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Piranha Bytes' upcoming sci-fi/post-apocalyptic action-RPG with a dash of fantasy, ELEX, has been the subject of a few previews these past few days thanks to its E3 presence. We've rounded up the ones we could find to offer you an overview of its current state.
The game, coming to next-gen consoles and PC in early 2017, is all about giving the player options. Right out of the gate, Reinhard showed off the versatile combat. Leaving the periphery of the primitive village we started in, we ran along a cliffside when suddenly several mutated four-legged creatures snarlingly set upon us. Pulling out his sword, Reinhard began raining blows upon the beasts, the same as you might expect in many fantasy RPGs. Things took a turn when he activated a small, belt-attached jetpack that our character was equipped with, letting him take a mighty leap upwards and subsequently bring his sword crashing down onto the skull of the doomed attacker, felling him instantly with bonus damage from the leap. Reinhard then made it a point to slowly turn a full 360 degrees, pointing out tall mountains off in the distance, proudly explaining that using technological ELEX advancements like the jetpack, every place you can see in the game can actually be reached. When another attacker appeared, this time quite a bit further away, he made short work of him by pulling out a laser blaster and executing him from far away. It's clear that the advancements made possible by ELEX will open the game up to a wide set of possible play styles.
The story of ELEX goes that at some point in the future, an asteroid collides with Earth causing massive and catastrophic loss of life. However, this celestial body introduces a new element to our world: ELEX. ELEX is a substance that can power advanced technologies (like a jet pack), and also bestow magic upon those who consume it. ELEX users gain power at the expense of their emotions, leading some unscrupulous factions to amass the substance by any means necessary, including extracting it from other people. In fact, the game's protagonist is one such villain, who, betrayed and sapped of his power, feels his humanity for the first time in his life and must claw his way back to seek revenge.
There are numerous factions on the planet, each with a different attitude towards Elex. You play as a character that been consuming Elex for many years as part of the Alb tribe, who believe that the substance is key to further human evolution. Other factions have differing attitudes – some reject using Elex at all, while others are merely neutral. After an accident, you suddenly find yourself far from home, surrounded by foes and without access to any Elex - you suddenly begin to experience emotions for the first time in your life.
Our demo for Elex offered an early look at this open world action RPG. The game world is said to be quite large and without any loading times, even when entering buildings. Players will be able to go anywhere they see, and that's helped by the fact that you get a jetpack right at the start – a rather handy tool to bypass any tricky terrain as well as potentially get a drop on enemies in combat. The developers note that giving players such a powerful traversal tool means they must ensure all areas of the world are fully designed as players will undoubtedly find a way to get up there. There's a full day and night cycle, unique faction skill trees, a companion system, a home base to build, crafting, cooking, hacking, and so on. The design sounds very, very ambitious and hopefully the developers will be able to pull it off. Comparisons to Skyrim and the Witcher were made as the sources of inspiration for Elex.
In the demonstration, the rep stole a cup to show how your choices affect you, which happened to be a forbidden item. As a result, the entire town lined up outside to kill him. As he fled through the village, people literally dropped what they were carrying to pull out their swords and fight him. We all laughed, including the company rep. He had to escape by jumping off a cliff and using his jetpack to safely land. The villagers did not act like lemmings and follow him off the cliff.
I left the presentation completely intrigued by the setting but puzzled by the choice of giving the player access to a jetpack. Don’t get me wrong, jetpacks are awesome and the idea of being able to go anywhere has great appeal. Yet it also removes major components from the game. Exploration may become too easy and it will be tough for the designers to set up obstacles that prevent you from entering specific regions. Checkposts between faction borders would become meaningless, a strong enemy at the foot of a mountain will no longer deter you from getting to the top. The difficulty level of enemies in these areas will of course influence whether you’ll survive there for very long, but it is still difficult to gauge how the Jetpack will work out. That said, Piranha Bytes has a solid track record for designing interesting, immersive worlds and they may well have some tricks up their sleeves to keep exploration interesting.