ELEX Hands-On Impressions

European developer Piranha Bytes, known for their work on the Gothic and Risen series, are hoping to release a new massive open-world game later this year. At PAX East 2017, I was able to see a small section of the game world, but attached to it was a promise that you can go anywhere. Anything you see off in the distance is reachable, thanks to your character’s ability to use a jetpack attached to your belt. Walking by the THQ Nordic booth, ELEX initially resembled a fantasy action role-playing game, similar to the Elder Scrolls series. However, after my presentation and hands-on time with the game, I can soundly say that ELEX features elements of both fantasy and science fiction.

Typically in open-world games, your sense of freedom is limited when it comes to which non-playable characters (NPCs) you can attack or kill. Even if you are able to attack a vendor or a random guard in a town, they are typically much stronger and make it near impossible for you to actually kill them. In ELEX, you can kill anyone in the game, anyone. Dispose of someone that just happened to be a quest giver, and you’ll get all necessary quest items to progress forward without missing out on any content.

Of course, exploring a visually impressive open-world means nothing if the combat isn’t compelling enough to keep the player enthralled in a game that can take dozens of hours to complete. You’ll have both a light and heavy attack, as well as a stamina meter to ensure you aren’t constantly spamming attacks. As the game features both fantasy and science fiction elements, combat is comprised of both traditional melee weapons and futuristic guns.

Getting a feel for the world and its characters, I proceeded to head to a hunting lodge where my companions were hanging out, since none were accompanying me at the time. For kicks, I equipped my grenade launcher and went to town. Considering there was as many as five of of them and only one of me, I ended up getting killed, but it was a good showing of where Piranha Bytes is hoping to take the game. While I was told the game is content complete at this point, they are crunching down on polishing the experience over the course of the next few months with the hope to release it sometime later this year.

After getting some time to mess around with the combat, I was shown various parts of the game world, and the different factions clinging to different beliefs in the post-apocalyptic setting. While some have reverted to a more primal state, resembling Vikings, there are others that are embracing the future with state of the art mechs and other sci-fi equipment.

Piranha Bytes previous games in the Gothic and Risen series seem to have had more popularity overseas than it did here in North America. Many of these open-world games tend to have a certain amount of "jank" and while that may sound like a blanket statement, I can only speak from my experience. Based on the current build, the animations were a tad rough, and transitions and clipping issues need to be improved, but that’s all the things that the developer wants to fix upon before release. Currently, ELEX will release on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, and there are currently no plans for bringing the game to the Nintendo Switch.