Friday, November 3, 2017

What I'm Playing: Elex

Regular readers may know, by this point, that I have a fondness for Piranha Bytes, the small German studio responsible for the Gothic and Risen series, with Gothic and Gothic 2 (released back in 2001 and 2003, respectively) being two of my favorite games of all time. Sadly, none of their other games have ever lived up to the legacy of Gothic and Gothic 2, with each new release being a case of "one step forward, two steps backward." Though I've enjoyed each and every subsequent game from Piranha Bytes, each one was marred by some critical design or technical problem that made them feel like definitively inferior games, and therefore tough to recommend to anyone but die-hard fans. Their latest game, Elex (released two weeks ago), is without a doubt head and shoulders above anything they've released recently. I've been so enamored by it that I've poured nearly 100 hours into it over the past two weeks en route to finishing a single playthrough.

I could write a full review on it at this point, but I want to save that until I've spent more time in a second playthrough trying different things to see how gameplay changes depending on your faction choice, and how much of an impact certain decisions actually have on the outcome of the story and gameplay progression. I feel confident enough that I could make some pretty reasonable deductions without needing to replay it, but really, I just enjoyed the game so much that I want to run through it again with a different playstyle. So, that's what I'll be doing. I also have a few other articles lined up, that I'm thinking of writing, detailing more direct comparisons to other games in the genre (ie, how it stacks up to Gothic 2, The Witcher 3, Skyrim, etc), so while I'm brainstorming all of that I just wanted to drop a quick update about what I'm up to. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks. 


  1. Incredible to hear that. I'm still skeptical though, but this certainly gives me hope. Some reviews I've read were incredibly harsh on it and only praised the size of the map...
    Time to buy new PC then.
    Also, I would very much like to read those other articles planned.

    1. Basically every mainstream review is terrible and misleading, and should therefore be disregarded. That's a harsh generalization, but it really does seem like most reviews I've read are from people who just never bothered to learn the game's mechanics, and/or never really grokked the game's intentions.

      Rock Paper Shotgun complained that there wasn't a giant tutorial window popping up to tell the player how to bring up the quest log to view mission objectives. Well, the game clearly tells you to press TAB to open the interface, and there are button cues telling you that you can press them to swap tabs, and you should be easily able to figure out which tab is what just by looking at them.

      IGN complained endlessly about the combat being clunky and awkward, when he clearly doesn't understand how the combo meter works because in the video review he's obviously just spamming the attack button without bothering to time his attacks to build the combo meter, and while also constantly draining all his stamina so that he can't dodge or counter-attack at opportune moments.

      GameSpot complained about the game being too hard at the start and how most enemies (and therefore some quests) were much too difficult to tackle until much later, when that's a core element of PB games and is what allows you to feel a sense of challenge and progression as you get stronger and progressively work your way up the food chain.

      Basically, these modern, mainstream reviewers want everything spoon-fed to them and demand/expect instant gratification, when Elex is much more of a slow burn that requires you to put in actual effort to develop mastery over its systems and therefore requires you to earn your satisfaction and reward.

      It's not a perfect game, mind you -- it is, in fact, still pretty rough around the edges in some areas, and so certain criticisms are warranted. But people are blowing them way out of proportion because I can only imagine they just don't understand it and aren't the type of person this game is intended for.