Not on my periodic table
Just like the classic X-COM or the recently released Phoenix Point, Element Space presents us a tactical RPG game with turn-based combat, a great story, and beautifully presented worlds to explore. However, technical difficulties make it hard for comfortable and can sometimes make Element Space a frustrating prospect.
The story is presented in the form of a multiple-choice tale, with each of those choices within the several factions drastically changing how we perceive the characters in it. This, along with very well-written and surprisingly lovable characters, allows us to have a fresh experience whenever we start a new game. It helps that the art and the epic soundtrack help to do nothing but compel us to become even more immersed in the plot and really focus on the fights you wade into.
Not that way
The combat is quick, intuitive, and fast-paced. Plus, the AI is so on point that it poses a constant challenge without being needlessly harsh to the player. The unique ways to play every character really stand out and the fact that you can do a melee-focused strategy if you want helps to allow for a wide array of options when you’re approaching the enemy.
That being said, the camera seriously needs more stability as it usually gets stuck or doesn’t do what you want, and that can be a problem in a game like this. The zoom function really needs to be moved anywhere else but the same analogue for the camera, because zooming in randomly as you’re trying to see the battlefield is just annoying.
Which brings us to the weakest point of the game: technical performance and the quality of life. On the performance side, while the combat and cutscenes are usually smooth, I had several instances of attack animations bugging with the enemy not attacking at all. There were times where the retry wouldn’t show up, the pause menu would occasionally cause a very annoying audio bug, and the game even crashed out entirely whenever it felt like it. I really hope they can polish all of these things after launch because it would improve the experience a lot and make it a bit easier to forgive some of the other flaws.
Somebody save me
Finally, we have a few but very notable points about the quality of life in the game, namely the lack of a manual save and checkpoints that are either annoying to get or a straight-up misery. Not only will you have to do the whole level from scratch every time you lose, but the retry option you can access mid-combat also resets the entire level, which misses entire the point of being an option at all if the result is the same.
It would make far more sense to have an undo function in the game, but that’s not the case. That, and the fact the retries are limited (I don’t know why since you reset the entire level and not the combat) really annoyed me. Since a level often has multiple fights within it, this mechanic felt like it should either be kinder to the player or not exist at all.
Element Space has the potential to offer a genuinely fun experience in the sci-fi genre, which is something that is wonderful to see, but not all that common. The issues presented by its poor performance and the less-than-stellar implementation of many of the mechanics result in something that is often far more frustrating than fun.
It’s a huge shame because the world and the characters really did pull me in, but the bugs and crashes kept booting me back out again. Hopefully, the studio can keep these kinds of complaints in mind when developing a potential sequel. If they can improve the quality of life as well as iron out the technical issues, it’s sure to be a far more enticing game.
[Reviewed on PS4]