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Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Piranha Bytes
Release Date: Oct. 17, 2017


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Elex'

by Thomas Wilde on July 4, 2017 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

ELEX is an action RPG experience set in a brand new post-apocalyptic science fantasy universe that puts players into a huge, seamless game world full of original characters, mutated creatures, deep moral choices and powerful action.

Pre-order Elex

The last thing I saw at E3 2017 had one of the bigger surprises for me at the show. Elex was being shown off behind closed doors at THQ Nordic's meeting room, and it featured a prerecorded sequence in which its hero took on a two-legged walking battle mech with a bow and arrow. This ended exactly as one might think it would, with the hero smeared all over the pavement, and that was the surprise: The fight went exactly as one might expect.

Elex is an open-world, third-person action-RPG set on the world of Magalan, where an advanced, high-tech civilization is trying to recover in the wake of a devastating meteor impact. Worse, or possibly better, the meteor also infused the planet with a new mineral called Elex, which is an all-purpose wonder substance: It's a power source, it can create new forms of life, it empowers people who eat it with abilities that you might as well call "magic," it's a floor wax, and it's a dessert topping. The only downside is that to get its full personal benefits, you have to eat it, which also gradually strips you of all semblance of human emotion.

At the game's outset, much of Magalan is split up between several warring factions. The Berserkers of Edan are using Elex to terraform the planet back into forests, and they're choosing to see the current situation as an opportunity to get back to nature for a fresh start. The Albs, on the other hand, are deliberately mainlining all the Elex they can find, steal, or beat out of everyone else, to get rid of their messy human feelings and become creatures of pure logic. Then, over here, we have the Clerics from Ignadon, who have gone all-in on rebuilding the planet's tech, using Elex strictly as a power source and treating its consumption as a terrible sin. Finally, the Outlaws are simply out to do whatever the hell they want, free from the other groups' strictures.

Your character in all of this is a former Alb, turned into an emotionless killing machine by a diet of pure Elex, up until your glider crashes and maroons you miles away from home. Without a ready supply of Elex, your conditioning breaks, and you're free to do as you want for the first time in your life, joining or fighting the various factions as you see fit.

Elex was only available at E3 as prerecorded footage, showing an assortment of its mechanics and backgrounds. The path you take is set up to dramatically alter your character and your tactics, since every faction gives you access to different teachers, allies, weapons, and abilities. Side with the Berserkers, and you get mana-infused, elementally aligned swords and bows; go back to the Albs, and you get high-tech guns. This also affects who you get to recruit as an AI bodyguard.

Your use of Elex further changes things up, as the more of it you've consumed, the more it limits your conversational options; you can jam as much of it as you can find directly into your face and gain its combat benefits, or abstain for the sake of forming human connections. You also get to use it to fuel your jetpack, which you can use to break falls or fly short distances.

The whole world is open from the start, allowing you to explore, and offering you the opportunity to wander into an area you have no business being in. For example, the protagonist went up against hostile battle mechs with only have a longbow. I really can't get over that. They showed off their game with a video where the hero got curbstomped by a Gundam. The general theme of the game, from what I've seen, is user customization, where you have a great deal of latitude to pick and choose your weapons, skills, and path through the game.

However, Elex wasn't actually playable at the show, so most of what I got out of it was a simple proof of concept. It's a wide-ranging action-RPG with a solid technology-versus-magic/emotion-versus-logic theme, where you can fight robots with magic swords in one game and then switch save files and blow away wizards with a chaingun. It reminds me of the old tabletop RPG, TORG, which is something I don't get to say often enough.

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