Stepping into the THQ Nordic booth at PAX East to see ELEX, developed by Piranha Bytes, I was not sure what to expect. Piranha Bytes, known for the Gothic series along with Risen, are no strangers to building RPG’s, and they know how to craft stories, so I was hopeful this game would be interesting, but I was not expecting how impressive the short demo would be.
Let’s get it out there before we go any further, the demo of ELEX that I played was an early build of the game, so there were a few bugs, issues and quirks that, while present, I will not be digging into. As this is an early build of the game these things should be expected. That all being said, and judging by how much work still needs to be done for the game, it looked impressive. The world of ELEX has a life to it that few games outside The Witcher or The Legend of Zelda have managed to capture. From the first segment I got my hands on to the last, the landscape felt well-conceived and filled with things to do. There are plenty of games currently out, or being previewed that have an open world, but much of the time it feels hollow, filled with lifeless concepts, quests that don’t matter and lots of empty space that ultimately feels pointless. ELEX manages to go beyond that and build a place that begs to be explored and experienced, at least from what was on display.
The world has a feeling of Fallout meets Dragon Age. From a fallen civilization, to the use of sword and knights within the world, it was a mishmash of elements in the best possible way. It is a universe I immediately wanted to explore and experience. To even further mix the fantasy and science fiction, players can make use of a jetpack that will rocket you straight into the air. As great as it is, the jetpack will take a few tries to really work out its intricacies. I for example, managed to kill myself the first time I tried it, but given some practice, it quickly becomes second nature, and a valuable tool in your artisanal.
You play the game as a former member of a group known as the Albs, a military force that consumes a material known as ELEX. This substance gives the people who ingest it magic like powers for as long as they take it, but this power comes at a cost. The more you take it, the less human emotions you will have, making all your actions in a logical cold way. It gives a fun dynamic to the way the game plays, and also plays into the choices in the game.
This same substance has also infected all the life within the game. This allows Piranha Bytes to build a world filled with fantasy style creatures and give them a real world reason for existing. From the dinosaur style monsters to trolls you will come across, ELEX has plenty to keep your on your toes as you try to complete your quest.
This brings us to combat, and while I only managed to engage in a few fights in my time with ELEX at Pax East 2017, I can say it was varied and overall fun. With an action based combat system, you will need to keep on your toes and have weapons at the ready. I managed to take down a troll with a rocket launcher, and while it may sound ridiculous, it was also very fun to try out and see what was possible. I will say with the testing of the game, the aiming felt a bit looser than I am used to from modern action games, but it does feel right at home in an RPG of this nature.
One fun, and potentially amazing, aspect of ELEX is the fact that every NPC can be killed. Yes, before you ask this could mean you could potentially cut off entire quest lines from being completed. It was not outlined to what extent the reproductions would be if this was to happen, but from the sounds of it, ELEX could be a much different experience for every person depending on what you choose to do in your personal play, though.
The mix of fantasy and science fiction give ELEX a fun look that could make it something special when it releases in 2017. The world is one I want to know more about, and the story is something I could potentially really enjoy playing through fully. The team at Piranha Bytes know how to make a compelling world, and that is on display in ELEX.