Gothic and Risen developer Piranha Bytes is using a post-apocalyptic science fantasy setting for its newest title, ELEX, which is being published by Nordic Games. Pascal Tekaia got to take a look at the in-development title, which is planned for release on PC and consoles next year.
Of the cavalcade of RPGs Nordic Games brought to show off behind closed doors at E3, ELEX is the one most likely to appeal to fans of open-world RPGs like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. In fact, Nordic's Product Development Director Reinhard Pollice even casually compared it to Skyrim in terms of size, as he maneuvered me through the game's demo. ELEX is as much a fantasy RPG as it is sci-fi, a mash-up of the two genres. The world has gone to hell and back in the wake of a new discovery: an element dubbed ELEX. While it opened the door to many mind-boggling advances in manufacturing, technology, and beyond, ELEX also degenerates all biological material it comes in contact with, be it man, beast, or plant. As a result of subsequent events, small rag-tag groups of humans now live in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with mutated creatures and a decimated landscape that's quite literally had its vibrancy extinguished by the side effects of ELEX.
The game, coming to next-gen consoles and PC in early 2017, is all about giving the player options. Right out of the gate, Reinhard showed off the versatile combat. Leaving the periphery of the primitive village we started in, we ran along a cliffside when suddenly several mutated four-legged creatures snarlingly set upon us. Pulling out his sword, Reinhard began raining blows upon the beasts, the same as you might expect in many fantasy RPGs. Things took a turn when he activated a small, belt-attached jetpack that our character was equipped with, letting him take a mighty leap upwards and subsequently bring his sword crashing down onto the skull of the doomed attacker, felling him instantly with bonus damage from the leap. Reinhard then made it a point to slowly turn a full 360 degrees, pointing out tall mountains off in the distance, proudly explaining that using technological ELEX advancements like the jetpack, every place you can see in the game can actually be reached. When another attacker appeared, this time quite a bit further away, he made short work of him by pulling out a laser blaster and executing him from far away. It's clear that the advancements made possible by ELEX will open the game up to a wide set of possible play styles.
Freedom is also given to the player in ways to affect the world. NPCs, for example, are wholly mortal, and can be killed by the player if he or she so chooses. This is not without consequence, however. Should other townspeople see players commit an unprovoked murder, they will take action into their own hands to make them pay for it. Additionally, the person killed may well have had some impact on the game later on down the road, possibly as a quest giver. With their demise, these events can no longer happen, and the game will take some different turns. The world is made up of diverse environments, and factions living in these zones have adapted their way of life to their surroundings. In the arid desert regions, for example, a savage faction akin to that of the Mad Max movies can be found. Not all factions feel welcoming towards ELEX-enhanced outsiders, either, sporting differing belief systems that may be opposed to this destructive force of nature.
As the demo concluded, Reinhard spoke to me about some of the features I didn't get to see. Apart from technological advancements, ELEX can also be harnessed to imbue the user with superhuman abilities. In this way, a form of magic takes its place side-by-side with sci-fi tech and medieval melee combat. NPCs don't just exist in a vacuum, but follow set routines throughout the day and night. Even though the planet has been decimated by ELEX use, the ruins of former civilization still exist. This became clear when our aimless wandering led us to a forest path, surrounded by trees and hidden under their canopies. Upon closer examination, I noticed a double line of yellow running down the middle of the path. It was only then that I realized it for what it was: a paved highway of some sort, mostly obscured beneath the detritus of a forest left unchecked. This attention to detail gives me hope for what ELEX can bring when it releases on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One early 2017.