Review – Element Space (Xbox One)

Element Space, the tactical, strategy game from developers Sixth Vowel, has just gotten its console release. Element Space is a take on the XCom style of tactical game, involving two action turn-based combat. During each of your character’s turns, you will have the option of a secondary action, which is something fairly simple like moving. Or if you have an ability to make it so, reloading. You also have a primary action, which is either to shoot or normally reload, or move a second time/move further.

Now, the first thing to note is the fact that other games in the genre generally allow you to store up actions. For instance, if you decide not to move one turn, you’ll have two movement actions next turn. Element Space does not work this way. Basically, if you’re in a good spot, or know you’re going to need to reload, you can plan ahead for the next turn. Essentially removing the tactical side of things from the game. This wouldn’t be anywhere near as big of an issue if Element Space didn’t shove it in your face that they want to be classed in the same genre as these other games. Basically, if the groundwork is already there from other games, why not use that as a draft?

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I wish I could say this shot would hit, but I guarantee it didn’t.

The easiest thing to notice in any video game is how well the sound is handled. You don’t even need to start the actual gameplay typically to know how good or back the voice acting will be. As such, in the opening cutscene, it becomes instantly apparent that the music and the voice acting are on the same level as each other; tired. To start, the voice actors sound bored. There’s no sense of urgency, even when being shot at or branded as a traitor. Honestly, during the first boss fight a robot joins your party (who they later name Zero, and looks like Zero from Borderlands 2), and it has more emotion than any of the other characters.

On top of the tired voice acting, the music in Element Space is monotonous. After about half an hour of listening to what I can only assume is the game’s “exciting” music, I needed to change it up to something more fun. Thankfully the Crypt of the Necrodancer soundtrack goes well with almost any game.

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The character with the most emotion in this game: a robot.

Before properly touching on the base game play, it needs to be said that Element Space came out on PC a month before the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 release. You use a cursor for the gameplay as if it’s still a PC game, but Element Space doesn’t offer mouse and keyboard support for the Xbox. During free roam sections (between battles), you need to use a cursor to “explore” around. Not that there’s much to explore honestly, you’re forced to follow a very narrow path 99% of the time. Imagine playing Diablo 3 on your Xbox, but instead of using the left stick to move your character around, you need to use a cursor and press A. 

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Whoops, slid out of bounds playing the game the way it’s meant to be played.

Alright, so now you’re in a battle and there are enemies hiding behind cover. The obvious choice is gonna be to flank them right? Or maybe use one of your abilities like the grappling hook. Well there’s a few problems here. First off, if you’re even slightly looking at the enemy from an angle that isn’t 100% completely clear of all cover (directly behind for instance) you have either a 0% (for full cover) or a 50% (for half cover) chance of hitting the cover. Trust me, there’s some spots where you’ll just facepalm so hard when you hit cover instead.

Alright fine, so I can’t shoot people, why not use my captain’s grappling hook ability? It’ll work better right? Well yes, but actually no. See, your characters do some weird things if they’re not told exactly where to stand and shoot. If you melee someone you’ll stand out in the middle of the open for no real reason. If you use the grappling hook, you’ll slide right out of the map. Yup, out of the map. Not able to do anything, not even able to move back or shoot anyone.

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If you’ve seen anything with bad voice acting, you can probably guess what the bad guy with a “distorted voice” sounds like.

There is one enjoyable part of Element Space though. During cutscenes, for no logical reason whatsoever, your character will sometimes just twitch. Like, full body twitching. Mid sentence and all of a sudden his entire upper body just jolts. That is, if you can see the cutscene. One other thing that may happen is the video aspect of the cutscene may just forget to load. The audio will play still though, and if you let it play out the game will still progress, so at least it’s not a soft lock.

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1. This is what the skill tree looks like. And 2. If you change tabs too quick, you’ll break the game.

Long story short, if you want to play a tactical, turn-based game, it may be best to just play X-Com. It may even be a better plan to play Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. I’m not here to tell you what to do though. I’m just here to tell you that this would be a game that I could at no point in good faith recommend anyone to play unless they’re desperate for a brand new game of this genre. Even then, the game looks and controls like it’s older than most.

Graphics: 1.5

How in 2020 a game can look this clunky is surprising. The movement animations are alright, at best, but everything else is just god awful.

Gameplay: 1.5

If you’re going to be a clone of another game, as least have the courage to perfect the groundwork they’ve already done.

Sound: 1.0

The music is monotonous yes, but that voice acting. It’s beyond clear that none of the voice actors wanted to do the job.

Fun Factor: 1.0

Outside of watching some semi-humerous animations, like your character randomly twitching during cutscenes, Element Space is a chore to play.

Final Verdict: 1.5

Element Space is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Reviewed on Xbox One

A copy of Element Space was provided by the publisher.