Second review of Piranha Bytes game on this blog, now there is their first game and their last game here in reviews, so there’s some contrast pretty easy to find now here.
Ended up finishing it faster than Gothic 2, but still was pretty solid with close to 80 hours adventure that I enjoyed way more than Gothic games, but more in full post…
One of the main disclaimers here is that I’m a bit biased towards sci-fi universes rather than fantasy, so ELEX got some bonus appeal points for me compared to Gothic. Gonna need to compare some, because that was one of the main questions I heard from people during my playthrough.
Let’s start with technical stuff and get that out from the board – game is beautiful, it’s same engine used since Gothic 3 apparently and it sure looks good, nothing “wow”, but way above average tbh. In the same time game runs pretty well, but my PC is also quite a beast for this game. Launch of the game was tainted by lots of bugs and issues and now I haven’t encountered any of that, hope for the second game they will polish it before the release and not after. Now important comparison with Gothic from technical perspective – controls and interface are absolutely amazing in ELEX compared to Gothic 1 and 2 at least, didn’t get to 3 yet, but I’d guess better than there too.
Story in ELEX is quite good, I liked Gothic 1 for interesting setting with magic jail – ELEX might be not as strong, but setting is still very interesting, even though plot itself might be not 10 out of 10. Same old faction system where we need to pick who to join, even though this time differences between factions are less cosmetic, in old Gothic games it’s pretty much only mages being different from others, here every faction has their own features and twists. And just like in Gothic 1 faction choice doesn’t really change the progress of main story and it gets quite straight forward in the end, but with a bit more options for progression and different endings. Amount of quests is actually pretty big, you also have many companions with their own story lines that are quite good and even romancing is there. Local “secret society” is also somewhere around, was pretty satisfying to get to them. Some quests and companion lines are really good, main story was good too and left some good setup for second game that I’m quite curious to see, even just out of curiosity how will they build it around the setup.
Combat and progression system changed quite a bit from Gothic 1 and 2 at least, combat totally feels waaaaay better now, even though some people didn’t like it, but I think at least melee combat is great and I genuinely enjoyed it. Progression is not bad, but it feels like a lot less change in weapons and armors through the game, so it feels a little bit slower in terms of advancing, but that might also be because I went with “mage” route, so my life mostly was split between “before magic” when I was going through some soulslike experience and “after magic” when you get your “spells” and destroy everything, while there is not a lot of variety in spells, because you open majority instantly and out of those most are basically useless. So overall it just felt a bit slow on progress, but with melee/ranged I think I would feel progress better and also joining faction earlier probably would help more, but I picked some CBT way and that doesn’t stand for Closed Beta Test. Melee combat now has stamina, rolls, parries, light/strong/special attacks and other attributes making it quite satisfying to use. Oh and I still didn’t mention jetpack yet – great addition for the game making exploration more fun, but also useful in combat, even though enemies are equipped (mostly) to deal with attempts to fly and shoot them, but it’s still nice and has special melee attack you can get even. Ranged combat is pretty basic, you actually need to aim and shoot, no stats deciding your hit chances etc and some weapons are as cheesy as some “magic”. “Magic” is actual magic and psi-abilities, depending on your faction, but overall similar, work mostly like ranged combat or just put buffs on you. Overall compared to Gothic combat is a huge improvement while progression is a little bit weaker.
What can I say to sum it all up? Piranha Bytes sure walked a long path with their games, but they managed to stay true to their own model, their own spirit and way of the RPG, which is great, because it’s quite a different approach compared to many other companies. Amount of “problematic” things about their games is decreasing, everything is getting better and better and I can’t wait for ELEX 2, but one thing they still need to put a lot of effort into is polishing and testing, because bad launch nowadays can put games in a very bad spot for a long time.