Element Space is a tactical action game from Inca Games developed by Sixth Vowel and published by Blowfish studios. 

Humanity has colonised the galaxy, I think. I immediately ran into issues with Element Space, namely the complete lack of context and backstory given to you by the game. You’re dropped into this universe at the end of a galactic war as humanity decommissions it’s most powerful warship as a gesture of peace. The decommissioned ship is to be used as a sort of intergalactic UN. All this is nearly undone by Tempest, a secret shadow organisation pulling political strings throughout the galaxy. If all of this sounds strangely familiar to those of you that played Mass Effect and while it’s certainly a bit of a standard sci-fi plot Element Space isn’t trying to copy Mass Effect, it’s very much trying to do its own thing. Whether or not it’s successful or not we’ll get to later.  I’ve played Element Space for around 12 hours and I’ll be honest, while I want to play more, I just can’t.  Element Space on Xbox One just isn’t in a workable place at the time of writing, I’m hoping that a day one patch will come out and fix the issues I’ve been having, and boy are they varied.

The game also doesn’t track what you’ve actually done in a mission.

From soft locks, to dialogue boxes skipping, screen tearing and the frame rate being simply awful,  now those, for the most part, I can handle those. Sixth Vowel is a small studio so I don’t expect the same polish that I would from a AAA release. However, it’s not just in its presentation where Element Space frustrates.  The game is punishingly difficult, now, at first, I just assumed I’d need to ‘Git Gud’ and then all would pan out. A few hours in though and I realised that it’s not me, it’s the complete lack of explanation the game gives you for what’s going on in each mission, new enemy types pop up at random which results in a wait to see what they do and then repeat the mission after you’ve scouted them out. Some of the missions involve saving non combatants and my lord is their AI awful. 

The wider impact of each mission is always interesting and helps you feel like you’re having an impact on the galaxy.

After battling my way through an insane amount of foes I track down a lab and it’s scientists are being held hostage by the baddies. Upon entering the lab and the main character Christopher Pietham loudly announcing your presence (something he does at the start of every section, even when you’ve snuck up on an unsuspecting batch of foes, not the most tactically sound choice).  Speaking of characters, Element Space features a decent cast, most of whom you must unlock through the story and each one has different criteria you must complete, it’s entirely possible to finish the game and never recruit some of them. The criteria range from which missions you complete to your allegiance with specific factions.  A character you’ll meet early on is Zero, An AI (seemingly the first true AI in the galaxy). Zeros abilities are more technical and support focused which are so much more useful than support characters tend to be in most games. If you were going to design a sci-fi character to appeal directly to me Zero would be it, an optimistic AI dead set on helping the galaxy that reads classical literature and constantly quotes the works of Shakespeare. 

Zero is wonderfully charming.

Once the combat, (that the enemies are now fully prepared for) kicks off, the scientists whom I now need to save as part of my mission objectives start to flee from their captors. So far, so good, however after each of my and the baddies turns the ‘allies’ get a turn, now having used their first few turns to run away from the armed men trying to kill them, they run randomly around the map and back towards the baddies. Their AI is so poor and that coupled with the difficulty and the technical issues makes that tactical action parts of Element Space a nightmare.  The camera is awful and navigating the ‘mouse pointer’ is inaccurate and screams I was built for PC, the game is also ‘Xbox One X Enhanced’ although at this point it honestly seems sarcastic. 

From what you’ve read thus far you probably think that I’ve nothing positive to say about Element Space but that’s not true. There’s so much potential in Element Space from the intriguing plot, the dynamic conversation system, the need for multiple playthroughs to see all it has to offer and not to forget the faction system. There are several political factions in the Element Space universe that your relationship grows or sours with based on actions and choices you make during the game’s campaign. Admittedly I only know the details of these factions after looking them up on the Element Space, in fact, the only reason I know anything at all about the universe is due to the games website.  Element Space is one decent patch away from being playable, as it stands I wouldn’t recommend buying it, over other tactical actions RPGS, of course, it would be a  tactical game review without mentioning XCOM and to be honest, a comparison with that behemoth isn’t fair. Having said that, if you’re looking for a decent budget experience and don’t mind waiting for a patch, wait for Element Space. If you lack patience, give Narcos: Rise of the cartels a try (which I reviewed last year and it can be found here). 

An Xbox One review code was provided by Stride PR.