ELEX Preview: A Scientific Approach to Magic
In the history of both life and fiction, meteors are known to cause quite an apocalyptic ruckus when they collide into planets. Magalan, the planet on which ELEX takes place, is a victim of this very tragedy. In addition to social disorder, the meteor brought with it the titular, mysterious liquid dubbed “ELEX.” This liquid quickly becomes utilized as a source of power, offering the capabilities of advanced technology and magic to a now dystopian humanity.
With such a set up, the nature of the open world RPG suits this game perfectly. Each aspect of gameplay seems to reinforce a facet of the story, combing the two into an interactive narrative set in a dichotomous world. The motif of magic vs. technology gives the game a unique identity – battles often consist of powerful spells facing off against laser rifles and are a wicked sight to see. ELEX continues to establish its world with almost every character you encounter as they each have their own schedule. Some people need to be at certain places at certain times, and everyone seems like they have far more purpose than any NPC standing around acting as a stationary quest hub.
And for as big as the world is, it is not procedurally generated. Everything, everywhere has been handpicked and placed by developer Piranha Bytes, and it’s a beautifully noticeable distinction. Oh, and there’s no loading screens once the game starts, so interruptions in gameplay are few and far between.
Characters will remember you for your actions and react to you accordingly, making your reputation with what’s left of humanity actually feels important. You can kill almost anyone you happen upon and possibly alter the very narrative of your playthrough by doing so. Let your reputation go too far south with particular people and you may find yourself with a bounty on your head. Thankfully you can repair your reputation through various means, though you may have to face the consequences of your crimes.
The usage of ELEX will lead people down a path void of emotion. The cold temperature of this liquid echoes the coldness of its side effects as it intertwines with the game’s integrated karma system. Empathy and indifference take their respective places as good and evil – a nice twist on the usual preconceptions of morality that I am excited to eventually experience first-hand. Players begin the story with the main character experiencing emotions for the first time in his life. This situation presents a blank slate of a character for players to sculpt and mold with their own decisions and actions.
Combat seems fluid yet intricate, a fine combination as seen iterated in the Dark Souls series. Because of its setting, ELEX features one of the widest spectrums of weaponry that I’ve personally ever seen. Flamethrowers, harpoons, laser rifles, magic, shotguns and so much more offer various styles of combat, giving players a plethora of possible styles of gameplay. This wide range of options extends into exploration, as well, allowing players to use jet packs to bust out some wicked maneuvers on the battlefield as well as…well, a regular field. Or a mountain. If you can see it, you can get to it – a jet pack will most likely just get you there a bit easier. ELEX also integrates a system of adaptation into its world to further breathe life into the vast landscape, turning a simple travel route into an entertaining series of random happenings involving wildlife and humankind alike. Did I mention there’s no loading screens?
Companions will eventually join you on your quest and will offer their services to you as a warrior and friend. Each one has their own view of the world, and will react to your decisions along with the rest of the witnesses. Being able to see the story of each companion by growing your relationship with them is a promising reward. ELEX‘s world is certainly intriguing enough to warrant the investment. Maybe things could eventually get romantic between the two of you (hint: they can). Conversely, they will simply leave you where you stand if they loathe you enough. Various factions will make their existence known throughout your adventure, offering you a slew of new relationships to cater and potential benefits to gain.
My time at Nordic Games’ booth at E3 consisted of a hands-off (unfortunately) demo of live gameplay from a pre-alpha build accompanied by a thorough presentation of the game, but it honestly let me better appreciate ELEX for its depth in design by not distracting me with the controls. From what I saw, this game looks to harbor a very memorable experience with a world of potential worth exploring.
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