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#1 Virgil Vox

Virgil Vox
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Posted 05 January 2020 - 03:33 PM

Elex is an open world RPG from studio Piranha Bytes. They are responsible for the Gothic and Risen series, neither of which I have played.

I picked this up because after Greedfall I was still jonesing for a good open world RPG and Elex was recommended by the Microsoft Store. I did some research and found a pretty cheap copy.

At first I thought I had made a mistake. A few hours in and I wanted to quit. I actually did stop playing for a bit. However I stuck with it and my patience was rewarded. I am addicted to this game and have played 30+ hours so far.

It isn’t the best game ever and quite frankly it won’t be for everyone. However if you are willing to stick with it there is a lot to love in this game.

This is the story: The world Magalan (basically like a more technologically advanced Earth) gets struck by a comet that almost wipes out humanity, spreads a substance called Elex all over the world, and eventually gives rise to four distinct factions. Elex is basically a magical substance that all four factions use and that is also used as currency.

The main character, Jax, is a commander in the Alb faction. He is sent on a mission but his fighter plane is shot down. For his failure he is executed by his fellow Alb soldiers. Or so they think. Jax survives. He is without his armor and weapons (they were stolen), and he no longer has his Elex infused powers, but he is determined to get revenge on those that betrayed him. To do this he will need to find allies and navigate the world of the Free Peoples (essentially the other Factions).

The Factions

As I wrote, there are four main factions though since Jax is now an exile from his people he mainly interacts with the other three.

The first faction is the Berserkers. They are a back to nature Viking-like people. They believe that technology is evil and have outlawed it. In fact, they live by a harsh set of Laws that govern everything they do. If someone breaks the Law they are banished to the Valley of the Damned. The Berserkers use Elex by converting it into mana to power their magic. They are also trying to heal the world by planting World Hearts which turns the desert back into a green forest. Their main city is Goliet.

The next faction is the Outlaws. They are your typical Mad Max style post-apocalyptic band. They live in a city called the Fort in the middle of the Tavar desert. They are focused on acquiring wealth and having as few laws as possible. They are led by a man named Logan, who overthrew the last ruler of the Fort. They use Elex for money and to create chems (basically drugs).

Then there are the Clerics. They have a city (the Hort) in the volcanic area called Ignadon. They worship a god called Calaan and believe in technology and discovering everything they can about the past. They use Elex to power their weapons and war machines. They are the main ones fighting the Albs. They also try to convert everyone to their religion.

The Albs are the bad guys of the series. They ingest Elex because it gives them superhuman strength. It also strips them of their emotions and turns their skin white. They believe that they are the next step in evolution and want to take all the Elex for themselves. They are basically at war with all the other Factions. They have Converters all over the map that extract Elex from the ground and send it back to their Ice Palace.

Eventually Jax will have to decide which faction (other than the Albs) to join so he can continue his quest for revenge.

Initially I thought I would join the Berserkers. I liked their mission to bring life back to the planet and they seemed like genuine good guys. Yes, their Laws are harsh and there were aspects of their society I didn’t like but overall they seemed like the best faction.
I never seriously considered joining the Outlaws but there is a certain charm to the ruffians and I figured that joining them would be a good way to earn money.

In the end I actually ended up joining the Clerics. I did this for two reasons: 1) – I really liked the look of their armor and I wanted to be able to wear it myself and 2) – it went against how I would normally play and I wanted to shake things up.

I am actually pretty happy with my choice. While there are things the Clerics do that I don’t like I have come to love this faction. I have now become a Legate (the top rank I can earn, I believe) and have just bought the Legate armor. It looks amazing even though it cost a ton of money.

I gained some nice powers as well. Clerics have Psi abilities that they channel through a gauntlet like weapon. One of the abilities is a vortex attack. Essentially it pulls a group of enemies together (or staggers a really tough single enemy) and also electrifies them. This ability has saved me a lot of times and helped me defeat some really tough enemies.

