New games release on Xbox One every week and it can be difficult keeping track of them all, especially during the fall when so many blockbuster AAA titles are taking up people’s attention with their heavy-hitting marketing campaigns. Some of the games reviewed this week you may not have even heard of. This time, we are taking a look at ELEX, Life Is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 2, and The Mummy Demastered.
Magic meets technology. Old meets new. Science meets fantasy. It’s an incredibly interesting concept that serves as the foundation of ELEX, a science-fantasy game taking place in the post-apocalyptic world of Magalan after a meteor strikes. This fascinating blend of genres is let down by ELEX’s rough and unpolished state. For all that it offers—good character customization with different factions and stats, role-playing choices, a variety of quests, and a captivating world waiting to be explored—it ultimately suffers because it just isn’t fun to play. Its combat (both ranged and melee) feels stiff and clunky, making it more of a chore than an activity you look forward to. I can’t even interact with objects without manually sheathing my weapon first. The beginning of the game started with a cutscene of my character’s ship crashing to the ground, and it was ruined by textures that didn’t load properly and an explosion that looked terrible and stuttered. There are so many good concepts buried under its unappealing surface and UI that many won’t stick around to experience. Even if its premise is right up your alley and you can get past its janky animation and combat, I’d still recommend waiting until ELEX is on sale to purchase it.
Episode 2 – Brave New World picks up after the first episode left off with Rachel and Chloe in trouble for ditching class. Even though they recently just met, the entire first scene shows just how much Rachel cares for Chloe as she gives up something important in order to try and keep Chloe out of trouble. This theme continues throughout the episode as Rachel and Chloe open up more to one another and go out of their comfort zones to help each other. I like how their relationship is playing out, but Brave New World didn’t quite reach my expectations set after the series began. The big revelation in this episode isn’t a surprise to anyone who has two eyes and a sense of deduction, though I am interested to learn what it means for these characters going forward. There was speculation after the first episode that Rachel could have some power akin to Max because a powerful gust of wind picked up as she screamed at the burning tree, but this is never addressed and I’m not even sure if Deck Nine meant for people to assume that. With only one episode left, Deck Nine sure has a lot of ground to cover before the events of Life Is Strange. I don’t know how close they will bring up the timeline to that series, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions and missing links about how Chloe became the person she was and her relationship with Rachel that it feels like there isn’t enough time to get to it all in one last episode.
Independent developers continually create Metroidvania games inspired by classic titles with a wide range of success. Some of these titles are better left unplayed, while others elevate the genre to new heights. The Mummy Demastered happily lives between these two extremes, though thankfully closer to the latter. The name may turn people off, but this game is far better than the most recent movie. After losing contact with your group of agents sent to snuff out monsters, you venture into a cavern in Iraq swarming with enemies. Your foes rise from the dead as you escape the hectic scene. This gives you a good indication of how the rest of the game plays out. You’ll encounter various enemies like rats, bats, scarabs, and locusts, each with different patterns of attack that require you do adapt and think on your feet. The Mummy Demastered is as much about exploration as it is combat, and you are given a small grid which you can view to see where you have been. Certain areas even require advanced weapons to unblock passageways. If you’re a fan of Metroidvania-inspired games, The Mummy Demastered will feel incredibly familiar to you. Still, it has solid gameplay mechanics on top of its retro, pixelated graphics.
ELEX was definitely the weakest game this time. It’s premise certainly has a strong appeal, but it lacks the polish of better games and the combat feels too stiff to actually enjoy. Life Is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 2 and The Mummy Demastered both stood out as great titles this week. If any of these interest you, be sure to pick them up.