It’s crazy to think it’s already been 4-years since Piranha Bytes released the exceedingly janky, often technically dubious, but always engaging ELEX.
Sticking close to the formula they refined as far back as 2002’s Gothic 2, ELEX was a compelling, player-choice, and systems-driven RPG that had you balancing your relationship with several factions – the Berserkers, Outlaws, and Clerics – in a hybrid sci-fi/fantasy world. You took control of the unexpectedly personable Jax and needed to gain their trust, unite them, or simply defeat them outright, before tackling the overarching villain – the cold, Elex-consuming Albs and their Hybrid master that he once served.
It was not a smooth ride, with janky controls and unforgiving combat in the early hours. However, if you stuck with it, you’d find a complex RPG packed with quests you could solve in a myriad of ways. Few NPCs were “essential”, so slaughtering your way forward was almost as efficient as diplomacy. It helped that the world of Magalan, a post-apocalyptic mishmash of biomes and factions, was a joy to explore on foot or by jetpack. For those that reached the end – and tackled a specific companion’s quests – it was revealed that factional warfare was the least of Magalan’s worries.
Fast forward to 2021, THQ Nordic and Piranha Bytes revealed Jax is back in ELEX 2 by way of one of the worst trailers I’ve seen since the angsty mid-2000s when major publishers believed angry teenage boys were the largest gaming audience. A grizzled and angsty protagonist, battles against overwhelming enemy numbers, a nu-metal backing track…
All that said, I’m psyched to see where they go in the sequel. Several years after the first game, a new threat arrives from space, releasing the powers of “dark Elex” and once again threatening all life on Magalan. Players take control of Jax again, as he struggles to unite the ever distrustful factions against these new invaders.
The list of promised features is broadly similar to what was promised, and mostly delivered in 2017’s ELEX, but hopefully, we’ll see plenty of technical and mechanical refinement. There’s a world full of unique NPCs that can remember what you’ve done and react accordingly; join or leave your group depending on your actions; and can be killed, which will have an effect on the story going forward. Combat, both melee and ranged, will be more fluid with an improved control system. The jetpack now allows you to actually fly, rather than just jump and hover. The story once again promises to provide moral choices and consequences for your actions.
While I expect the small team at Piranha Bytes will once again provide a game with a ton of ambition but the limitations of a relatively modest budget, I’ve got no doubt it’ll be a more compelling RPG experience than many of its big-budget peers can provide.
ELEX II is coming soon to PC, Xbox Series S|X, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, and PlayStation 4,.