Also on: PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox One
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Piranha Bytes
It?s kind of comforting to know that games like ELEX II still exist. Nearly a decade ago, my colleague Dustin was lamenting the death of ?B quality games” when writing about Risen 2 ? but here we are, ten years later, and that same developer, Piranha Bytes, is still around, putting out games that could charitably be described as AA experiences.
To be fair, ELEX II looks a lot better than Risen did back in the PS3 days. It?s not dazzling to look at, and it certainly doesn?t push the Series X to its limits or anything, but just like the first ELEX didn?t look too out of place on the PS4, ELEX II can pass for a modern game. Admittedly, a modern game where the characters all talk using the same facial movements and hand gestures over again, but a modern game nonetheless.
Of course, in most other ways ELEX II still feels like a throwback to a decade ago, starting with the fact your character is a bald space marine named Jax. Armed with his trusty crowbar, he smashes his way through monsters named Morkons and alien invaders called Skyands, and has angry conversations with characters named Drabak and Gardok. I haven?t played the first ELEX, so it?s quite possible that first game gave all these things unexpected depths ? but given how silly it all is and how seriously it takes itself, I doubt it.
ELEX II also features a sizable open world that?s not exactly well-planned out. While there are plenty of quests available, the distances between them vary wildly, and seldom make sense ? sometimes the game will make a big deal about having to find someone who?s just a few steps away, while others you?ll be sent across huge distances for some minor task. What?s worse, the map is pretty much useless, giving you little idea of what is where and how far apart things are. It also doesn?t help that much of the game takes place in the wilderness, and it?s hard to tell one bit of rocky terrain from another ? which means you?re really relying on those useless maps.
Further, while the world may be large, it doesn?t feel very alive. There are people scattered here and there, but they seldom acknowledge your existence ? which is doubly odd when you consider that they?re mostly just standing around in one place, waiting for you to talk to them. You can trigger short ? usually very, very short ? conversations with most of them, but otherwise they?re just scenery.
And, of course, this wouldn?t be a game from Piranha Bytes unless the character movement was all wonky. The best way to describe it is to imagine someone playing with 3D models ? they look fine when they?re not doing anything, but the movement they have to move the illusion is shattered. As I mentioned above, you see this during conversations, when they go through the same animations over and over again. Likewise, when they run, they don?t let things like uneven terrain or obstacles get in their way ? rather, they just kind of slide onto and over rocks, chests, and other items you might find lying around, without any indication that they?re interacting with the world.
Also, Billy Idol is there for some reason, and they can?t stop talking about his upcoming concert on the radio.
Obviously, given this is Piranha Bytes, none of this is all that unexpected ? apart, I guess, from Billy Idol. After several decades of churning out games like this, it shouldn?t be a surprise when ELEX II lives up to that same standard. Personally, I don?t see the appeal, but if its janky, dated RPGs you?re after, it?ll be everything you?re hoping for.
THQ Nordic provided us with an ELEX II Xbox Series X code for review purposes.