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Elex II is a sprawling adventure in need of more polish

These are screenshots from Elex II on Xbox Series X

Elex launched in 2017 and featured a lot of ambitious ideas. It took place in an expansive open-world environment, utilized Dark Souls-like combat, and told a surprisingly meaningful story filled with loads of intrigue. Unfortunately, its technical prowess was severely lacking. Movement and combat were clunky, the dialogue was flat, and it didn’t run well on consoles. Due to these issues, the PlayStation 4 version I tested years ago sits at a 58 on Metacritic.

Despite its problems, Elex was popular among gamers and a sequel was announced in 2021. Elex II continues the story of the original. Instead of primarily focusing on human enemies, you must contend with an alien threat that was revealed at the end of the last game. While the story, choices, and exploration are amazing, the game falters on a technical front despite being backed by publisher THQ Nordic.

Elex II features a massive open world filled with varying enemies – from humans to monsters – and items scattered everywhere. There are robust crafting and foraging systems that require you to pick up materials such as herbs and ore, that can later be created into various items like healing tonics. The best part about Elex II has to be its jet pack. Initially, you can only use it to jump small distances, but eventually, you’ll be flying like Iron Man across vast distances.

Elex II continues Jax’s journey. It starts off in a rather spectacular fashion where a foreign object falls on his house and creatures tainted with a substance known as Dark Elex infect you. Not only do you have to vanquish these space invaders, but you also have to form alliances with warring factions.

The game takes a lot of inspiration from titles like Mass Effect that feature similar goals. You have to meet with various factions and convince them to fight on your side against an alien threat. Sound familiar?

These are screenshots from Elex II on Xbox Series X

Elex II features a morality system that’s somewhat unique to that franchise. Depending on who you side with and who you talk to, you either gain Creation or Destruction points. This influences how the game plays out because it shifts how certain characters respond to your presence. While I haven’t reached the end of Elex II yet, I imagine it changes that up a little bit too.

Just like other role-playing games out there, Elex II grants you experience that can make your character stronger. You can apply points toward regular traits like Constitution or Dexterity. You’ll need this because the more you explore, the tougher the enemies become. The game also allows you to eventually customize items. Socketing different parts into weapons grant them added bonuses.

Elex II looks crisp on Xbox Series X and appears to be running at a frame rate above 30 frames per second (FPS). However, it doesn’t approach the smoothness offered by a 60 FPS presentation. I would guess that the title fluctuates between 40 to 50 FPS at any given time. Unfortunately, the lighting has to be the biggest letdown. The game looks like an early Xbox One title, it just renders at 4K resolution.

These are screenshots from Elex II on Xbox Series X

Many other problems from the original Elex are back too. Combat and item pickup are still clunky, and that detracts from the experience as a whole. The animations are also wooden and aren’t what gamers expect from a modern AAA title. Elex II costs $59.99 on the Xbox Store – $53.99 if you pre-ordered the game – so it’s competing against titles like Elden Ring. In its current state, the Elex II is severely lacking in quality. I wasnt given access to the PC and PlayStation versions, so can’t comment on their current state.

Despite its problems, Elex was a surprise hit and I hope Elex II follows the same path. It’s clear that developer Piranha Bytes has amazing ideas and put a lot of effort into the project. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t have enough polish on Xbox Series X at the moment. Elex suffered from the same fate, but eventually, Piranha Bytes fixed it and it ran really well on Xbox One X. Let's hope there are similar fixes for current-generation consoles.

A review code for Elex II was provided by the publisher. The game was tested on an Xbox Series X.

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