Elex is a vast open world role-playing game which is surprisingly filled with a lot of choices. You can affected the communities around you to a great degree. For those of you who aren't familiar with the developers—Piranha Bytes—they're a German studio known for the Gothic and Risen franchises.

Gothic and Risen are great role-playing experiences, so the studio has a high standard to meet with Elex. When it comes to reviewing games, you always have to look at the narrative as well as the game's technical aspects. Does the title live up to what we expect from the studio? We're going to break it down for you by each section. Let's find out.

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Elex takes place in a devastated world where humans have broken into various factions. A comet containing a rare substance called Elex destroyed the planet, and the remnants adopt their own beliefs which they view as necessary for survival. For example, the Berserkers believe in magic over technology whereas the Clerics focus on advanced weaponry. However, many of these factions are fanatical in their views. Berserkers look down on those who use technology and if you use your jetpack in front of them, you should expect trouble. Each faction has its own benefits and weaknesses so who you align with greatly influences the game.

The mysterious Albs are everyone's enemy so will all of these factions come together to fight for survival? You'll have to play Elex to find out. Despite initial impressions, the game features a complex—at times convoluted—plot which explores topics like addiction and the limits of power. There's also a deeply personal story in there because someone very close to you betrays you in the beginning of the game.

The world of Magalan is gorgeous and diverse. It's unclear if this is just a version of Earth in the distant future or if it's set in a completely different dimension. The open environments are absolutely massive and range from lush forests to erupted wastelands. You encounter some of the most breathtaking places in the city of Goliet, as it looks upon snow-covered mountains and is filled with the ruins of a distant past. The hills are covered with colorful vegetation and dotted with flowers. The developers strived for a photorealistic aesthetic and Elex is definitely better for it, making it one of the best looking games on Xbox One.

Elex features a jetpack which allows you to surprise enemies and reach secret areas. However, it's most useful for getting away from ravenous creatures and landing safely, because even the slightest fall can damage you. This isn't Middle-earth: Shadow of War where you can jump off towers and survive. Watching your step is necessary especially during the first few hours of gameplay because you don't have any armor or other protection.

From the get-go, you can go to any area you want. While this makes the world truly open, it also makes it unpredictable. Areas that are further from your starting location contain incredibly dangerous enemies that can annihilate you with one hit. Since the combat is Dark Souls-like, as it focuses on stamina and evasion, taking on powerful foes at the very beginning is next to impossible. Be sure to level up your character by initially carrying out mundane tasks, because tackling even a harmless-looking salamander-like creature can be the end.

Just like any role-playing game, Elex features a lot of leveling up and customization. However, you aren't limited to a particular class like many other titles. Do you want to use a bow? Go ahead. What about a sword? You can do that too. What if you want to become proficient at both of those weapons? The choice is available. There are also firearms and other forms of magic you can customize your character with. The choices are almost endless because the game features a deep level of personalization. Elex can be adjusted to however you want to play.

Have you played Skyrim? Remember how you could kill certain characters, and that would change the story a bit? Well, Elex is the same way except the integration is more pronounced. Since the game revolves around factions, you can help or kill whoever you want. However, it's not like others will let it slide and you'll be thrown into a dungeon. People will remember your words and actions and, well, being a jerk can come back to bite you at a later time. Just remember that. You need allies and killing guards and storekeepers will get you nowhere.

Nowadays many studios use motion capture technology to animate faces, but Elex doesn't seem to do that. Just like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Elex suffers from wooden animations. However, the voice acting is a little off, so it exacerbates the situation. The main character seems a little too generic as well so that doesn't help matters. Luckily, the world is filled with intriguing and sometimes hilarious individuals that make it a joy to explore.

Unlike its Windows PC counterpart, Elex on Xbox One suffers from some performance issues. The title runs at 30 FPS most of the time but regularly experiences stuttering which hinders the gameplay. The frame rate fluctuations make it difficult to control your character, and this can be problematic when you're fighting a few foes at once. Despite the day one patch, Elex still isn't truly enjoyable due to this.

Despite its colorful and interesting world, the game feels like a chore to get through because of these performance issues. While the frame rate isn't as bad as some other titles out there, in order to get engrossed in a title there can't be any technical distractions. Unfortunately, that isn't the case for Elex on Xbox One, and it doesn't matter how great the content is, the lack of polish is what will push consumers away.

Pros:

  • Nice art direction.
  • Interesting world.
  • RPG choices with consequences.

Cons:

  • Suffers from a lack of polish on Xbox One.
  • Technical issues make it hard to recommend.

Decent

3/5

Overall, Elex is a great game marred by technical issues on Xbox One. It needs more work on the console, but if you can look past the occasional problems, it's a rewarding role-playing game. However, the problems are definitely apparent. Hopefully, the developers will issue an update soon which fixes the remaining grievances because the day one patch didn't do enough. It's a shame that despite having great content, it's hard to recommend because the problems are that noticeable. Piranha Bytes have a potentially great franchise here, but they need to make it work properly if they want a following. Current-generation consoles might be underpowered, but there's always room for optimization. In its current state the game is not quite acceptable.

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