i restarded once, and looks like i need to do it again, focusing on str\con only, no dex, int, etc.
    And combat, omg, DAT COMBAT! After several hours in elex, I run Surge to farm DLC weapons. And its combat… so fast, accurate, smooth…

  40. percydaman says:

    What I find the most hilarious is the people who will defend it to the death. Like to the point that they will ignore issues people have with it, even if a multitude of them have the same issue.

    100 people think the combat is drek. “Well that’s subjective, so you 100 people must be wrong, and I’m right.”

    • tanith says:

      The combat is not very good but show me a game that has good combat.

      Skyrim’s combat was okay, Oblivion and Morrowind were just “you hit the enemy but the dice say no”. Witcher 1 has the worst combat I have ever seen in a RPG. The combat in Witcher 2 and 3 was passable.

      The first two Gothic games had really weird controls and combat and you got used to them but they are not good. Gothic 3 and the Risen games had combat that was passable, too. Nothing to write home about.

      Let’s see. I have not played any of the Dark Souls games so I cannot say anything about that but quite honest the combat doesn’t look very good.

      The combat in the Mount & Blade games was decent but also kinda janky.

      Right now I cannot think of more games from the top of my head and except for Witcher 1 the combat in all of these games was mediocre. Right, it was better in some than in others but none of these games had good fluent combat that made sense and felt good.

      I now remembered Darksiders 2. It didn’t have very good combat but it was serviceable.

      I only played one hour or so of Arkham Asylum and the combat was not bad but sort of simplistic. The same applies to Sleeping Dogs. It worked but it wasn’t very engaging.

      I want combat that doesn’t auto-focus and where you get the feeling that your character actually knows what he is doing, i.e. he fights in a way that proves he wants to survive and not like he wants to look like a Ballerina. It has to be smooth but also needs impact. No stupid pirouettes or glitchy teleports while fighting with swords, no inhuman turns but realistic combat that makes you feel powerful.

      It’s difficult to get right and so that’s probably the reason why it hasn’t been done, yet.

      • percydaman says:

        It’s funny you mention Dark Souls, because it’s what I keep thinking about. If the combat was even approaching the levels of Dark Souls it would be a much better game. In DS it’s pretty easy to get ganked by even lowby mobs. But when you do, you almost never feel like it’s cheap. You feel like you know exactly why you died, so it makes you feel like if you just adjust or don’t be dumb you’ll be fine. The movement and combat in Elex never gives me that feeling. It’s just not polished enough, so frequently when I die, it’s frustrating because I felt like the game is what held me back. I’ve played every DS game including Bloodborne and beat them all more times than I can count. So i’m not some game combat noob, nor am I against difficult combat. I find difficult combat fun because of that feeling of accomplishment that you achieved something that was difficult. I never get that feeling here.

        The problem with the game is that there isn’t a single part of the game that is particularly polished. Anybody can forgive a game if one or two aspects of a game are unpolished. Because if the rest is well done, than it’s super easy to look past the unpolished parts. Elex doesn’t have any of that. The graphics, animation, combat, voice acting, writing. Everything is lacking polish. There is no part of the game that I think: “well at least they knocked that out of the park.” Literally the one good thing I can say about the game is that it’s a huge game made by an admittedly small developer. Which isn’t easy to do, so it begs the question: should they have? Are they doing themselves and their fans any favors by putting out repeated attempts at generally the same game archetype when they all seem to be categorized as hot messes?

      • Premium User Badge

        jythanatos says:

        Have you played this game? Because as soon as a mob gets within 10 feet and you have a weapon out it auto-focuses on them….

    • Mothmna71 says:

      Well most of those one hundred people are most likely just repeating what they hear on the internet, and quoting a ‘reviewer’ who just doesnt like the game so says its bad. The combat isnt dark souls but its better than elder scrolls simplistic combat, at least theres a challenge in it. Honestly PB have made some of the best RPG’s ive ever played, gothic 2, gothic 3 and first Risen. The beauty of their games isnt the combat, the story or voice acting ( theyre a small studio with limited budget ) but the worlds they create. After playing one of their games the worlds of Witcher 3 or elder Scrolls feel flat and lifeless. But it all boils down to what you want from your games and personal preference and why people feel they have to parrot other peoples disparaging comments when they have no interest and no intentions of buying the game is beyond me.

      • percydaman says:

        What is so good about their world? I haven’t seen what you see at all. It totally seems flat an uninteresting to me. I’ve played both Skyrim and The Witcher. I didn’t think either was amazing but I thought their worlds were richer than Elex, so I would appreciate if you could be more specific.