People do react to me differently now that I am a Cleric. Some hate me and refuse to talk to me. Others respect and/or fear me. I have the respect and cooperation of my fellow Clerics.

Initial Impressions (Otherwise Known as Dying a Lot)

This game can be hard, brutal, and unforgiving. Jax starts the game out with no good equipment, no skills, and no chance. I lost track of how many times I died early in the game. Magalan is a dangerous world where creatures and people can and will easily kill you.

Honestly it wasn’t until I reached level 12-14 that I felt I could start taking on some of the creatures and tackle a few more quests.
I learned early on that the best bet is to run from most fights. Luckily a lot of the early quests don’t involve combat so I was able to earn XP and Elexit (the name of the in-game currency) and level up and get some better equipment.

Still, that took a long time to do. Part of the problem was I was approaching this like a normal RPG where the first area is usually the easiest and the quests there are scaled to your level. That is not the case here. Edan (the area that the Berserkers control) does have some easy quests but it also has plenty that you can’t finish until you are a much higher level. I finally realized that I had to go explore the map and find the other cities and factions. Sure I did this by running from basically every creature I saw but I still did it.

This helped and I leveled up faster. I was able to buy better equipment and learn more skills. Elex doesn’t have level scaling. If a creature is level 5, it stays level 5 no matter how much you level up. What this means is that creatures that killed me multiple times when I first started out quickly became easy prey for me once I grew stronger.

I have to say, that gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. It was a thrill to walk up to an enemy (or enemies) that I previously had to run from and kick their butts. I truly felt like Jax had gotten stronger. I have seen some people complain that it makes certain areas of the game too easy but I loved that feeling that all of a sudden I was a badass. In other games the enemies level up as well so I never got the feeling that all the skills and equipment I was acquiring really mattered.

The Setting

I love the world of Magalan. It combines your more typical fantasy RPG area (the woods of Edan) with a post-apocalyptic desert (Tavar) and sci-fi settings (Ignadon and Xacor, home of the Albs). It shouldn’t work but it does.

The different areas blend well together and help to keep things fresh. If you get tired of the Berserkers and their woods, go hang out with the back-stabbing Outlaws in the desert and then maybe go listen to the word of Calaan in the Hort.

This is a setting that really begs to be explored because it is full of quests and hidden treasures to find. There are old pre-Comet ruins to search, usually with notes or recordings left by the doomed inhabitants. I stumbled across the Domed City which is run by the Clerics but is a haven of sorts for all factions. I went into an old tunnel thinking it would be a short cut only to find it infested with creatures and with the other entrance blocked by debris. However I did find some good loot in there as well as part of a treasure map.

I thought I had explored of all Goliet only to later discover I hadn’t and stumbled upon several new characters and quests.
The world feels lived in and the factions and characters all have their own histories. There used to be a council that tried to rule the factions and maintain peace. It fell apart when the Berserkers and Clerics waged war against one another.

I have a base of operations. It is a small village called Origin where people fed up with the factions have banded together to create a new community and help fight the Albs. It is a decent home base and it seems like I can upgrade it. Origin isn’t anywhere near as awe-inspiring as Skyhold but it is still a nice place to lay my head.

Game-play Mechanics

Let us start with combat. It can be frustrating, especially at early levels. Heck, even now when I am level 29 it can be frustrating.
There are melee and long range weapons to choose from though I mainly stick to melee because most enemies rush you very quickly so long range weapons can be impractical most of the time.

There are essentially two attack buttons but it isn’t good to just button mash. There is a rhythm to master. If you land enough hits you can activate a special attack that deals more damage.

The main problem with combat is the stamina meter. This controls how many attacks you can perform. Once the meter is depleted you have to wait for it to fill back up again. It doesn’t take long but that is still plenty of time where the enemies can attack. Dodging is also controlled by the stamina meter so if it is empty you can’t dodge attacks.

This is where the jetpack comes in handy. I LOVE the jetpack. It is extremely useful in combat to get yourself out of harm’s way and to be strategic in battles. I will fly above the enemies and drop a grenade on them or use my vortex ability.

