XEL Review

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XEL feels like one of the biggest disappointments of the year. Not that it’s a bad game necessarily, but it certainly fails to reach the heights the premise allows. And it’s absolutely rammed with bugs and glitches, so much so that we’ve had to fall on our sword, giving up long before we were ready. That makes us sad. Really sad. It also means that XEL is one to avoid. 

We came to XEL looking for something special. Sold as a 3D action adventure, we immediately drew Zelda vibes; the green hues accompanying release amplifying those feels. It started well too. Introductions to Reid – the protagonist – went well, as we joined her on an adventure of discovery, in hope of filling in gaps, uncovering secrets, exploring the land of XEL over and over. 

It looked good too, and even though Reid would occasionally feel a little too light on her feet, the visual style won us over. Detailed, full of colour, the world of XEL was one that really did begin to excite, as we looked forward to the adventure ahead. 

xel review 1
XEL can look good

But then things started to go wrong. Reid would get stuck up in scenery; left to return to the closest of checkpoints, losing progress. Doors would fail to open; reloads and restarts being commonplace in hope of a fix. Occasionally they’d come, allowing for the adventure to continue, but sometimes they didn’t, leaving us running around headless, unaware of where to go or what to do. And then another halt would be put on proceedings, as another glitch, another bug saw further restarts. 

To give some credit, perhaps the development team were aware things may go wrong, as the checkpointing system in XEL is fairly solid. But should we really be left to cover old ground time and time again in hope that the game will eventually allow progress? Nah, I’m pretty sure that’s not how it’s meant to work. 

It’s obvious that XEL shouldn’t have been released on Xbox in the state it has. Not because it isn’t a game that couldn’t excite. We feel if the mechanics allowed, this could well flourish; the premise and ideas are strong, the visuals neat, the sound excellent. But because of bugs and glitches followed by glitches and bugs, constantly pulling Reid and the player back, XEL is never allowed that flourish. When button prompts then start to fail to show, and a map screen comes across as next to useless, it’s hugely obvious that something is wrong. 

That’s most definitely the case with XEL. For all the colour and beautiful visuals – honestly, make some progress and navigate the various areas and you’ll, at times, be wowed – frustration is a killer. And in XEL, I’ve never been so frustrated with a game in my life. Yeah, I’m putting it out there – no game has ever frustrated, nor disappointed, as much as XEL. With some four decades of gaming under my belt, that’s some call. 

xel review 2
There’s some good colour on display too. Along with the bugs

If you can find a way to battle through XEL, you’ll probably be left with some enjoyable moments. We’ve not been particularly bothered by the story at hand, but have found the exploration and navigation through various maze-like paths to be intriguing. Yes, they themselves can annoy, as depth and various levels to pathways can merge a bit too much, but on the whole, navigation is fine. When it works. It’s these moments in which XEL excels, as you make your way through a variety of puzzle elements in hope of seeing progress. But again, never actually knowing if success is going to allow for that progress, or if XEL is going to glitch out again, puts a huge damper on the fun elements. 

There have been times when we’ve enjoyed the combat too. Admittedly much of this has boiled down to a dodge and roll, swipe and defend, but on the whole we’ve found that side of XEL to work well. It’s about now that you can probably feel the ‘but’ coming on. And yep, here it is – but at times, foes and enemies have been found to stand wide open, frozen to the spot as we slash at them for all our worth. Occasionally we’ve even found that sticking some level furniture, a log or the type, between them and us, before taking turns to attack though the obstacle allows for some quick cheats. Of course though, that goes both ways and we’ve just as regularly been attacked whilst seemingly safe. 

Throw in some gadgets and again, the promise of XEL, is high. It’s just the execution that lets things down. Oh, that execution…

xel review 3
It’s the execution that lets this one down

It means that we can’t – for one minute – recommend XEL as an action adventure to get stuck into. Unless of course you want an action adventure in which you’ll, quite literally, get stuck in. For the good – the visuals, audio, navigation of paths and occasional combat moments – there are tens of things in XEL that will hold you back. Bugs and glitches are absolutely rife in this world, and there’s seemingly nothing to stop them popping up on an extremely frequent basis; mostly out of nowhere, springing a surprise just as you think XEL is going to give you a pass. 

You probably don’t want to play a game that will have you needing to utilise checkpoints and save systems every few minutes. If you do, then you’re a better person than us and you should crack on with XEL. We’ll be sitting here, waiting in hope of a big old patch before we start traversing its lands once again.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Can look great
  • The combat can be enjoyable
Cons:
  • … but it’s not long until things start going wrong
  • Tons of glitches and bugs
  • A huge disappointment
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Assemble Entertainment
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, Switch, PC
  • Release date and price - 19 May 2023 | £13.49
Neil Watton
Neil Wattonhttps://www.thexboxhub.com/
An Xbox gamer since 2002, I bought the big black box just to play Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee. I have since loved every second of the 360's life and am now just as obsessed with the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S - mostly with the brilliant indie scene that has come to the fore. Gamertag is neil363, feel free to add me to your list.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Can look great</li> <li>The combat can be enjoyable</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>… but it’s not long until things start going wrong</li> <li>Tons of glitches and bugs</li> <li>A huge disappointment</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Assemble Entertainment</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 19 May 2023 | £13.49</li> </ul>XEL Review
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