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Elex II Review – An Atrocious and Unfinished RPG

By: Leonid Melikhov

PLATFORMS: PLAYSTATION 5, PLAYSTATION 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC

RELEASE DATE: MARCH 1st, 2022

DEVELOPER: PIRANHA BYTES

PUBLISHER: THQ NORDIC

MSRP: $59.99

ESRB: M FOR MATURE

*DISCLAIMER - THIS PRODUCT IS BEING REVIEWED ON THE XBOX SERIES X. A REVIEW COPY WAS PROVIDED BY THQ NORDIC FOR THE PURPOSES OF REVIEW. GAMING INSTINCTS IS AN AMAZON AFFILIATE AND DOES GAIN FINANCIAL BENEFITS IF YOU CHOOSE TO PURCHASE THIS PRODUCT ON THIS PAGE.

The next entry in the niche genre of "Eurojank" RPGs is now available and it is none other than Elex II. For those of you looking into this title for the first time, you might be asking yourself what exactly is eurojank? It is a term that originated when European developers released an RPG game that was not very well optimized, played somewhat poorly, had some weird animations, but was, oddly enough, enjoyable and satisfying to play. Technomancer, Risen, and the original Gothic series are good examples of such titles. Believe it or not, Witcher 1 and 2 were also considered eurojank until Witcher 3: Wild Hunt came out and blew everyone's socks off with its massive improvements and just how good the game was on its own.

Technomancer was regarded as quite a bad game due to its crappy combat, awkward dialogue, and poor visuals and animations. The same developer later released Greedfall, which saw many improvements and was quite a pleasant surprise across the board with how much the developer learned from their previous release. This time around, we are talking about Piranha Bytes, a studio that's been around forever and whose fame was built upon the Gothic series back in the 2000s. The original Elex was their foray into more of a Sci-Fi RPG universe as opposed to the medieval and fantasy era of Gothic. Now with Elex II, how does the game fare compared to current-day RPGs? Is the eurojank still a good thing to follow, or is it time to move away and start making solid combat systems, smooth animations, and good optimization? Without further ado, let's take a look at Elex II.

Uninteresting World, Horrific Combat and Stiff Animations

Elex II begins after a few years of the original game, and now all of a sudden, Jack has to save the world again from whatever threat is coming about. The game takes place in the same post-apocalyptic world called Magalan. Jack's main objective is to go across Magalan and unite a variety of factions to save the planet and his family. The plot is nothing unheard of or super crazy, but it gives it a good enough reason to go out and explore.

Jack has access to his trusty jetpack at the beginning of the game. The jetpack will be in your company for quite a while as it is something you are going to be using quite frequently to traverse to higher elevations, escape from monsters, or just scout the world around you. It can't be used forever, and Jack will fall if you are not careful. The player has to get a good sense of height distances and travel capabilities to stay safe at all times.

The world of Magalan itself could have been interesting, but the issue is that the game not only doesn't look very good, but it just feels lifeless. Yes, I am aware it's a post-apocalyptic setting, but it's possible to make it more believable. Elex II is a game that felt like someone had this great idea for a universe, but then they decided to stitch everything together at the last second and call it a day. There is no polish in visuals, animations, dialogue, or anything else. It just feels extremely rushed and takes the meaning of eurojank to a whole new level.

I'll be honest and say, it's kind of hard to appeal to the hardcore RPG audience with a combat system that seems broken across the board. Instead of me telling you how awkward and broken it is, it would be better if you just watched the gameplay.

As you can see, everything looks and feels clunky and incomplete. The stamina bar is not well implemented either and makes things even worse. It also doesn't help when you can get 1 or 2 shots from a very low-level enemy at the start of the game. I am not sure how the developer looked at this and said, "Yeah, this looks playable, smooth, and feels good to interact with," and approved it. I do not know what to say or how to describe something like this. During my review with Elex II, it was very difficult for me to continue playing the game, and I have to be very transparent here; I dropped the game after about 6 to 8 hours of playtime. The potential and ideas in Elex II are quite good and ambitious, but the budget and time weren't there to support it.

The animations look like they were made by an entry-level animator or someone who's learning in an animation class for the first time. We are in the year 2022, and I am not sure how any of what is shown on the screen here would be deemed acceptable for a final and shipped product. It's not a big deal if your title doesn't have the best animations or drop-dead gorgeous visuals, but the game needs to be polished and feel like it is completed and ready to be shipped. Obviously, it's the polar opposite in this case.

With the game being an RPG, you can imagine that the dialogue is a big part of the story-telling and the characters' backgrounds. Well, it pains me to say that a lot of the dialogue and some of the god-awful-looking facial expressions do not help in selling the world-building of Elex II. Some of the dialogue makes no sense whatsoever, and the writing is bad across the board. As a big fan of titles such as Elden Ring and Mass Effect, it is important to me that the voice acting, characters, and all of the dialogue are well scripted, interesting, and not annoying to listen to.

Elden Ring may have very few dialogue choices, but that game sells its world like no one else ever has, thanks to its art style, good writing, excellent voice acting, and believable world. Mass Effect sells the game with its unique and amazing characters, such as Garrus, Liara, and many others. The original Mass Effect game wasn't the best when it came to the gameplay department, it had a bit of a jank here and there, but it was more than playable, and the combat made much more sense. The characters and the world are what carried the original game into success and the sequel Mass Effect 2 improved a lot upon the gameplay side of things.

On the plus side, the game does feel like a true role-playing game, it has all the elements of an RPG such as exploration, inventory management, crafting, dialogue options, and, surprisingly, no loading screens once you're in the game world. The game's poorly implemented combat, bad visual performance, and not-so-interesting characters do a big disservice to the fans of RPGs. Some people might be able to see through it, suck it up, and manage to finish the game and accept it for what it is, but the majority will play for the first 5 minutes, if not less, and uninstall the game after their first combat encounter.

Final Verdict

If you are okay with eurojank taking it to the next level, then Elex II might scratch your itch. Some players have a high tolerance for bad gameplay systems, stiff animations that lack polish, and are okay with just seeing it through to the end. Also, if you are a Piranha Bytes fan, then you might already know what you are getting into. My biggest issue is that I believe the developer seems to be stuck in time with the way they design and create their titles. Pirana Bytes needs a wake-up call and start creating complete and polished products. It is difficult to say anything positive about the game without good polish, a proper combat system, or better dialogue and characters. It is sad because the ambition and ideas are there, but the execution is extremely poor. Elex II will be receiving a final score of 3.5 out of 10.

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FUN FACTOR
There is not much fun here when your combat system is awkard and super clunky
VISUALS
Not only visually outdated but also has some of the stiffest animations to date
AUDIO
Music is somewhat decent but the rest of the audio is is a mess
REPLAYABILITY
There is a lot to do if you can stomach it in the first place
3.5