  41. Chaoslord AJ says:

    I’m twenty-some hours in and I quite enjoy it. It’s Piranha Bytes as it always is. You don’t play their games for the gritty combat – that’s Dark Souls or Characters – that’s Witcher. They have a loyal fanbase which doesn’t complain about stuff not being explained to them and actually just wants to relive Gothic 1;2 from time to time on a new map.
    On the positive side you have intersecting questlines with different long-lasting outcomes, no essential characters as far as I can tell. Actions have consequences such as killing people or betraying them. The planet looks foreign yet postnuclear-familiar and is better designed than Andromeda’s planets which by the way has equally bad menus and dialogue despite having native English speakers as writers.
    You can walk into a cave to find an overpowered weapon. Get one-shot a dozen times by the 95% of op enemies. You can freely roam the map without loading interruptions. Sneak into houses and steal cups and brooms (no weight limit). The jetpack is a new addition which allows vertical exploration and jumping from cliffs.
    I’d say it’s better than Risen 2;3.

  42. Superhans87 says:

    I’ve seen plenty of people white knighting a video game, and that kind of makes sense but seeing so many people here white knight a reviewer… That is bizarre.

    Anyway a lot of this article felt a bit… Mean. Like the sort of feedback a nasty money hungry triple A game deserves. Yeah, the game has some shortfalls but I think the guys who made it don’t deserve this mocking, sneering tone. I can see the work and effort in the game.

    Then, on the other hand I hate the kind of apologists who say “oh but only 30 guys made it, give it a break”. If you are going to charge £40 – £50 for your game then I’m afraid you need to be judged against other triple A titles regardless of how many Devs you have in your team.

  43. DinoSteak says:

    You’re completely shitting the bed if you don’t give ELEX a solid go…treat it like a rough diamond. What irks me about the complaints is when people are treating an 80+ hour game like it’s 30 hours long, expecting all the systems and rewards to be there by hour 5, and that just isn’t the case. The writing is def. phoned in, but at the same time I’ve LOL in a few parts, there are some great Fallout type bits/incteractions you can stumble on. Elex has an actual progression and learning curve. Going from barely surviving a fight with more than 1 enemy, to wiping the floor with entire Alb mobs. It’s fucking glorious and satisfying, and exploration rewards you because you NEED the money from selling collectables, the economy isn’t so broken (read:every AAA rpg) that it feels pointless to collect loot. It’s a PB game made by ~30 people with love and care. It has its fair share of issues and TBH most other complaints are very valid (if a little harsh and off the mark) but it’s definitely worth giving it a fair shake for ~20 hours if you have any interest whatsoever in handcrafted RPGs. I get a little offended at how shitty different review sites treat this game, which clearly has a mass of great qualities, yet AAA games pay the bills and get the “7 or above” treatment. Elex is a solid 8/10 if you’re a fan of these types, and at least a 6/10 if you aren’t.

  44. Scraphound says:

    So after reading this article I happened to stumble across the RPS top 50 RPGs of all time and I noticed Risen made the list.

    Risen, for those who don’t know, is another PB game. It uses the same mechanics. It had the same kinda-mediocre-for-its-time graphics and writing.

    I love this site, but it annoys me when a title gets shit on by someone who clearly hasn’t spent any time playing the game because it isn’t another streamlined cookie cutter AAA title. Clearly RPS liked Risen at one time, and Elex in a lot of ways is almost functionally identical but with a few really nice changes (such as the jetpack–yes please!).

    In my opinon Elex is in no way a step back from Risen. It’s more of the same. A handcrafted open world RPG with a robust faction system, loads of quests, some interesting, some less so, lots to explore, clunky but manageable combat, and an admittedly tough start. Best of all NO GRINDING! Which is more than I can say for those awful quests in Fallout 4 which all too often boil down going to another bombed out building to kill a few dozen raiders and gather mostly meaningless junk loot ad nauseum.

    It’s not a 9/10 game by any means. But I’d definitely call it a very solid 7/10. And for people like me who love open world games but can’t stomach the direction Bethesda’s taken them, it’s actually pretty damn fun.

    Check out the video previously mentioned in the comments. It’s a much fairer take by someone who actually spent more than 30 minutes in game. Or buy it on Steam, give it a shot, and return it within 2 hours if necessary. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s certainly not total garbage as this article would imply.

    Cheers.

    • Premium User Badge

      jythanatos says:

      I have to disagree with you on the comment to buy it and return it if you don’t like it. The games start off very slow, and many things are gated by skills/stats, which means you will not get an idea of how they work with the game until many hours in. I would also give it a 5.5/10. All of the criticisms leveled at it by this article are correct. It feels like they attempted to put too many systems into the game and were not able to fully complete any of them. I’m not sure why you say there is no grinding… I’ve played around 25-30 hours, and I think I’m around level 15. Getting to the other factions in the beginning is way too difficult(other side of map), and almost all mobs can kill you with just a few hits. For the first 15-20 hours, I cheesed more mobs to kill them than I actually “fought” straight out. Some quests you get in the beginning are impossible to do because they lead to areas where you will get hit once and your dead. The game is Ok, but only because its a “Sandbox”. You are allowed to like flawed things, but you really should be honest with yourself in that they are flawed, and accept that others will take exception and point out those flaws.

