I always had a soft spot for post-apocalyptic RPG games. Mostly because it’s not too hard to get sucked into that world. Add some decent RPG mechanics, a huge open world, immersive story and you got my attention. First ELEX was a bit rough around the edges, but that game had a heart in the right place. The inevitable sequel is here and as long as they added some improvement to the formula and spiced up the visual, I think we will be fine. Let’s see now what we’re working with here.
We continue right where we left off. Same protagonist, same universe, but new problems. Several years after Jax defeated the Hybrid, a new threat is upon us. The dangerous powers of dark Elex are threatening all life on the planet. To defend the peace on Magalan, Jax now has to convince the factions to unite against a common threat (aka suicide mission approach from Mass Effect 2) and also find his own son, Dax, who got separated from him. Magalan is the world of consequences. Five major factions are Berserkers and despite what their name might imply, they rely more on the actual magic than the melee approach. The Albs, Outlaws, and Clerics are more focused on using Elex in their everyday life, while Morkons are the mysterious faction that you can usually find in the old tunnel systems of Magelan. The NPCs will remember what you did and treat you accordingly and they can join or leave your group depending on how you behave. Your decisions and behavior during a playthrough will be the key points for one of the many endings you can get.
The first thing I’ve noticed is that one of the selling points of the game (here and in the previous entry), the jetpack, is now way easier to control. I can’t tell you how many times I died in the first ELEX just by going up way higher than intended, running out of fuel in midair, and falling down to my demise. This being an ELEX game, you can forget any sort of hand-holding at the start. The beginning is hard and unforgiving. You have to pay close attention to where you’re going since most of the enemies can kill you in one hit (until you work on some skill and get better equipment). With each level up, you will get the attribute points that you can assign to strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, and cunning. Each attribute has a noticeable effect on your character, for example, dexterity will improve your ranger damage while constitution will give you more hit points. On the other hand, abilities are tied to learning points. You get them by consuming special potions and while leveling up. You also have to find a correct teacher in-game so you can assign them accordingly. Combat in ELEX II is nothing to write stories about, it’s pretty straightforward and your attributes and equipment will determine the outcome even before you land )or take) the first hit. But again, the immersing aspect of the game is always more tailored to building your character properly, crafting equipment, and learning new abilities. There is also enchanting in the game, sort of. Once you learn the “gemstone socket” ability, you can first them into any weapon or armor piece with an empty socket. Most of them will give you a neat bonus of more experience per kill or health per hit, so it’s wise to invest in them as well.
The entry-level to run this game properly is also unforgiving, just like the game difficulty. There is a certain barrier that separates it from looking like a PS2 game or making every other location into a screenshot material. There is a noticeable improvement in visuals but it comes at a cost. You will need a decent rig to run it properly. Even with minimum requirements listed on the store page, it’s still a struggle to maintain decent fps. however, if you’re way above that minimum threshold the game will be a joy to explore as it is to look at. The aesthetics of the equipment in the game is something that deserves a separate mention. Many armor sets have a distinct style and wearing one will make you seem like you’re going from a postapocalyptic sci-fi game to a medieval sandbox.
The voice acting in ELEX II is decent at best, but the environmental sounds and atmospheric audio is where the game truly shines. You can often tell if you’re stumbling into a dangerous area just by listening to the sound alone. Pro tip: if you hear an animal that is louder than you – just run. The louder they are, the more chance that they can kill you in one or two hits. Even though most of the game boils down to solo exploration and scavenging for parts and items, you never feel like you’re alone with the atmospheric background music that’s sprinkled throughout the game.
While ELEX II still struggles to attain a proper footing, there is evident improvement here compared to the previous game. The RPG mechanics have been greatly expanded, the world is larger and more immersive this time so if you were a fan of the previous entry, purchasing this is a no-brainer. Just know what you’re getting into. This is an RPG that isn’t going to hold your hand and you have to invest a bit of effort to get a lot of enjoyment back. But once you get into it, it’s hard to get out. Once you get out of the quicksand that is the starting area and things start to piece themselves together in terms of world-building and gameplay, it’s incredibly hard to put this game down.
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