XEL PC Review

An underwhelming adventure game that probably needed more time in development.

By LCLupus, Posted 29 Jul 2022

XEL is an isometric adventure hack-and-slash game with fantasy and sci-fi elements set in a world filled with small little creatures overrunning a rather lush world. It was developed by Tiny Roar and appears to be their first bigger game, as they did release a free-to-play game a few years ago, and so this game should be seen as a great first attempt, but one that doesn’t exactly pull it off all that well.

XEL is a bit of a boring game. Sadly. It has quite a lot going for it. It has some gorgeous visuals and an excellent overall aesthetic. The environments are full of color, and that’s just great. The only problem here is that the game is also just very average. Although it’s only average in the gameplay department, but we’ll get to the narrative side of things soon enough.

XEL, PC, Review, Base, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

XEL has you control your little character Reid, and it’s worth calling her little because while it is an isometric game, and isometric games have a more bird’s eye style camera, this game’s camera is pulled back a little too far. She feels small on the screen and so it can feel disconnected from the rest of the action. It also means that when the game gives you its multitude of pickups, like little gears and flowers and whatever else fills up your inventory, they can often somewhat blend into the background. This isn’t too great.

To make matters worse with XEL, the navigation of this environment leaves a lot to be desired. XEL is confusing! It will tell you to go somewhere but then won’t give you much in the way of where to go, so you just stumble your way around until you happen to find it. This isn’t great and it’s something that should be addressed with better navigation overall.

The menus are also irritating to navigate and will often be of very little help and offer more than a bit of frustration, but it would be best to show why with an example. This playthrough was done with a controller because the game seemed like it would be best with one, and in general, it is. The combat and movement suit a controller well, but every time you enter the menu, it takes you to your inventory instead of the map. So, every time you want to try and find your way in a confusing labyrinth of an environment, you must click through several tabs to get to the map. XEL does not indulge in quality-of-life features.

XEL, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

There are so many small areas that could have been touched up. Minor interface issues, the distant camera, the lack of navigation tools, etc. These are small things that can get on your nerves as you play. They’re not game-breaking, but they’re things you may have come to expect from games released nowadays. Small slip-ups that should have been addressed before release. 

Furthermore, XEL has very barebones combat. You have a little roll ability to get away from enemies and you can hit them with your sword. You gain some new abilities over time, such as traps you can use against enemies, but the game is otherwise a little uninvolved. There’s a lack of more complex fighting, and the game’s pretty environments do not make up for that.

XEL, PC, Review, Boss Fights, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

XEL is not an action game alone. It also makes use of little puzzles, but these mostly involve figuring out which structures to power in which order and there are some time-based puzzles shortly into the game, but they’re mostly very simplistic.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t necessarily enjoy XEL, as you may enjoy it, but it would be fair to say it’s a game to probably get on sale when there isn’t much else going on. XEL will keep you occupied for a good while, at least.

But that’s the gameplay. And we now need to talk about the narrative, which is not great. This is not an attempt to be mean, but XEL’s writing and voice acting are remarkably cringed. It comes across as an attempt at writing witty, snarky characters, but instead of succeeding, every character sounds irritating and overly chirpy, the kind of person you might want to punch because of the infuriating tone of their voice.

XEL, PC, Review, Female Protagonist, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

The overall narrative itself is fine if overplayed. You’re an amnesiac character. How often have you been a character with amnesia in a video game? The mystery as to why she’s an amnesiac and the world itself is also just fine. It isn’t particularly compelling, and the world these characters are a part of is something that has been done better elsewhere.

XEL is just a bit dull. The environments are pretty, but the writing is annoying and comes across as something incredibly cartoonish, but not in a charming way. More in an irritating way that would make most people cringe. It’s like they imagined what teenagers would sound like and bumped it up a few notches. That isn’t to say the dialogue isn’t for anyone. For instance, if you enjoy RWBY’s dialogue, you may like the dialogue here, but anyone else may find it grating. And the dialogue is ever present. So, you’re not going to escape it easily. 

XEL, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

With the narrative criticisms out of the way, it’s also important to say that XEL is not a polished game. It feels like it was rushed. In this playthrough, the character randomly fell through a bridge, and that necessitated a lengthy set of backtracking. This drop was like she’d clipped through the floor. Finding the right position to do contextual button presses can also be difficult. For instance, in this playthrough, it seemed like there was a bug right in the beginning because the game would not respond to one specific button prompt. It was a box that had to be pushed, but upon running back to it multiple times, the button prompt never made her grasp the box, until it randomly did. It didn’t work for about five minutes and then suddenly worked.

So, XEL comes across as a game that probably should have spent more time in the oven before being released into the world. There’s potential there, and it could be a great little game with some fixes. Although, all the bug fixes in the world wouldn’t fix the dialogue. But maybe you enjoy that kind of dialogue! Who knows!


But the final verdict would sadly have to be a recommendation to wait till it’s on sale. It’ll keep you entertained for a while, but it’s also a little too clumsy at present.

Justin van Huyssteen (@LC_Lupus)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information



Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Assemble Entertainment
Developer(s): Tiny Roar, Assemble Entertainment
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Release Date: 2022-06-12

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