      • Scraphound says:

        I pretty solidly stated the game’s flawed.

        Regarding the grind, the game is very stingy in rewarding XP for killing monsters, but pays out handsomely for completing quests. And the starting town is full of quests. There are several you can complete without leaving its walls, which you should do. And if a quest leads you to a group of tough enemies come back later.

        I can’t play a game like Skyrim because even on the hardest settings it’s so easy I feel like I’m playing on godmode.

        Combat is really hard at first in Elex, as in every single other PB game ever released, several of which have received fair reviews on this site.

        But once you’ve done the easier quests and gathered some equipment it becomes much more manageable.

  45. Cvnk says:

    I’ve got 30+ hours into and I’m looking forward to more. I can’t say I blame anyone for not liking this or other PB games because all of the criticisms are perfectly valid. But they don’t really matter since the game is a blast.

  46. zkluhman says:

    John really stirred the hive with this one. He’s right, but largely wrong, about the game. As others have said, it’s an acquired taste, but if you’re willing to work through the shortcomings, you’ll find an uncompromising RPG offering a deeper experience than most released these days.

    I enjoy John’s writing, but I do find myself disagreeing with his views on a lot of solid games. He’s willing to give No Man’s Sky the benefit of the doubt through 30+ however many hours, yet he hops on to publish a disparaging article about this game within an hour of playing. The perks of being a co-founder, I guess.

    I love your site and the way you’ve grown RPS, John, but your ranting disapprovals have usually proven to be a sign that I will like a game.

    • bill says:

      This didn’t read like a ranting disapproval to me, it seemed like laughing at how terrible the opening of the game was.

  47. Frank648 says:

    Only grievance I have with this article is the guy obviously didn’t pay any attention to the begaining.
    1. Duras didn’t steal your stuff. If you payed attention to the cut scene you would have seen a guy who looks nothing like Duras looting your body.
    2. Obviously you just skipped through the diolouge with Duras for whatever reason. When I play a game I try to you know pay attention so I know what’s going on and how best to respond to the NPC.

  48. ChrisT1981 says:

    In my view this article is spot on in light of the surprise masterpiece Larian delivered with D:OS2 mere weeks before.

    When ELEX finally came out I was still on a binge fest on D:OS2. All fresh in mind. And you gotta admit that D:OS2 makes a darned good first impression especially if you are all about freedom in RPGs and like challenging well thought through combat.

    And then along comes ELEX presenting me with a confining linear corridor driven introduction, a very generic protagonist of a generic story and the worst possible way to introduce it’s combat mechanics.

    It really is no wonder I disliked it and refunded after fighting through that first cheesy dialog, when just hours before that I had once again gone through that marvel that is the beginning of D:OS2. Which surely has a none less generic RPG story, but has mighty interesting protagonists and crazy good dialogs.

  49. kament says:

    (in best Zaeed’s voice): This takes me back…

    Back around fifteen years, maybe more. Hell I forget. Me and my gf picked up this new game, Gothic. I made it as far as the first clearly pickable object that I couldn’t pick up and could not for the life of me find how to do it in the control scheme. (Turned out it never was explained there or anywhere in the game for that matter.) I was willing to give up but my gf insisted I kept doing that to myself for her entertainment.

    So in a way I was forced into PB fandom, but my relationship with their games remained uneven. I skipped Gothic 3 because it was unplayable not in the modern “I don’t like cutscenes being out of focus” jaded sense (the whole thing was out of focus and that was probably the best thing about it) but, like, literally unplayable. The only way it could be less playable was if every time the game crashed a minute after launch it set my hair on fire.

    Risen was meh. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s playable. I wish I could’ve skipped Risen 2, but it was abysmally stable and my gf wouldn’t let me. Risen 3 I liked playing more than anything PB since G2, much as reading about it here.

    I can only hope this new one is more like Risen 3 and less (much, much less, please) like Risen 2, but for now I’ll keep reading and hiding the fact it’s out from my gf. God help me.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      For anyone interested – you had to focus the item, hold down a mouse button then press the up button on the keyboard.
      There was no tutorial but it’s explained in the manual something which was a thing back then.
      In their modern games there’s just left-click meaning you either steal accidently, talk to your bro or sit on a couch at random.

  50. Calculated says:

    I’ve been a fan of RPS for years; it really is the best PC Gaming blog on the internet. But this ‘first look’ is simply ghastly. Yes, ELEX has a horrific start (both visually and narratively) thanks to a low budget and a weak translation, but the actual game underneath it is a pure gem. This has the best Choice in Consequence and quest design that I’ve ever seen in an aRPG, period. The way the world reacts to your choices and the way you’ve gone about building your character is really on another level. The developer of Age of Decadence has already called ELEX one of his favorite games of all time, and I’d strongly recommend reading his overview on the Iron Tower Studio forums. But I thought I’d post a couple of my own Choice & Consequences to wet your whistle (spoilers, obvs).

