Played “Elex 2”: Old school RPG

“Elex 2” by Piranha Bytes is like a culture shock. Where a “Horizon: Forbidden West” scrapes the technical possibilities of the PS5 and playfully smooths out all the edges, Piranha Byte’s ultimate adventure is more like Aloy’s dirty little brother. Outdated technology, immature combat mechanics, and flat humor that you can’t get your feet in the air fast enough. In short: “Elex 2” makes it damn hard even for fans to love it.

After the hero Jax avoids a threat from his homeworld Magalan in the first part, he goes into exile. But years later he has to go back. This time the aliens want to destroy Magalan. Sure, Jax is the only one who can change that, but a lot has happened in the meantime. Instead of three factions, there are suddenly five hostile tribes that he must unite in the fight against the threat from outer space. So Jax has to get out of the jetpack and search the planet again.

Ugly and Complex – Piranha Bytes’ Elex 2 is a cumbersome action RPG with a long acceleration time. (Image: heise online)

In “Elex 2”, Piranha Bytes builds on the principle of success that the studio has been putting players in front of since “Gothic”: a bulky but extensive action RPG with shoddy technology and raw humor. This sets them apart from the competition. However, there is a crisis at every turn in their latest venture. What was fresh and unusual 20 years ago now smells rather musty.

The adventure drags on from the beginning. As always, Jax has to do the representations to each faction and be a delivery boy first. Collecting stones or touring with a night watch are some of the most exciting activities. There is nothing more to think about. Every wilderness adventure ends in the deadly claws of dragons and giant insects. Hours of unimaginative diligence will pass before Jax has leveled up his attributes and can purchase or even forge expensive equipment.

Behind the bulky shell, “Elex 2” offers the usual complex system of learning and morals. With each level up, players can not only distribute attribute points, but also invest learning points in their training as a blacksmith or alchemist. Numerous weapons, from the sturdy battle ax to the energy blaster, offer many possibilities for different fighting styles. Many decisions have to be made in the dialogues, which do not always offer advantages and sometimes gnaw at the moral integrity of our hero.

But even after players have spent hours completing minor tasks and defeating a few small animals, the spider combat system ruins the fun of the game. Accurate controls and powerful hit feedback have never been the strong point of Piranha Bytes games, but in 2022, fans have a right to expect more than shaky hacking. Rarely did close and long-range combat feel as unsatisfactory as in “Elex 2”.

Furthermore, there is a technical implementation that is outdated in all respects. While the ambient graphics shimmer with some lighting effects, the facial animations in particular proved creepy. Even simple things like scrolling the map are jerky on both PS5 and PC. However, the PC version seems to have a slight advantage in detail and animation flow. However, “Elex 2” is very far from the technical and visual quality of current titles like “Dying Light 2” or “Horizon: Forbidden West”.

Will it improve over the course of approximately 60 hours of gameplay? Playful for sure. Piranha Bytes RPGs take a long time to pick up speed. Only when players can afford the proper equipment and have a few more life points behind them, will it be fun to explore the game world. Essen developers have always been able to rely on this.

Piranha Bytes doesn’t make things easy for “Elex 2” players. On the one hand, it’s a bad action RPG with poor technology and an immature combat system. On the other hand, there is the wide open world and the complex system of levels and morals. That’s what we’re used to from the studio, but with “Elex 2” Piranha Bytes is testing the patience and understanding of even their diehard fans. If you want to achieve respectable success with just an open world RPG in 2022, you have to offer more.

“Elex 2” was released for Windows, PS4 / 5, Xbox One / Series. It costs around € 60. USK 16. For our test, we played the PS5 version for several hours.


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