Review – Elex II

Elex II

When it comes to gaming, I like to focus on the positive. I look for the things that work inside of otherwise questionable games, appreciating ambition and accepting when some things fall short. And it’s worked well for me, finding plenty of games to enjoy that other people pass on. That being said, there’s still some games that are just… not good. That, for a variety of reasons, fall short of any possible line I throw at it. Piranha Bytes’ games have mostly been the former for me. Gothic, Risen, both are franchises with issues, but also plenty of ambition and lots to love. Elex II is not that kind of game. It’s generic, clunky, awkward, and just not fun. And, when you’re releasing in the same window as Elden Ring, Cyberpunk 2077’s next gen version, and Destiny 2: The Witch Queen, it’s not the time to release it undercooked.

Elex II‘s premise is as generic as it comes. You’re an old retired soldier pulled out of said retirement to unite the people against an alien threat. And that’s that. The premise is never expanded upon, made interesting, or honestly even taken seriously. The world’s factions and citizens are all seriously unconcerned about the whole alien invasion thing. There’s a giant alien moon in the sky, and everyone’s still just chilling going through daily routines. Everyone sure mentions in passing how it’s a problem, but the game never takes the effort to actually show it. And the hoops you have to jump through to get anyone to even think about fighting really undercuts the whole “extinction level threat” the game keeps telling you is imminent. I ultimately wondered why they bothered with an alien threat versus going regular generic sandbox. 

Elex II

I don’t want to say the alien design is a total ripoff of the Chitauri from the MCU, but…

The gameplay doesn’t fare any better. It’s an RPG, so you have the usual mechanics here. And all are undercooked and clunky. The inventory system is one of the worst I’ve seen, especially on console, where it can be downright frustrating to navigate. You have attributes, but you’re given so many points that you can kind of just throw them wherever. Skills require trainers, which is a Piranha Bytes staple, but it’s a hassle to hunt them down, and everything is so expensive it comes off as an unnecessary grind to learn basic skills. The feeling pervades the entire RPG experience. Just more bars to fill, more ranks to pay to improve, all things you’ve done before. There’s nothing new, fun, or innovative. It’s all the same, so there’s no excuse for how awkward it feels. 

At the very least, this is better than the combat, which is where the game finishes totally falling on its face. For starters, what the hell is up with this button mapping? The same button is mapped for crouch and jump, one function being a tap, the other one being a hold. L1 is totally unused, triangle is for the quick menu, and you have a kick button that I never found useful, like ever. I’ve never ever complained about button mapping before, but I’ve never seen a set-up like this that I couldn’t fix before either. The melee combat experience sums up as awkwardly waving around a weapon, clipping everything, hoping you deal damage. The ranged combat experience is remembering that L1 is actually used, and then fighting the sluggish controls to try and land a hit. Neither are fluid or easy, but thankfully the enemy AI is so terrible that you end up being on even ground. 

I will say that some of the dialogue options are downright hilarious, but sadly don’t hit nearly as hard in the actual conversation as you’d hope.

However, the biggest flaw is how unconnected and immersion breaking it completely is. Even from the start, I could see it totally lacked that small touch Piranha Bytes games used to flout. You start off in a small hut in a plain, which is then destroyed. The game then moves from cinematic to gameplay, and you’re suddenly inside of a walled canyon. You then move down the canyon see a herd of dinosaurs, and the game makes it seem like you’re moving into a stealth tutorial. But right as you approach, the game then kicks you into another cinematic, where you’re in a random desert, being chased by totally different monsters that you barely escape. It’s all so disconnected, like a bunch of different people just shoved random things together. And the whole game feels like this. 

I’d have conversations with people where’d they would randomly throw in crucial details after I should have already learned about them. When you have companions in your party, they’ll randomly interject in conversations, which is fairly common nowadays. What isn’t is that all of the interjections are random, unconnected to what’s going on, and don’t line up at all with the world or lore. I was talking with a soldier from one of the factions, while one of the leaders of said faction was in my party. And not only was she of no help, she literally interjected by saying she couldn’t help out during the talks. Despite literally being the soldier’s superior. Nothing makes any sense, the game puts no effort into clearing it up, and that’s ultimately my biggest disappointment with Elex II

Elex II

He says this while the literal rest of the game made it clear over and over again that you were forgotten about and your actions were essentially for nothing.

Outward was a game that came out a few years ago that channeled all of that old-school Piranha Bytes magic. It even came with split-screen, something that was genuinely bizarre and new and fun. Play that. Or Elden Ring, or Cyberpunk 2077. We’re honestly spoiled for choice nowadays for RPGs, from all budgets. Games like Elex II, where it seems no effort was put in, and no ambition is shown, are simply unacceptable. This is just the tip of the iceberg too, as I didn’t even mention the least fun jetpack ever, immortal and totally uncustomizable companions, and the choppy framerate. I could go on for days, but ultimately it doesn’t matter, because it can all be summed up succinctly. Don’t play this, get something else. Respect your time, respect your wallet, and respect other games that are simply doing it better. Like Outward.

Graphics: 3.0

Performance is so poor I was convinced screen tearing was a part of the art style, and the graphics are absolutely not worth it.

Gameplay: 3.0

The fact that the crouch and jump actions are bound to the same button prompt kind of summarises my feeling about the gameplay experience.

Sound: 3.5

Voice-acting is so bad it crosses over into so bad it’s good territory for a second, then comes back because it’s just bad.

Fun Factor: 2.0

If you enjoy games that perform as bad as they look, sound terrible, play awfully, and have a story that makes no sense and never explains itself to you, then Elex II is your game.

Final Verdict: 2.5

Elex II is available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S|X.

Reviewed on PS5.

A copy of Elex II was provided by the publisher.