Title: El Paso, Elsewhere
Developer: Strange Scaffold
Release Date: September 26, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Strange Scaffold
Saving the world from a terrifying supernatural being isn’t the most out-there concept to be dealing with. But Draculae isn’t just your everyday supernatural world-ending beast.
She’s also James’ ex. You can bet it wasn’t pretty.
But somewhere in a motel, out the back of El Paso, Texas, she’s got a lot of hostages and is conducting some sort of ritual to destroy the world. And James Savage, a folklore researcher who is only alive because he’s hopped up on enough drugs to kill way more than just a herd of elephants, appears to be the only person with a shot of stopping her. Strange Scaffold’s new game El Paso, Elsewhere, is one hell of a wild ride.
Do you know where the Elsewhere comes in? Well, once you take the lift down just a bit, you can see that we aren’t exactly in the most normal world anymore. The ceilings are gone, the void is everywhere, and it’s a big fan of different colors and rearranging the motel based on thoughts, feelings, and its own whims.
And filling the rooms with vampire mummies and werewolves and small children and other horrifying nightmares. Even with your dual pistols, they’re not going to make this rescue mission slash assassination attempt easy. At least until you get more guns.
There’s a solid half dozen weapons to make an armory out of in this Texan motel, and each one will widen the scope of situations you can deal with. This isn’t to say you start with a limited scope. You’ve got a few things outside of a couple of guns to assist. Extra guns just enhance the carnage.
You’ve got several extra options to deal with managing your foes with gunshots. First are stakes, a single-use melee weapon that can instakill any very close enemy, which would seem busted, but is balanced by being limited to up to carry five at once, and the fact you need to be within stabbing range yourself.
After that, you can roll or leap to cover a short distance. But neither of these is as important as the ability to slow down time. This power is on a meter that goes up as you damage and kill enemies and can thus be used to create powerful chains when you have tons of enemies to kill and tons of weapons to switch through.
When you rescue every hostage on the map, you head back to the lift to complete it, whilst the void summons more enemies and often changes the general layout just to throw you off a bit. So this creates the gameplay loop. Kill, Rescue, Return, Repeat.
Often with much more killing in between. And it’s backed by some phenomenal music. I repeatedly found myself subconsciously trying to time my gunshots to the beat, which is absurd, but what’s more absurd is that it felt like it was working. The game’s rhythm is insane.
And when you eventually die, the game hits you with a fantastic game over screen that lasts only a moment before shoving you right back to the last checkpoint to keep on killing. If it’s really hard, you can throw on some modifiers to make it easier that still let you kill in style.
It’s some incredibly fun and satisfying killing that we also haven’t seen in so long. Hopefully, I’m not missing anything crucial so as to make this a comment of ignorance, but the last ones I can remember really getting this kind of fun out of the combat were Stranglehold, Quantum Break, certain kinds of Dishonoured builds, and of course Max Payne.
But there’s something this game has that beats out on all of those.
The writing for our protagonist is masterful. He’s very matter-of-fact about the situation, he doesn’t really hold his cards close to his chest, and he comments on literally everything, often relating the things he sees back to past experiences. This helps flesh him out to the substantial degree the game does and the degree it needs to have to tell an extremely compelling tale. Besides that Egyptian being that shows up and the void itself, there’s no one else really here. Sure, there’s his ex at the bottom, but James is the one with 95% plus of the dialogue, and that means everything he says needs to hit, both in a literary sense and audibly. And by god does it.
The voice acting is fantastic, and James is an incredibly compelling character to follow, and you learn more about him as you venture through the monstrous motel. Plot beats are carefully laid out for maximum impact as you progress.
You may have just glossed over the fact that Draculae is James’ ex and thought nothing of it. But when you do start to think about it, the game hits you like a damn train.
I got emotional towards the final act of this game.
El Paso, Elsewhere is, simply put, an incredible game. Every aspect is meticulously crafted and works in perfect harmony with the rest. It nails practically everything it tries to do. I expected it to be a lot of fun to play, but I did not expect it to be anywhere near as compelling. I wonder how long I’ll be rotating James in my head like I’ve put him in a microwave…
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.