We made our way to THQ Nordic for some up close and personal time with Elex, the upcoming open world RPG from Piranha Bytes that blends sci-fi and fantasy. We saw Elex in person last year at E3 and Gamescom and can safely say that the game has come a long way over the months.
The game is a fully open world without load screens and without pausing, with menus that appear fluidly in game creating a very locked in feeling. The graphics look great and are the area where the game has made the most improvements in. The world is beautifully designed with several different biomes all tinged by the unique nature of the factions. The map is massive and populated with towns and cities, all of which are full of NPCs and you get around on foot and via jetpack, exploring the verticality of the world. You can tell there is going to be a lot to get into and you’ll be free to tackle it as you desire.
You will choose from 1 of 3 factions, all of which are battling over a scarce and powerful resource called Elex, which arrived on Magalan with a meteorite that ironically destroyed most of the world. You can set out with companions from within these factions. These companions have their own relationships that you can develop for better or worse. If you do enough that turns them off, they may abandon you. Turn them on? Romance is certainly in the cards.
Choices are definite and permanent, and this adds replayability based on the faction you choose and the decisions you make during quests. You can kill almost anyone and the game reacts, adjusting quest objectives but not canceling. That kind of freedom doesn’t exist in many games and the fact that the game adapts is impressive. It will be interesting to see how it all holds together with your rogue players who are want to kill quickly or lure a monster into a village and let it wreak havoc while you watch the world burn. The main story will always be able to be progressed, however.
Weapons and gear have stat requirements which adds an importance to your build and makes you pay attention to your stats and plan a build. Min maxers and fans of games like Dark Souls will appreciate this touch as they design their characters around their favorite items. Weapons can be upgraded via crafting, and the faction you choose will determine your available paths and status effect options.
The enemy variety is another welcome feature, as the enemies don’t come off as reskinned baddies. The trolls look like trolls of lore, and there is a hefty assortment of all of your archetypes from sci-fi and fantasy worlds. Taking them on in combat, lets the game’s focus on rewarding smart play instead of button mashing come through.
Ultimately the game’s freedom is where it shines. You can go anywhere and do anything and aren’t gated to the main quest. This is going to be a huge selling point for this game. According to Piranha Bytes, you may opt to undertake the main questline right away or spend dozens of hours just exploring all of the side activities and landscape the game has to over. Coupled with the flexibility of the questlines where you can kill NPCs without necessarily breaking the progression, results in an ambitious project that should entice players with control issues.
There are a few UI idiosyncracies that could be addressed, such as moving the stamina bar up to the top and possibly reworking the jetpack gauge which break the immersion. A few small changes to these mechanics can add even more to the always-in-the-game development principle.
Elex was impressive to see in person and wowed us with the level of thought being applied to your freedom of choice, but also the depth of consideration given to stats, weapons and gear and how they all interact. It’s been awhile since we’ve been treated to an open world RPG that truely let you go anywhere and do anything at your own pace, and Elex may fill that void quite nicely when it releases October 17th for the PS4, Xbox One and PC.
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