    -So there is a quest from the Clerics in the Domed City who can’t establish communications to their home city, The Hort, so they ask me to look into the issue and see if I can fix the comm tower. Meanwhile, a local Outlaw (who I’m probably gonna side with) tells me that in case the Clerics want to gather forces and betray the peace by attacking other factions and taking the Domed City for themselves, I need to install a bug in that tower so the citizens would be prepared for that. I did that, went back, reported on being successful with both the bug for the outlaws and the comm tower fix for the Clerics and they both thanked me. Another Cleric then approached me and said job well done, for a capable person like myself there is another task of very high priority. The Clerics in the domed city await the arrival of a Colossi (battle mech) to help establish the peace and also fight off the Albs in case they attack, but Clerics of The Hort report they are short of ELEX by just one box. They need some additional Elex to finish the group of battlemechs for the domed city and they ask me to deliver it to the border where the Clerics party will meet me and take the elex further themselves. Upon arrival, I found out the clerics were ambushed and killed, guess who did it? The outlaws listened to clerics chatter and planned to take that box of elex for themselves, so then I gave it to them.

    A few in-game days pass.
    I get a new quest: “Something happened in the domed city, I need to investigate.” Here I come, and see that the dome doesn’t seem to be working anymore. There are Alb corpses visible at the front of the city. I step inside. Bodies are everywhere. The albs slaughtered the whole city. The Clerics didn’t get that elex package so they didn’t get the battle mech they needed to fend against the Albs.

    R.I.P, domed city, not a single survivor inside.

    -A Cleric leader asks me to tithe for the church; I agree to, and pay out a couple bucks. Much later, I approach a Cleric legate and he asks me if I’m the messenger he sent for; I decide to lie and tell him yes, I am. He tentatively hands me a letter to deliver to the Cleric leader I paid tithe to, and I read the letter to gather intel for my Outlaw bretheren. When I bring it to the Cleric leader, he immediately knows that I would never have been entrusted to carry the letter unless either there was a note attached by the sender, or I lied about being a messenger. Obviously, there was no note. However, because I paid tithe to him when I first met him, he let the situation slide and didn’t fine me several hundred bucks because I lied.
    These are just two of around 300 quests in the game, and I’m shocked to say they’re nearly all of this calibre. I can post more if you still don’t believe me, but I’d personally just suggest the Age of Decadence guy’s write-up about the game.

    Please don’t dismiss this game because of its execrable beginning (btw, no, the person who shot down Jack’s ship did so out of an act of love and it’s not Kallax). This kind of game just simply does NOT get made anymore with this level of complexity and rewarded thinking, and it’s easily the best open-world aRPG this generation by several wide margins.

    Unless of course you think cutscenes and production values make a game good. And if that’s really the case, I’m not really sure this is the same RPS I fell in love with.

    PS. Oh right, and there’s one more thing. After you finish the game, you’re able to wander back through the land and see the consequences of your actions; entire cities may be wiped out or certain towns might be completely hostile to you… while others may revere you as a god. Has any over game handled endgame like that?

    I just wish you guys would hand it to Alec Meer, he’d have a blast, and also be impressed at how PB has finally dropped most of the misogyny in favor of finally having interesting female characters.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      I was surprised about how connected the quests are and relatively bug-free compared to Bethesda or EA.
      They remember stuff you say, if you lie to them or refuse to pay tithe and always rub it in at a later moment. Also if you put down their friends for example.
      Even outside of quest prompts you can tell NPCs about what you find out or go back to folks and tell them like their buddy is dead and they have some line or you get XP, nice touch.

      • Calculated says:

        Agreed. I can’t really think of another open-world game I’ve played that had this kind of interactivity and reactivity for a world this size. It feels almost like an open-world Alpha Protocol (right down to the mediocre but functional combat).

    • kament says:

      In fairness, John did say that It’s beyond this first hour that the game opens up, lets you go off where you want, do what you want, and seemingly align with who you want. Agreed about Alec (getting all nostalgic here), but I’m sure John can do the game justice, and this write-up of his is not that far-off from Alec’s R3 diaries, truth be told.

      Nice to know there’s post-game this time around. That’s new for a PB game and all the more welcome if it reflects your actions half as well as you tell it. Thanks.

      • Calculated says:

        Word, kament, there’s even a few more quests after the endgame, and new dialog options open up with most non-hostile inhabitants of Magalan talking about your choices.

        I’d also strongly recommend joining a faction immediately, since that can change how the world interacts with you from the very beginning.

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