Your donations keep RPGWatch running!

ELEX Preview

by Joost "Myrthos" Mans, 2016-08-26

ELEX is Piranha Bytes' most recent open world RPG. The game is set on a planet similar to Earth where a meteor has crashed, wiping out most of its civilization. With the meteor a new substance came to the planet as well, named Elex. This substance integrated with everything on the planet and turned out to be a power source as well. Not only to fuel machines, but also to create powerful weapons and  tools. Next to that it can also be used as a drug, giving its consumers magical powers. Usage of the drug degenerates its users however making them become emotionless and out of touch with their humanity. We have handled much of the background in more details in our previous ELEX Gamescom article, so if you want to read more about it, go and read that, as I won't spent too much details on that in this article.

The game features four factions. The Beserkers live in the forests, are fearless fighters and convert Elex to mana. With this mana they are able to make the world around them green again, but they also use the mana as a source for magic. The Clerics live in the volcanic mountains and have over time, gathered knowledge about the available technology on their world. They do not consume Elex, but instead use it as a power source for their machines, but not their weapons. The Outlaws, live in the deserts and they are anarchists. They steal and plunder whatever they can find and convert Elex into a drug that they use. The last faction are the Albs, who live in the icy mountains and not only use Elex for weapons, but also consume it directly and have, because of that, become emotionless, machinelike even. They have however gained a lot of strength and powerful skills because of the Elex consumption.

At the start of the game you are an Alb, but you crash and were because of that a long time without Elex, up to the point where you are no longer have any Elex in you, nor have a need to consume it anymore. So you start with a clean slate and you can mold your character in whatever you want him to be. About halfway the game you have the option to join a faction and once the choice is made, you cannot change it anymore. Every faction comes with its own missions, ranks, home base, weapon types, skill trees and philosophy. However you can only choose between the first three mentioned factions and not the Albs.
Despite knowing that, I explicitly asked them if I could join the Albs. The answer was that you couldn't, but that in the end you will need to make a choice regarding the destiny of the world and what will happen with Elex. At that point in time you can make a decision that favors the Albs and perhaps not the faction you have joined.

Very early in the game you will get access to a jet-pack, which will allow you to travel in vertical direction and can also be used in combat by flying up and then crashing down with your sword on one of your opponents, which will cause much more damage than a normal blow would. There will be skills in the game that will improve your abilities using the jet-pack.  To not overpower the jet-pack too much, it has an amount of energy that will deplete when being used and it will take some time for it to reload again. If you are not on the ground when the jet-pack energy has been drained, you will crash down and loose HP or even die, depending on the height you fall from. The jet-pack is seen as an essential part in the movement of the player. They are thinking about the option to level the jet-pack up by going higher or being able to use it longer, but nothing on that has been decided yet.

Many of the things in Elex, sound familiar from their previous games. Opponents do not scale with your level, so you cannot travel just anywhere. The game support crafting, where you can craft your potions or improve your weapons with objects found in the world. When you level up you gain learning points that you can spent on a skill trainer to learn new skills. And there is a day and night cycle with the NPCs having their own routines.

The fighting system in Elex has been changed compared to their previous games. According to the presenter it is now a little bit more like Dark Souls. You have a variation of weapons to use in combat and you can use combos, based on a combo meter that is visible in the UI, giving you the option to use a special attack. Furthermore you have the dodge and evade options and finally you can also use the jet-pack. In ranged combat, you can shoot on barrels that will explode when you hit them, damaging anyone who is in the neighborhood of those barrels. The most heavy, ranged weapon is a grenade launcher, but as weapons do not have endless ammunition, you will not be able to use it all the time.
But whatever you have access to as weapons, others in the game will have access to them as well, including jet-packs.

Your actions and choices matter in the game. When you draw your weapon the people around you will react to that. When you steal or kill someone, there will be repercussions. You might need to pay money, or traders will not trade with you anymore or you could even be chased by headhunters. Your choices and actions in the game will determine what type of person you will become. Do you want to keep your humanity or are you fine with being more emotionless? The consumption of Elex will give you benefits, but comes with downsides. Somehow you will have to find your way in the world that suits you best as a player.
You could also decide to go around and kill everyone. That is entirely possible. You can even kill important NPCs, like shopkeepers and quest givers. This obviously will make it impossible to start or finish the quests they are involved in and buy or sell any goods. However the main quest cannot be broken.

There are companions in the game that you can take with you and they will reside in your own home base. Every companion has their own background story and you can build a relationship with them through your actions and conversations. If you keep on doing things that they don't like, they eventually will leave you.
You can chose up to two companions to join you or you can go alone. In some situations there are also NPCs that can join your party for a short time. At the moment only the companions that are with you, will gain XP together with you. If you have a preference for certain party members, this will result in the other party members to become useless over time as they are simply at a too low level. They are still considering if they leave it like this or that XP is also gained by companions not in your party.

ELEX is an open-world game but also an open-ended game. Once you have completed the game by finishing the main quest you can continue to play the game. You can complete the side quests you have not finished or even started yet and you will have to face the consequences of what you have done. Some will think that you have done very well and will celebrate with you, others will feel that you did not good and dislike you and might even try to kill you.  Although not mentioned by them, having an open-ended game does leave room for expansions in the future.

There is respawning in the game. Already for the reason that otherwise an open-ended game does not make much sense as there isn't much to do anymore with respect to combat, but it will also happen during the game. The same monsters will not automatically respawn at the same location. It is implemented such that a variety of monsters will respawn at different locations in the game. So, you will probably not encounter the same creature again at the same location. Their goal is to keep the game filled with enough challenges and make it more realistic.

ELEX is labeled as being a post-apocalyptic, fantasy, sci-fi game. They have been tinkering with this idea of the world for almost 9 years already, but couldn't find anyone to fund it. As developers, they like contrasts and think it is an interesting concept to realize. It has not been easy to balance these different elements in the right way, but they feel that they have found a way to do it right.

The game world is 1.5 times bigger than Gothic 3 with almost 300,000 spoken words and all dialogues voiced. There are no loading times when you travel through the world. Given the size of the world they do have implemented a fast travel system that allows you to travel instantly back and forth to known locations.

As you can continue playing the game after the main story is finished, you keep on leveling up, as at the moment there isn't a level cap in the game. They have been thinking about this, but they are not sure if it is good to add a level cap and at what level. At the moment they are still busy finishing the game and will worry about that at a later stage, together with many other balancing issues that still need to be resolved.

Elex is scheduled for release in 2017 on PC, Xbox One and PS4, which are all being developed in-house. They hope that next year at Gamescom they have finished the game or are close to having it finished, but aren't willing to commit to that just yet.

And to close things off, here is the gameplay video:

Box Art

Information about


Developer: Piranha Bytes

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Post-Apoc
Genre: Action-RPG
Combat: Real-time
Play-time: Over 60 hours
Voice-acting: Unknown

Regions & platforms
· Platform: Xbox One
· Released: 2017-10-17
· Publisher: THQ Nordic

· Platform: PS4
· Released: 2017-10-17
· Publisher: THQ Nordic

· Platform: PS4
· Released: 2017-10-17
· Publisher: THQ Nordic

More information

Other articles