Turn-based tactical RPG’s are a rather enriching but hard-to-master genre of games. So, when a new strategic turn-based game hits the market, especially if it gets a port to consoles – it’s pretty darn exciting. Like every gaming genre, there is always diversity throughout, but the sci-fi game XCOM has massively influenced the genre and therefore, in turn, many games since. This influence can be witnessed throughout Element: Space, and the game attempts to carry this torch throughout whilst adding its own twist. Element: Space takes place in the nearby future of the year 2199 where political diplomacy has gone wrong in a vast galactic galaxy. However, is Element: Space a worthy destination for gamers or set on course for a black hole of destruction?
You assume the role of Captain Christopher Pietham, which is leading the decommissioned spaceship called the Inspiration. This spaceship symbolises a seat for the new Galactic Congress since the Galactic War ended three years ago in the hopes to ensure peace and tranquillity for humanity. After intruders hijack the Inspiration in the ambition to disrupt the Galaxy three Sovereign Powers summit, Captain Pietham and his comrades are of course framed and incriminated as galactic outlaws. From here on out, this is where Captain Pietham dark and gritty journey begins as he unravels the mystery of the intruders.
In a squad of three, you can recruit up to 8 possible companions throughout your endeavours and engage in turn-based tactical combat. Moves are broke-down into primary and secondary actions points. Primary actions consist of attacks to lower the enemies health or set your character in Overwatch that is highlighted in blue (or red for the opponent) colour across the map. Whereas, secondary actions entails moving across the map with a limited amount of movement to find a potential place for full cover or reloading your weaponry. Specific skill perks are catered to each character individually that adds a layer of uniqueness to how each character fights in combat. These can range from recovering health for your characters or a fellow comrade or targeting an enemy with a special attack. These moves can vary from primary and secondary action points.
Also, you can participate in melee combat, however, if you or a fellow enemy engages in melee combat – both participants are locked into a melee fight; until one is defeated or pays a health penalty for opting out. I always find a combination of both always helps cover the most ground but if you want to quickly eliminate an enemy on the map; melee combat is a good way of reducing the opponent’s health rather quickly. Overall, the combat is highly engaging although it does require the player to concentrate at all times. One of the game’s greatest strengths is that every move you make matters and requires exact precision from the player.
After defeating an opponent, a kill cam segment is shown of them falling into their demise that is a rather satisfying moment. Especially, if the enemy in question caused you a lot of grief. Element: Space cut-scenes have some pretty good moments that also gives the vibe of a cinematics effect – especially the kill cam segments. These cut-scenes are complimented even more with each character having voice acting, along with a very atmospheric soundtrack. Unfortunately on occasions, one or two cut-scenes suffered a bit of lag but it’s certainly tolerable. A minor critique is if the audio options are left on the default settings, certain actions sequences, for example, gunfire will drown out the voice of the character. Luckily this won’t be an issue for long as it can be easily rectified by changing the audio options to your personal preference. Even if you forget to change the setting there is always subtitles accompanied with all voice dialogue in cut-scenes so you won’t lose track of what is going on.
Usually, the goal is to eliminate the hostiles on the map, but sometimes there may be story related special objectives: like clearing the map of hostiles in a limited amount of turns or blowing up a tank! Subsequently, when a battle has ended, you’ll roam across the map through a point and click system until you reach the next part of the story. This can feel a little unsatisfying as there is often not much to explore. The camera that you manoeuvre with the left analogue stick, in and out of battle can feel clucky at first, however, this doesn’t overly divert the player from the gameplay.
On completing a mission, you’ll be returning to your spaceship, where you can interact with the ship’s terminal. From here, you can choose missions and view the rewards from that mission, along with equipping your character with your personalised preferences. There is a skills option where you can allocate points you’ve earned into an upgrade tree along with checking your standings and stats.
A standout feature of the game is the ideological system that is ruled by your decisions of dialogue and your actions throughout the game. The options presented are spilt into four choices: Humanism, Independence, Bureaucracy and Autocracy. These choices will affect your reputation with seven factions and this will dictate if you’re hostile or allies with certain factions. The decisions you make will also affect your relationships with your fellow comrades, as they’ll lean to certain ideological principles. From your relationships with factions and certain characters this will, in turn, lead you down different timeline paths that will affect the ending, so every choice matters. This part of the game felt very reminiscent of Mass Effect, which I absolutely adored. With Element: Space having multiple endings there is plenty of replay value tucked away. This highly benefits the game as an average playthrough dependant on skill can vary from 12-18 hours.
There are three game modes to pick from, Easy Mode, Story Mode and Extinction Mode. I locked the majority of my gameplay on Story Mode and to be transparent with you, I still found the game a challenge at times. Out of sheer curiosity, I tried the game out in Easy Mode (not Extinction Mode, my ego couldn’t afford another bruising) and there wasn’t much differing them apart. The main difference between the two is in Easy Mode you’ll have checkpoints between battles with a limited amount of retires. Whereas, in Story Mode, you have a limited amount of retries before having to restart the whole mission. In Extinction Mode you get no retries whatsoever. Ouch! Sure, no one that engages with turn-base tactical RPG’s are looking for an easy time, but perhaps the game is too challenging to its own detriment.
Element Space PS4 Review
Overall - Very Good - 7/10
Should you adjust your orbit and set course for Element Space? If you’re a fan of sci-fi turn-based tactical RPG’s; then the answer is a resounding yes! Element Space is an enjoyable experience with plenty of replay value with its interesting story and multiple endings. However, with the challenging difficulty level, the game in turn potentially isolates its audience.
- Interesting story and lore
- Engaging combat system
- Ideological System leaves the player with choices to carve their own destiny
- Multiple endings lead to plenty of replay value
- May present too much of a difficult challenge to players
- Cut-scenes suffer lag on occasions
- Clucky camera controls
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.