The jetpack also comes in handy for exploration. I just wish you could upgrade it so the fuel doesn’t run out so quickly. You can fly for brief moments until the gauge is depleted and then have to wait for it to fill back up.

Back to combat. There is an option to turn the meter off for combat so you never run out of stamina. I did this and it does make combat more fun. It can still be challenging, especially against stronger enemies or packs of enemies, but it doesn’t feel as insurmountable.

As you level up you gain experience points that can be spent on attributes like Strength, Health, Dexterity, Charisma, and Intelligence. These don’t actually level up your character. Instead, the points you put into the attributes dictates what equipment you can wear, what weapons you can wield, and what skills you can acquire.

The various cities have Trainers that will teach you a skill for a price. These skills are separated into categories like combat, survival, personality, faction, etc. This is where you really shape your character and build Jax into whatever you want him to be.

Instead of a morality system, the game features a Cold system. Jax has been raised on Elex and so hasn’t felt emotions most of his life. Now that he no longer has it in his system his emotions are coming back. While interacting with other characters Jax can say or do things to lower or raise his Cold. If he relies on logic and makes harsh decisions his Cold goes up. If he is more emotional it goes down.

What I like about this system is that sometimes a situation calls for an emotional response and sometimes it calls for a more logical approach. Being rude to a character might lower your Cold rating but it might make that character not help you. The Cold system is more strategic than just good or evil.

I have been playing Jax as someone who is embracing his emotions so my Cold rating is down. This opens up some dialogue options while it closes others.

The use of the jet pack means there really aren’t any places you can’t go. Mountains that would have been unsurpassable in other games can be easily climbed here.

That also means that all of the main cities can be spread out and consist of multiple levels. Goliet is a sprawling city that has several stories to explore. The Fort is built on a series of cliffs and have make shift bridges spanning the divides. The Hort has large buildings and cat walks you can jet pack up to.

The Companions

There are seven companions that can be recruited in Jax’s revenge quest though only one can travel with you at a time.

Duras – A Berserker and the first companion you meet. He tends to pick up strays and take them to Goliet, which is how he meets Jax. He has a pretty interesting quest but unfortunately once that is completed he fades into the background.

Ray – An Outlaw and the thief who stole your equipment. Jax tracks him down but Ray has already sold your stuff. He will help you get it back if you help him collect the bounty notes that a mysterious person has sent out. I like Ray a lot and he is usually my main companion. His quest is long and I have only found half the people that are trying to kill him. It is pretty interesting, actually.

Caja – She is a Berserker but she has more or less exiled herself. Her magic is strong and she seems to have a strong connection to Elex. She has Jax take her all over Magalan to find large Elex deposits so she can try to understand it better. I am a fan of hers as well.

CRONY U4 – U4 is a combat droid that accompanied Jax on his ill-fated mission. Jax finds him in the Goliet dump where all technology goes to die. Jax saves his droid and then has to find the components to fix him. I like U4 but barely travel with him. He does randomly bring me loot so that is a plus.

Falk – A Cleric who seems really naïve, Falk has a secret that I won’t spoil here. He is definitely an interesting companion and I am anxious to see if the game does any more with him.

Nasty – The sister of Outlaw leader Logan, Nasty is the brilliant tactician that enabled Logan to wrest control of the Fort away from its previous leader. I wasn’t a fan of the character at first because she seems like the clichéd hot and angry woman but it seems like the game is slowly peeling back her layers. We will see.

Arx – An exiled Alb, Arx joins you because he thinks the Albs have been led astray by their current leader, the Hybrid. He was exiled for experiments he was conducting and I have to say I don’t blame the Albs one bit. Arx is an interesting one in that he totally believes in Alb superiority and doesn’t really care about saving the Free People.

All of your companions will react to the decisions you make and this affects how much they like you. Completing their personal quests will usually get them on your side and so far I haven’t had a companion leave because of the decisions I make. I’m not 100% that they do leave.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."

It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

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