After playing the first chapter of THQ Nordic and Piranha Bytes’ Elex 2, it’s evident that the game builds on the previous and improves upon it.
Piranha Bytes has been responsible for three key IPs in the last two decades: Gothic, Risen, and Elex. Gothic went on to have a cult following, while Risen and Elex have their own fan bases. Piranha Bytes’ games are considered to be an acquired taste because they embrace and define the “Eurojank” subgenre. While many people associate Eurojank with bad connotations, this is simply not the case—these games are frequently described as extremely ambitious, with only a fraction of the polish and funding that huge AAA titles have.
However, there is no shortage of inventiveness, as Elex 2, the sequel to Piranha Bytes, demonstrates. Elex 2 picks up where the original game left off, lays out the consequences for the players and starts them on a new epic mission in Magalan. The first chapter of the game was just previewed by Game Rant, and it does certainly build up an epic mission defined by creativity.
Commander Jax (the PC) has gone from battle hero to forgotten doomsayer six years after the events of the first game. Elex 2’s factions are unconcerned about the threat from above, preferring to engage in petty land grabs and small-scale conflicts. When the peril that Jax has been warning the world about arrives, the game begins, and few people seem to see past their petty quarrels.
Elex 2’s first chapter basically lays out everything players need to know about preparing for the Skyand invasion—the aliens the Hybrid warned of in the original game—and then sends them out into Magalan, prepared or not. We built a new operations base for our burgeoning faction (The 6th Power) with the help of a trusty lead pipe, met old pals and foes, made new ones, and visited each of the factions in Magalan. Indeed, after the first game, the power dynamic has shifted dramatically. The Albs are still formidable, but they are no longer hostile. After Jax destroyed the Hybrid, they are also embracing new ways of existence. The Clerics, on the other hand, are a shell of their former selves, having paid the highest price in the previous conflict. The Berserkers have taken over Outlaw land and are using their sorcery to terraform it, while the Outlaws are holed up in a new city in a crater. The Morkons, a tribe of underground dwellers with rigid rules and brutal ways who worship a “God of Destruction,” are also introduced in Elex 2.
To say the least, getting involved in the politics of each group, learning more about the new adversary Skyands, seeing the redesigned world of Magalan, meeting the companions, and everything else Elex 2 has to offer was a blast. Instead of expanding the open-world structure, Piranha Bytes set out to make Magalan a more “alive universe,” and it succeeds admirably. Elex 2 excels at depicting the world, the invasion, and the potential consequences, with a new emphasis on “Destruction,” or the player’s destructive impulses. For Jax in the first game, it was a choice between the Albs’ cold rationality and the Free People’s emotions, but today it appears to be about how hateful, heartless, destructive, and homicidal players are feeling.
Aside from that, it contains all of the normal RPG characteristics, such as traits, talents, and companions. Strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, and cunning are all attributes that influence weapon usage, dialogue options, and so on. In order to level up, users must spend earned skill points, money, and other prerequisites through the use of a Trainer (who is luckily marked on the Elex 2 map). Companions can accompany players on their journeys, but they have their own objectives and storylines to complete, which players must help with. Caja and Crony are back, but there are some new faces as well. Most intriguingly, there’s Jax’s son Dex, who can’t fight but joins Jax on a handful of occasions in the first chapter, creating a unique relationship between Jax and Caja.
It’s an open-world game with no limitations, so the gameplay and objectives are rather a normal fare. Players can go almost anywhere they choose, especially with their jetpack, but they must be cautious of colliding with a formidable adversary. Some quests ask players to collect things, accompany characters, or kill a certain amount of monsters, but there is a unique quest for every basic quest. We were invited to a Billy Idol performance, had to investigate an in-depth and startling murder mystery (which we were accused of committing), became a double-agent, and so on in the first chapter alone. Overall, it was an exhilarating experience that showcased the best aspects of open-world games.
Of course, Elex 2 lacks the polish that fans of the genre have come to anticipate from the genre. Some of the combat and movement animations are clumsy and set pieces and open-world features such as mountains have a general lack of definition, but these are minor quibbles. Elex 2 has the feel of a triple-A game with the scale of a classic computer game. Sure, there are a few problems in the game, and it crashed on us twice, but it’s nothing like a Bethesda game. These technological flaws were significantly less frequent than the bugs in Skyrim, which is what stands out.
Elex 2 is an open-world framework that is best compared to Fallout’s post-apocalyptic nature, Skyrim’s open-world aspects and settings, and perhaps even a touch of the Sci-Fi elements shown off so far for Starfield, but it is not as polished. Even for a “Eurojank” title, it manages to be less buggy in comparison. The worst part about finishing Elex 2’s first chapter is knowing that March is still a few months away. On March 1st, 2022, ELEX 2 will be released for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.