This is the face I imagine the good people at Piranha Bytes made upon releasing Elex and waiting to see the reactions of players. Why? Because it seems like we got duped. The world of Elex is vast and full of stuff to collect, people to talk to, and things to kill, plus it gives you complete freedom to do whatever you want and go wherever you want after the opening few minutes (granted you’ll die if you choose that route, but still, you have that choice). But this is THE most janky, unpolished game I think I’ve ever played. Elex was not ready for release. Elex was not even ready for a beta release. Elex is the first game in which I’ve ever accidentally sat in chairs throughout the world because the controls are just that bad.
Even though it doesn’t impact my experience with the game, it’s worth noting that Courtney thought the dialogue/voice acting felt like watching an unrehearsed high school theater production.
I mentioned that the controls are a disaster, and as pretty as the graphics are, that carries over into a lot of the character movement as well. Jumping off of things feels like jumping in Super Mario, and camera rotation could use some help to smooth it out. Combat is awkward at best (there’s no targeting system, you just swing and hope you hit the thing enough times before your stamina runs out) and a minor but annoying issue I found was that if you don’t sheathe your weapon after every single enemy encounter, there’s no indication of nearby collectible items. You have to be empty handed to pick up anything and unlike other games with the same requirement, sheathing your weapon doesn’t happen automatically after a certain amount of time out of combat. You’re prompted to sheathe your weapon, but I found that to be a bit intrusive and annoying.
Visual cues for things you can interact with are easy enough to see from a distance…
But once you get close enough to interact with the thing in what feels like a reasonable distance, the things are so finicky that you have to position the camera at the most random, awkward angles to see the cue again.
And the subtitles… I’m going to stop being kind about subtitles in games because studios don’t listen anyway, so why bring up the issue gently. So here it is: The subtitles in Elex are a shit show.
Of these four screen caps, there’s only one that you can kind of read without squinting and putting your face inches away from the screen. There’s no resize option, just the option to turn them on or off, and while they tried to do a thing with shadow behind the text to make it more legible, they failed. It doesn’t help.
Oh, and it’s just subtitles, no captioning. In the scene above, there’s a loud elevator voice playing that adds to the immersion for hearing players, but for deaf players, we don’t even get to know there’s anything being said.
The one and only thing that seems to be well done in the interesting world of Elex is enemy health indicators. Those work. Which is helpful because it will tell you how very many times you’ve missed the thing because targeting is so bad.
All of that said, there’s something about Elex that makes me want to continue exploring. It feels like there’s a good story to be had here, and I’m interested to see where the freedom allowed in the game takes me. I really hope they get all of these other issues sorted out (and soon) because they make what could otherwise be a really interesting game into something that’s just hard to get invested in.