PAX East 2017: Hands-on with Elex from Piranha Bytes

Well, I might as well get this out in the open right from the start. Elex was my worst in show from PAX East 2016. The game ran beyond poor and the less than helpful experience at the then Nordic games booth didn’t help matters. To be perfectly honest, I completely forgot about this game, including when their PR emailed me to make an appointment this year. However, as soon as I sat down at the THQ Nordic booth to play this year’s version, my memory was instantly jarred.

Elex is an open world, third person, action-RPG with science-fantasy tones. Right there alone, this game should instantly be of interest to many gamers. Set in a post-apocalyptic universe, the inhabitants of a planet called Magalan have had their lives turned upside down by a devastating meteor strike. For those who managed to survive the crisis, there is now a race to have the planet of Magalan persevere, but under what faction’s vision. One outcome of the tragic event was the arrival of a powerful resource called Elex. This resource has the ability to “power machines, open the door to magic, or re-sculpt life into new, different forms.”

During the demo, I was thrust into an urban area where many transformed creatures roamed the streets, as well as various outlaws. Equipped with many weapons at my disposal, I could chose to either hack-n-slash my way thru creatures or use various guns or explosive devices. The developers were proud to let me know that the game will feature many primary and secondary weapons. I was able to sample some rocket launchers, blasters, traditional machine guns, and fiery swords. My preferred method of killing was to hack-n-slash my foes.

One thing you’ll notice right away in Elex is that the world looks compelling. The environments, whether out exploring or on a quest, are very detailed and leave you almost feeling how dire things truly are on Magalan. The same could be said for the various animals and creatures you encounter. I stumbled upon a larger-than-life oger-looking creature while out exploring. His towering size and audible grunts immediately put me on notice. It was not easy to take the beast down, but my arsenal of weapons did come in handy.

While Elex has come a long way in a year’s time, the ambitious nature of this game has me worried about a 2017 release. Frankly, the game, as shown at PAX East, is not ready for mass consumption. You can have the prettiest visuals and best story in the world but if the game doesn’t control right, then I believe you’re dead in the water. Our demo was listed as an alpha build and it showed in certain areas, specifically when it came to traversal and combat. We’re currently living in a gaming age where the bar has now been set so high. I fully realize that some teams have upwards of hundreds of people working on games and others don’t. I’m also cognizant that dreams shouldn’t die on the vine just because you don’t have the resources to compete. However, a game like Elex shouldn’t be released till it absolutely has had a lot more development time. I’m confident the developers feel this way too.

I want games and developers to be very successful. I never want to see a game released to a poor reception. I have no doubt that the developers at Piranha Bytes have some amazing things planned for Elex. However, I remain skeptical they can pull off such a large task. If I’m their publisher, THQ Nordic, I would reign in their creativity to a smaller portion of this game. As a gamer, I would much rather enjoy a solid, shorter experience than a longer, bogged down, uninspiring adventure.

Elex is set to be released in Q3 of 2017 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.