PAX East is a huge show with hundreds of developers and games to experience, one of the ones that caught my eye was Elex by Piranha Bytes due to its odd mix off science fiction and fantasy in a post apocalyptic open world. Following the general trend of the Fallout series Elex is focused on a pivotal character who has a special background, in this case he is a former soldier called an Alb, and his emotions are muted by a component called Elex that gives him powers no human has. The protagonist crashes on a mission far from home and the Elex starts fading from his system, this triggers emotions to start forming for the first time in his life and sets him on a path to either save the world or destroy it.
The premise is pretty cut and dry despite the fantastical trappings but what grabbed my attention was the striking world design and staggering amount of choices. Elex is a game that lets you play as you like. If you want to help everyone and be the hero you can, if you want to fight everything that moves and take everything not locked down you can do that as well. As you explore the world of Elex you will encounter NPC’s factions, towns, cities, monsters and your former Alb companions. Characters can be interacted with, factions can be joined or opposed and the towns/cities can be explored to enable quests and new information about you and the world.
In Elex the fantasy and futuristic meet in an interesting way, not only are there swords and shields, but there are also guns, lasers and jetpacks. The mêlée weapons also have a lot of options to be modified adding fire, electricity or other damage options. The jetpack which you have from the start adds a lot of depth to the game not only for mobility purposes as you do short bursts to get to places quickly, but also as combat modifiers letting you attack from above or blast down for an overhead sword slash. The combat mechanics were really intuitive with the ability to quickly switch between weapon types and powers as you engage enemies. There seems to be a great deal of depth available in the combat as you gain abilities, weapons and components necessary to upgrade them. Like other games in this genre Elex allows you to progress in an open-ended format, no pigeon holed character classes, instead you level up the skills you want to focus on by finding teachers throughout the world, enabling a truly customized character tailored to your play style.
In Elex you are assigned the main character and cannot customize his appearance but his weapons and armor can be pieced together from different sets and as you gain experience and levels in factions you can get more and more elaborate gear letting you make your character unique. I asked why the character was static and the developer let me know it is because they wanted to tell this soldiers complex story and have it be voiced in a truly elaborate way, so the choice was made to make it a static male character that they could truly explore. While I always like the chance to make a custom character I can appreciate the vision held by THQ Nordic to tell this story in a way that suited their vision best.
I had a relatively short play-through of Elex at PAX East, but that taste gave me an idea of the deep narrative, complex interactions with factions and NPC’s as well as the enjoyable combat they have built in to the game. Elex has a great art style and interesting character and monster designs that are unlike what we see in most other open world games. The developer let me know that there are hundreds of pages of scripted dialogue and a deep story awaiting players as they explore the game when it comes ot later in 2017. I have to say what I saw of Elex interested me and I am looking forward to diving into it when it comes out, will be available on PC, Xbox One and PS4 at launch.