Piranha Bytes, the creators of the action RPG series Gothic, are set to release a new open world role playing experience this year titled ELEX. Sporting a unique take on open world RPGs, ELEX may be exactly what fans of the genre are looking for. Set to release later this year, ELEX aims to deliver a universe that blends different types of fantasy settings into one seamless world. Player choices are key to drastically shaping the overall narrative. After spending some time with the game and its developers at E3, we walked away impressed and curious about what ELEX has to offer.
What is ELEX?
Upon first glance, ELEX looks like a typical third person action RPG set in an open world environment. There’s swords, monsters, loot and everything you would come to expect. What makes ELEX stand out among the crowd is how it blends multiple types of fantasy settings into one world named Magalan. ELEX integrates science fiction, fantasy, medieval and post-apocalyptic settings into it’s open world, giving players a buffet of different fantasy styles in one title. The first time I watched footage of the game, I was expecting some sort of time travel feature that would take the player through multiple time periods. Instead, Piranha Bytes splits the world into multiple factions that each represent a different fantasy setting.
The Factions of ELEX
The surviving inhabitants of the ruined planet Magalan are obsessed with a rare element named ELEX. This element can be utilized for many things, including human enhancement, powering machinery and providing magical powers. Three factions exist within ELEX that each align with a different setting and operate within a different set of morals. The Outlaws exist in a post-apocalyptic environment who use ELEX as sort of a recreational drug. The Berserkers live in a more traditional fantasy setting, denounce modern technology and use ELEX to gain magical abilities. Finally, the Cleric faction are religious fanatics in a futuristic environment who outlaw the use of ELEX but also utilize it to create deadly weapons.
After the player spends a little time dabbling into each faction, they will eventually need to choose one to align with that will carry them through the rest of the game. The ELEX element reminds me of plasmids from Bioshock: a substance that is used for personal gain and eventually corrupts everyone who uses it. Who you align with and the decisions you make with that faction cannot be altered without severe consequences.
The Importance of Choice
Decision-making plays a huge role in ELEX since it ultimately shapes the world and everything in it. The faction the player chooses to join and the choices made while in it have huge consequences within this world. Every action you take will have some sort of cause and effect, all of which cannot be changed. Speaking to characters that populate the world also play a huge role. Characters will react to how the player responds to them and remember the attitude given towards them.
Thankfully, the developers we spoke to ensured us that those critical decision-making moments in ELEX are lenient. Making the wrong choice on accident isn’t something easily accomplished. For example; accidentally attacking a member of one faction due to a wrong button press can be eventually forgiven. If the player backs away and gives the NPC time to forget about a poor choice (unlike the Dark Souls series), another attempt can be made.
Combat in ELEX
Combat in ELEX is real-time and changes depending on the weapons equipped and the faction the player aligns with. Using swords and hammers feels similar to combat found in games like Fable and The Legend of Zelda. Fighting consists of locking onto enemies, dealing blows and dodging incoming attacks. It’s a typical ballet of dodging and attacking when enemies leave themselves open that RPG fans are used to. I noticed that melee combat seemed a little clunky and lacked complex animations or mechanics to make fighting stand out.
Combat can change depending on what the player equips to their character too. Players finding themselves joining the Clerics, for example, then ranged weaponry such as pistols and machine guns are utilized. All firearms shift controls a standard third person shooter scheme. Magic can be equipped and used in ELEX as well, which I’m assuming is a trait more geared towards players aligned with the Berserkers. From the footage we saw, the combat seems a little clunky; especially when surrounded by multiple enemies. The game is still very much in development and hopefully the kinks will be ironed out by release.
The World of Magalan
Magalan’s open world environment is pretty huge. Players can explore the world on-foot or quickly maneuver around the world using a jetpack mechanic. Walking out of a wooded forest and into a futuristic city feels jarring at first, especially when jet packs are involved in locations where they do not make sense. Luckily, the switch between settings make ELEX stand out among a sea of similar games already in the market. Hopefully Piranha Bytes can succeed at making this world feel cohesive and avoid feeling disjointed. The team informed us that rushing through the main quest will take around 40-50 hours, but for completionists, the game can last well over 100 hours.
ELEX aims to mash together different styles of role playing games into one big ambitious and risky title. If Piranha Bytes can successfully make the world feel cohesive, ELEX could be a breath of fresh air. The combat could use a little polish since it looks a little stiff. Hopefully the team can squash the majority of bugs at release that plague this genre too. Overall I walked out of ELEX very curious and hopeful that the team at Piranha Bytes can deliver a unique RPG.
ELEX is set to launch in October of 2017 for the PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.