by Preston Dozsa
previewed on PC
Science fiction and fantasy collide
ELEX was the first game I saw at this year’s E3, yet it immediately made an impression upon my mind. Developed by Piranha Bytes, the studio behind the Gothic and Risen series, ELEX is an open-world RPG where science-fiction and fantasy collide. Swords and magic exist alongside guns and robots, a combination that set ELEX apart from many of the other RPGs I saw on the show floor. That, and how readily apparent it was that the game was still far from release.
Set in a world where a meteor destroyed much of civilization, various factions and groups fight for control over a new element that gives the game its name, Elex. The world itself is vast, with different terrains and locations that seemed to go on and on without end. Destroyed cityscapes, regrown forests and snowy mountains littered with military bases are just a few of the locations I saw in my time with the game.
What makes the world, and the prospect of exploring it, more enticing to me is the addition of a jetpack. You can use it to slow down your descent when you jump off a cliff, or jump on top of ruins to see what secrets lay on top of them. This also means that the world has a large amount of verticality, which sets it apart from similar games in the genre. Out of all the things I saw in the demo, the world itself was the highlight.
Similar to Risen and Gothic
For those who have played Risen or Gothic, gameplay in ELEX is similar. You travel around the world in third-person, completing quests, fighting enemies with the weapon of your choice and making multiple moral choices. While the weapons and abilities you have at your disposal may be different, the overall gameplay is similar to those aforementioned titles. A trio of factions are also present, each with their own unique take on the world around you, though I was not able to see them in action during the demo.
ELEX also boasts a world filled with NPCs that will autonomously live their own lives and follow their own patterns regardless of your involvement. People and towns have a memory as well, so they will recall your attempted theft of their positions and may blacklist you from the area or attack you on sight should you commit a crime or return to the scene of one. Nothing that is especially unique to ELEX, but I’m glad it is present nonetheless.
It was in trying out the combat and gameplay systems by myself that the game’s issues became readily apparent. Notably, the stamina system that dictates how many actions you can perform before you need to take a break in combat feels off, seeming as though it was decreasing too quickly for the small amount of attacks I executed. Attacks themselves feel weak and lack impact, as I felt that I was doing nothing to enemies despite the damage to their health bar. Animations felt janky, and there were several times where my attempts to attack an enemy instead made me stand on top of their heads. It was a hilarious sight, but a sign that the combat in ELEX still needs plenty of work.
Plenty of work needed
That’s my biggest takeaway from ELEX - it needs plenty of work. The foundation is present, and while much of it is not particularly ground breaking, it is strong. The world is fantastic, though texture pop-in was frequently present. Combat could be dull and uninspiring if left as is, though I have confidence that the developers will improve upon it over the coming months. And of course, there is the usual host of bugs, animation problems, audio issues and framerate drops that are to be expected from a title that is still in development. Issues like this plagued Piranha Bytes’ previous games, though with few exceptions, those games were still enjoyable to play. I can only hope that the same turns out to be true for ELEX.
Without a doubt, ELEX was the roughest game I saw at E3. It is also one of the most promising. The developers are aiming for a 2017 release, and with plenty of polish, ELEX might just be an RPG worthy of your time.