Review – ELEX II

A Failed Hero

Hello Bandits. Thanks to the folks at THQ Nordic and Piranha Bytes, I’ve been spending some time with ELEX II. As a long-awaited sequel to 2017’s original ELEX, this one has had a lot of wrongs to right, with the first title picking up a mixed bag of reviews. As ever, you can find our full video review below, and continue reading for our extended written review. As ever, both contain our standard common-sense parent’s guide, with an explanation of the game’s content so that we can assist you in making informed decisions.

The Basics

ELEX II is a direct sequel to the original title, and while a fair amount of time has passed since Jax first saved the world or Magalon, it seems to have mostly been filler. Picking things back up now, the world is once again in great peril and (also once again) only one man is going to be able to save it.

With some pretty deep story in the first title, continuing the second brings some pretty strained political drama and intrigue, based around the plot of the first title. As Jax you will once again have to navigate this multifaceted, diplomatic environment, to try and unite various factions and leaders to your cause. In addition, you’ll have to decide where your true loyalties lie, as the title brings up some problematic moral decisions for those who played the first title.

ELEX II pitches itself as an Advanced World Simulation, with the actions you take in game having a direct effect on the world around you. While this may be tough to see at first, this does mean that the game comes with a number of different endings. In addition, with an expansive map and zero loading screens, there’s a lot to explore in Magalon. Benefiting from an upgraded jet pack, you’ll spend considerable time as Jax navigating the hills, dales and mountains of Magalon in search of oddities, quests and Elexit.

Sadly as well as being a direct sequel of the original ELEX, ELEX II does again bring a mixed bag of reviews. The exploration side of the title is fantastic, and the improved jetpack really does make a difference. Sadly, however, exceptionally dated character animations and a lacklustre and clunky combat system (where you’ll have to spend a lot of your time in ELEX II) let it down hugely.

In cutscenes, ELEX II’s visuals are actually quite good

Parent’s Eye View

ELEX 2 is rated by PEGI at 18 and above, and by the ESRB at a Mature 17+. There’s a lot in this title which unfortunately makes it unsuitable for the younger generation, including prolific bad language, a lot of blood and violence, and suggestive sexual themes. Overall it’s one which I’m not going to be letting our Micro-Bandits get their hands on any time soon.

Accessibility

For Accessibility, ELEX II is getting a rating of high-level. Although it does come with easier game modes, the title is unforgiving, especially early in your journey. While things to come together a little later in the title, the disjointed feel does sadly let it down here as well, as it’s easy to become lost and frustrated

The Run Down

Visuals – Lacking: When you get up close in some areas, the clothes, landscapes and enemies do have some really nice work behind them. Sadly ELEX II lets itself down with character animations and cutscenes, which feel positively last gen and potentially even merging into retro territory.

In game, however, things can start to look a bit dated

Audio – Great: The audio has been my favourite element of ELEX II by far. Benefitting from a great score and some stellar voice acting work, it’s a game I could just keep listening to time and time again. While it’s not enough to make up for a sub-optimal combat system, it does have me scouring my Spotify to get the soundtrack included in my regular playlists.

Narrative – Good: ELEX II does have a great story, and carrying on from the first title will be a plus for many fans. However, it is a slow title, and one where you’ll have to slog to get to the solid narrative content. In addition to this, it may be confusing for those who don’t have the time to sit and pay focused attention, especially if you haven’t played the first title

Replay – Good: With multiple endings, bits and pieces to find and a lot of area to explore, ELEX II should be great. However, with a little jank added to the menu log and a lot of faff behind it, I’ve not been inspired to go back and get elements which I’ve missed

The Verdict

Overall the Pixel Bandits Nordic Level for ELEX II is, sadly, Approach With Caution. There are some really great elements to ELEX II. If you have the heart to search it out and get through long (and not hugely well written) dialogue with an uncanny valley feel, there is some great story here.

Sadly, while it aims for that Witcher 3 style battle feelink, sluggish and clumsy combat, it misses the mark by some margin. An awkward stamina system and strange animations mean that even after upgrading your attributes and abilities, nothing in combat ever feels quite right.

The trailers for ELEX II had me really excited, but I’ve found that overall the game’s combat system (where you’ll be spending a lot of time) really lets it down. It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on for bug fixes and any evolution of the combat system, but for now (for me) it’s one which is going back up on the shelf.

While I have really enjoyed the story (where I could find it) it’s just not quite enough to have me coming back
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