Elex hits PC and console stores tomorrow, and has largely flown under the media radar in the run up to its release. It may be the dubious attitudes to Piranha Bytes previous title Risen, it may be the somewhat overshadowed release date, but most likely it’s probably down to the fact that nobody really knows what it’s about.
Let me introduce you to a science-fantasy action RPG. Whoever said that science and magic don’t mix in a narrative… may have been right. Everything about Elex just feels jarring. You have Halo and Destiny themed gunplay with Nioh / Fable / Elder Scrolls feelings. Piranha Bytes haven’t really done much to enlighten us around the way this mismatch of genres is going to work.
What We Do Know
The planet Magalan has been hit by a meteor, a meteor that has left magical Elex residue up for grabs. As different factions of the world struggle to obtain power over the fallout, Elex plays out that age-old war between science… and magic.
Planet Magalan is divided into four very different factions. There’s The Beserkers, who utilise their new-found magic to bring lush greenery and natural growth back to the desolate path of the meteor, and then there’s The Albs, who have harnessed Elex to boost their technological development. They believe the strong are the future and the weak have no place in it. The Clerics have vowed against the use of Elex for personal consumption – sitting at the heart of the meteor crash site, they’ve risen to power from beneath the dust. They take the Elex they find and plug it straight into their machines, waging war with mechs and plasma weapons. Finally, we have the Outlaws of Tavar, scavengers without any particular Magalan political affiliations aside from a firm belief in freedom for all.
It’s a lot, right, we’ll see how it plays.
Why Elex Is A Gamble
It’s strange, I’m really excited about Elex, but at the same time i’m hesitant to jump. There’s so much in this open world that I worry things will become convoluted, too widespread to fully be anywhere in particular. You’ve got technological warfare and all the play mechanics that go along with that, running alongside high fantasy themes and combat.
It’s certainly not something we’ve seen before in mainstream gaming. The product of a mid-size studio that has previously flown somewhat under the radar, Elex is a genre-bender that may be a little too flexible. I view a fantasy RPG in a completely different light to a science fiction shooter, and can’t see how those two lights will merge.
But What If They Do? Elex Could Be Amazing
If Elex does marry two genres in a seamless experience that remains focused on a tight yet open plot that explores new topics through new mechanics, then it’s something to wake up to. With an expansive open world all ready and waiting for you as soon as you launch the game and a gorgeous set of graphics to boot, Elex is visually stunning. Pair that with the complexity and depth of the proposed storyline and faction politics and the opportunity to experiment with and combine traditionally disparate genre mechanics, and there’s a serious chance to further the reputation of the mid-size studio.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice showed us that mid-size studios are back, Elex could show us that they’re here to stay. More than that, Elex has the opportunity to flip the world of video game genre and demonstrate the medium’s capacity to develop beyond traditional boundaries, to attract those opposites and create something truly original.
In an industry of cookie-cutter AAA titles, it’s up to the mid-size studios to create new experiences that appeal to the mainstream. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice began that experimentation and Elex may just have what it takes to carry the torch. As long as they’ve produced what I hope they’ve produced. Like I say, this is a gamble, and it’s a much more significant gamble for mid-size developers than we might have already considered.
Elex releases on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on October 17th 2017