ELEX 2 Is Quite The Experience From 'Gothic' Devs

Courtesy of Piranha Bytes


Developer: Piranha Bytes
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Release Date: March 1, 2022
Available as: Digital and Physical

Once Upon A Time, Before 'The Witcher' Began 'Witching.'

If my first impression for Babylon's Fall was any indication, there are certain titles that fans will enjoy and fans will disregard. While the hype for the title ended up being its undoing, ELEX 2 is the opposite. For over two decades, developers Piranha Bytes had developed a cult following of fans. Players who wish to enjoy a no-frills open-world RPG would look no further than Gothic or the Risen series. The Gothic series was an example of an open world where your decisions mattered and the player wasn't bogged down in the environment. PB had pulled this off years before CD Projekt Red would do so with The Witcher, which was impressive. So sayeth me to call a coincidence that a new Witcher is suddenly announced today, then.

Originally released in 2017, ELEX was a title that, like other titles developed by the studio, garnered an earnest following. Unfortunately, it was released with little fanfare at the time. Those who played it praised the title for capturing that classic "PB-feel." The last Piranha Bytes game I played was Gothic 2 back in the 00s. This was during a time when I discovered games through word-of-mouth including message boards. While my family computer at the time could barely run the game, I recall it being a pleasant experience without knowing what to do. Playing ELEX 2 felt nostalgic in this regard, but is it for the right reasons?

ELEX 2 - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

Local Hero Saves The World And Must Do It Again

ELEX 2 takes place immediately after the first one, which I figured out due to the pacing of the cutscenes. Piranha Bytes will have assumed the player has finished the story of Jax's previous adventure. Outside of the opening cutscene explaining the events, the player is forced to connect the pieces of the puzzle. Fortunately, the player can immediately backtrack to a campsite made by the protagonist. Here they can receive helpful items such as potions and scrap used for crafting.

The game even does a good job of teaching the player about its own take on world-building. By the campfire, there are pieces of raw meat and an open flame. Curious players will understand that they can grill the meat to make it edible, restoring their HP more than normal. I recall similar to Subnautica's way of crafting, but exploration warrants these results. There's also a picture of the protagonist's son, preluding that an important character will motivate the plot soon.

Time To Explain The "Piranha Bytes" Formula, As I Know It

After you gather your items from the campsite and begin to move your character, players will find some things as "off." Namely, Jax moves as if he's confined to a rubber band with how elastic his legs are. I described it as "using WASD movement on a controller," which felt like each direction was assigned to a movement instead of a smooth rotation. As the game was released on both console and PC at the same time, I'm not sure if the PC version was the primary version. It would explain a lot, as well as the combat. Getting Jax to face an enemy took a bit of a challenge as the camera felt like I was using an analog stick for a mouse.

Fighting is as simple as using R2 to swing a weapon, R1 to kick, and tilting the left stick plus circle to evade. L1 puts Jax in this awkward-looking parry that, when timed, can deflect the enemy's attack and instantly counter them. The problem is that there's no way for Jax to guard. All he can do is evade and awkwardly parry, both draining stamina that should be used to attack. When you defeat an enemy, you can loot their corpse and continue to go on about your path. Eventually, a cutscene will play where he gets chased by mutant wolves, passes out, and comes to in a random hut.

Elex 2 Has Its Comedic Moments, Even If Unintentional

Gameplay aside, the cutscenes, voice acting, and character models are also odd. The best example I can give is the photo of Jax's kid posted earlier in the article. An in-game cutscene shows a flashback of him and his kid running from some monster thing. Let's just say the face does not match the photograph to put it lightly. There are also instances where depending on where you are on the map, cutscenes are broken. I'm talking to this man who is supposed to point me in the right direction of finding the cure for my disease. It was meant to be a serious cutscene and I couldn't help but laugh.

Why on Earth, or whatever planet this game takes place, is the NPC hidden behind the tree branches? Then there are moments when an enemy will enter the NPC camp while dialogue is taking place. At least the NPCs are good at multitasking, fighting and holding a conversation. Eventually, the player will meet Jax's estranged wife, Caja, which introduces dialogue choices. Depending on the player's choices, important NPCs can either agree or disagree. It also affects Jax's affinity meter. Surely there's another space sci-fi that features these mechanics too, right?


There's More Than One Way To Skin A Bandit

Thinking rationally vs thinking emotionally is what determines Jax's response to various situations in the game, specifically one early on involving bandits. There's a group of bandits giving Carja a bad time and Jax insists on fixing it. Upon entering the camp, the bandits are non-hostile yet will warn Jax that the other group was responsible and to leave. Jax can either take a pacifist route (boring) or decide to bash everyone's faces in with a lead pipe.

If the player chooses the latter, they should be ready to fight back as the bandits will brandish shotguns. Up until this point, everything has been melee combat, so you'd think you'd be at a disadvantage. Fortunately, the shotgun shells are surprisingly realistic. The closer you are to the enemy, the more shells you'll take. The further you are, the more likely the player will take individual shells. It's not a difficult encounter but doing so will shift towards a "chaotic" affinity.



Perhaps the most amusing thing in the entire game is how it handles "Game Overs." You don't see flashing "YOU DIED" or "WASTED" in bright red letters, no. All the player sees is "END" in big white letters followed by a screen that also says "END," asking you to reload your last save. Never had I played a title that unceremoniously states that the player is dead before ELEX 2. At one point, they got me during the middle of drinking a health potion. My corpse didn't even show, just me drinking a health potion.


If a game is more amusing and fun due to its glitches, then it doesn't speak well for ELEX 2. Players who aren't used to the Gothic and Risen series wouldn't immediately understand these games' appeal. ELEX 2 is something I'd consider if it were on sale or a severe price cut, which is what tends to happen. At the time of this article, the first game is on sale on PSN, so maybe give that a go before trying this one out.

ELEX 2 is now available on the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC

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