Every element is actually fairly decent. You just need to have a proper playstyle and modifier set to go with it. Ideally, you either want to stack % Damage modifiers for the elements you have or plan on using and/or invest in the element’s dedicated modifiers (like Concussive Push for Salty and Jumps for Sour) and I highly advise avoiding the HP boosts since those are noob traps. A dead enemy is better than having an extra 35HP since a live one can hit you for that much if you don’t finish them off fast enough.
As for elements themselves, here are my thoughts on em:
Shock is excellent right out the gate and is very good from start to finish. A little investment in “number of jumps” modifiers make this your prime choice for large wave clears. It’s main weakness though is dealing with large chunkier enemies. If you’re after a very straightforward element that does it’s job well, then this is your pick.
Sweet is your tank element. You can stack a lot of the modifiers that increase it’s effect and you pretty much don’t take much damage at all when running it. That does come at the cost of you not doing a lot of damage back though.
Salty is your knockback element and has the highest damage potential out of any element in the game. Enemies knocked into walls and other enemies by a Salty attack take 20 damage from the impact. It also has a modifier that causes enemies to take a burst of damage just by being knocked back, starting at 10 at 1 star and 30 at 3. That’s an instant 50 damage from one attack if something is pinned to a wall. Durians, Plates, and Spears can make use of this element to obliterate entire rooms without any blacksmith upgrades. Durians are especially powerful because a Salty Durian will drag enemies into walls themselves.
Fire and Poison are very similar combat wise. The main difference is that poison lasts much longer than fire, at the cost of doing less damage per tick. Your main strategy is to stack it on as many enemies as possible. Perfect for a hit and run playstyle if you plan on that or you’re not confident enough to take a more hands on approach. Run into a room, tag everything in there with poison or fire and continue to run around until everything melts.
Ice is my favorite element in the game. This is the crowd control option, and it is phenomenal at keeping groups of enemies locked down. One reason you take damage from stuff is because you commit to doing a non-staggering light attack while an enemy is mid animation for their own attack. Ice completely negates that, since it knocks enemies out of their attack animations if they’re frozen. And if you manage to take the first shot in an engagement, an enemy will often not be able to get out of the freeze loop. Ice gives you control of the fight and is an incredibly good element if you want to be very hands on with how you fight. It also has a feature that isn’t mentioned anywhere: It does a damage burst if you stack up frozen on an unfreezable enemy aka, stuff thats already frozen, and bosses, so it’s damage doesn’t suffer at all.
Umami or Reflect, is a weird one. You either feel like a god or a chump when running it. Not every enemy has a projectile so you’re going to be left very weak against purely melee enemies. The opposite is true if an enemy is purely ranged though like the Black Rooster. So I mostly advise to just have the Reflect dash and not invest too heavily into this element.