I was one of the people who greatly enjoyed the original ELEX, despite its flaws. There's always something about a new open world to explore, character story arcs, and challenging mechanics that stick with me. Since ELEX 2's release date was announced, I've been looking forward to really diving into the game and exploring every nook and cranny, with high hopes for the sequel. Having spent a lot of time after previewing it in December, there's a lot to love about ELEX 2, but also a number of things that bring it down in a few ways. Let's dive into our ELEX 2 Review, shall we?
One of the interesting decisions of ELEX 2 is that for return players, your choices don't carry over. Instead, the developers decided to keep the choices and outcomes based upon the decisions that the majority of players made in the first ELEX. This isn't a bad thing, as most of the choices did align with what I did before, and the core aspects of the main story do tie heavily into the decisions made in the previous game. In order to ensure that players remember or learn these key decisions, flashbacks early on are regular and can refresh or inform you of what story element contributed to the current situation. In the end, it works well for the story, although it would have been very interesting to see how previous choices could have impacted the world at large.
Jumping into the world Magalan again, years after the first game, the way that things have changed is also heavily tied into the first game's choices. ELEX 2's re-use of locations and characters, now changed with the world that changed between games, is something I've greatly enjoyed. With the game taking place in much of the same geographic region, tying the story and events into some of the places you've visited before and characters that already have a history with Jax, there are a lot of interesting conversations and altercations based upon that history. Granted the conversations aren't as deep and impactful as you get from some major titles, but for story-building and world immersion, they do a solid job of making you care a bit.
The story of ELEX 2 is your typical "save the world from the end times" storyline, deeply interwoven into your relationship with the companions you bring to The Bastion, as well as the primary faction you choose (or don't choose) to align with. The main mission is long and includes a lot of "kill X" sub-missions in various regions of the game. While the Main Mission is engaging and has some really great plot elements that I won't spoil, the repetition at the end really made the game feel drawn out due to numerous "kill X" missions required to progress.
That said, the way the factions are set up, and how they interact was the best part of the game. I enjoyed the side quests for each faction more than the Main Quest at times, and with there even being some "subfactions" that existed, you were faced with some interesting choices when it came to the Berserkers and the Outlaws specifically. The world is littered with side quests that are quick but funny or enjoyable, and if you're playing you have to complete the quests for the kids in The Fort - probably my favorite side quest in the entire game, just delightful.
There was certainly a "need" within the story to eliminate hordes of enemies - but killing the same enemies over and over became exhausting for me, and while their models are really cool, I would have loved to have seen them less for a more impactful use of the coolest ones like the Brood Devils.
The first ELEX game was not easy, and ELEX 2 is not any different in that regard. For an open-world RPG, you have to pay mind to where you're going. Early on, you have to pick your fights, and actively avoid certain areas or you'll get absolutely stomped. Even at Level 50 at the end of the game with some skills maxed out, and top-level gear, there were a few fights I struggled with and some nasty hits I took as well. Melee is not easy, especially when you're surrounded by 7 or 8 different enemies, but at times ranged combat feels way too easy to exploit. Despite the fact that shotguns caused the majority of my game crashes - they almost put the game on "easy mode" with a fully upgraded double-barrel shotgun and maxed out ranged skills. Just a few shots and enemies go down.
That said, enemies hit hard and some fights definitely take some maneuvering and dodging to survive early on. I spec'ed into a hybrid melee/ranged build because at times, unless you can dodge perfectly, melee is a quick way to get killed over and over again - it's legitimately hard and you're punished if your equipment isn't up to spec. You can sometimes push your luck, but ELEX 2 will force you to properly upgrade and improve what you're using, and finding the game's unique weapons is almost a necessity.
I think my favorite part about ELEX as a series, is how leveling is handled. While Attributes are pretty standard, in that certain ones improve certain abilities and they cost more the higher up you go - they're really well accented by the way you learn skills, and how if you want to farm resources you can max every stat by creating potions with ease. Jax starts off incredibly weak, and you truly have to work yourself back up to power by leveling up and learning skills that make weapon requirements lower, improve the damage of certain types of weapons, and even make leveling faster if you spec into certain skills - the systems play really well together to let you grow your abilities however you want, without feeling too overpowered at the end of the game.
In addition to leveling, the inventory and crafting systems also adds some flavor to the world. While the vast majority of what you pick up can be useless, there are some weapons that are worth upgrading to their enhanced version to maximize your ability to deal damage. Combine this with the fact that your inventory is limitless, and it's worth picking up everything you find to upgrade and sell, without having to go to/from locations over and over to carry things around to sell. That freedom is incredibly nice to have.
I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the Jetpack. In the first game, it was very basic, allowing you to traverse cliffs without much difficulty, or if you were patient you could do some crazy traversal. In ELEX 2, the Jetpack becomes one of the things you can upgrade - offering increased fuel as well as a booster that lets you FLY across the map. In games that have such vast open worlds, the Jetpack is somewhat akin to Master Chief's grapple in Halo Infinite, it makes getting around incredibly fun.
ELEX 2 is a game that might not appeal to all, but if you can get past the lower-end graphics and character models, and enjoy games that give you immense freedom to explore, level, and improve your character - ELEX 2 is worth picking up. The game improves upon much of what the first game offered to players while stagnating in others, but there are moments that shine and can overshadow some of the more frustrating ones. Pick this up if you don't mind getting stomped early, while still being challenged by enemies towards the end, and especially if you enjoy exploring and finding secrets across a wide open world.
TechRaptor reviewed ELEX 2 on PC using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
- Attribute and Skills System Adds Flavor To Leveling
- Large Open World offers a lot of exploration
- Upgraded jetpack makes exploring/traversal fun
- Character models can break immersion
- Main questline feels drawn out, especially at the end
- Combat can be tiring and repetitive
- Shotguns can cause crashes