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ELEX Preview – Cyber Gothic?

There is something to be said about the comforts of formulas associated with particular developers. For instance when you’re playing a game by Piranha Bytes you pretty much know to expect a version of the Gothic franchise. Admittedly, they do more to diversify than most formulaic developers, but there’s little chance of mistaking a PB game for any other developer’s.

This year we’re getting a new one, called ELEX, and it’s going to be a fun one, judging by all the things revealed so far.

What’s the world about?

The world on which the events of ELEX will take place is called Magalan, and up until fairly recently it has been a planet whose inhabitants were developing at a pretty decent pace, overall. However, since things can rarely go well and uninterrupted, a meteor struck Magalan, threatening to throw everything way out of whack.

For better or worse, said calamity was full of a mineral with odd properties, the titular Elex. It wasn’t long before the remaining civilisation split into four different factions, with their own ideas on how Elex should be best used, and what the future of Magalan should be.

The factions

It wouldn’t be a PB game without at least three factions to join in order to proceed. Unsurprisingly, ELEX has three of those, and one additional that ditches our main character before the game even properly begins. Let’s see what they are all about.

Berserkers are ELEX’s magical faction, in a way. They use the eponymous substance to create mana for their spell-like abilities, and enchantments for their weapons. Stylistically they tend towards the ways of their forebears, eschewing technology in favour of melee weapons, living closer to nature, studying magic.

On the other end of the spectrum are the Clerics. Unlike other factions they forbid consumption of Elex in any form. Instead they use it as a power source for their wondrous machines taken straight out of science-fiction, like mechs and energy rifles.

Somewhere between the two there are the Outlaws, holding a rather unfriendly desert. They embody the “survival of the fittest” and “everyone’s out for themselves” mentalities. Their way of using Elex is distilling into stimulants, mostly. Stylistically they come the closest to Max Max-like aesthetic.

These three are the factions your character will be able to join during ELEX gameplay, but there is one more, the big antagonists in this four-way-melee.

They are called Albs, and their schtick is consuming Elex to purify and strengthen themselves. The side effects include possible horrifying mutations, painful death, and loss of emotions in the event of everything going well. Albs are the strongest and most expansion-oriented faction of Magalan, and, coincidentally, your character used to be one of their renown officers. Jolly good time to be cut off from your own people and thrown between factions you’ve worked very hard to subdue. Well done, Pyranha Bytes.

World open for exploration

Much like most PB games, Edan, the region playable in ELEX, is going to be fully explorable with barely any loading screens to distract you. From the very start you’re going to have access to all five zones of the game without much issue. Of course there may, and most certainly will be areas inaccessible until you get proper reputation with a faction, but that’s to be expected.

As a major boon in your journey, you’ll have access to a personal jetpack. We can safely assume there will be many secret areas accessible only via the handy device. And, if previous PB games are any indication, there’ll be nice rewards for scouting out every nook and cranny, be it some form of potion, some cash, or maybe an artifact-level item.

Either way, there’s very little risk of finding a cave without something interesting about it. Piranha Bytes typically takes great care to make exploration both interesting and properly rewarding, with hand-crafted and hand-placed loot. No randomly floating contraband with unique swords you have five of already.

Combat

The game’s creators boast about having one of the widest arsenal of weapons in the role-playing history. While their claims might be exaggerated, it isn’t hard to see where they are coming from. Since ELEX brings together science-fiction and fantasy, the range of murder tools consequently ranges from bows, sword and axes to plasma rifles and machine guns of many shapes and sizes.

As for the combat itself, we can expect a slow, but impactful system, capable of handling each of the possible methods of dealing with enemies. There will be managing stamina and combo for melee weapons, cycling through ammo for the ranged ones, and mana-managing for magic users. We aren’t likely to get anything like Dark Souls, but from what we’ve seen so far, ELEX’s combat will be varied and crunchy enough to be fun.

Conclusions

We’re living in a world positively overflowing with open-world action RPG-like experiences, but ELEX seems to go in its own direction. The world appears internally disjointed, but seemingly not for the sake of aesthetics alone, and well justified. Combat seems to be pretty varied, and plot-related reactivity has been teased for quite some time.

Although Piranha Bytes had some bad press with Risen 2, ELEX, launching on October 17, shapes up to be an excellent, unique game in its own right, well worth giving it a chance.

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