Why weren't jetpacks perfected

Elex

That's what comes out of mixing Fallout, Gothic and Mass Effect.

Genre: RPG
Developer: Piranha Bytes
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Date: August 2017

By: Peter Bathge

There are few situations in which ordinary toilet paper passes as a valuable luxury item. After the A-Po calypse in Elex (meteor meets planet), the wipe-and-away product that was once in abundance is even worth trading as a good, making a profit if you sell it. Even more valuable? Gentle toilet paper. We found both in Elex, the new role-playing game from Gothic maker Piranha Bytes. And something else struck us when we played a full pre-release version for several hours: What seemed like a game at the time of the announcement, in which too many cooks mix too many different ingredients, has now turned into a fascinating mix of old Piranha Bytes strengths, typical Weaknesses and surprising innovations blossomed. In any case, we got a huge appetite for the finished product - and fans of German role-playing game developers should not be any different after reading this article. And if everything doesn't go well with the release in August of this year and the science fiction version of the Risen series is heavy on your stomach, Elex fortunately delivers the toilet paper directly.

Full jet ahead!
One of the best innovations that the science fiction setting brings with it is the jetpack. The hero straps this useful tool on just a few minutes after the game starts - the nameless bald man you control from the third-person perspective has just crashed with his glider over the world of Magalan. Once a powerful general, he was betrayed by his previous allies, the emotionless Albs. At the beginning a thief who ran along steals his equipment and after his fall, the former warrior is as weak as a newborn kitten. The player starts all over again at level 1 and - typically role-playing - has to accumulate power and learn new skills. It is all the more liberating that you are one of the greats, at least when it comes to freedom of movement. The reason is of course the aforementioned jetpack.

If you press the jump button twice, your hero takes off and reaches roofs, towers, walls, trees. The automatically regenerating fuel is only enough for a short boost, but it still opens up to you Elex completely new ways of getting around. Gone are the days when one in Gothic the guard in the old camp did not want to let into the castle - in Elex you just rush over the wall. When we climbed a high mountain at the beginning of the game, we see the huge game world spread out around us; a visual lure that Piranha Bytes has perfected over the past 20 years. “Oh, that lighthouse over there, it looks interesting!” We just think - and the next moment our avatar just jumps off a cliff. We brake its fall by carefully igniting the jetpack and so it floats gently to the ground like a feather. The descent towards the lighthouse only took a few seconds, on foot as in Risen we would have been on the road for minutes. It goes even faster with the teleporters, which are placed at important locations in Magalan. Select a different waypoint on the (very large) world map and - ZACK! - You are already at the other end of the continent, with no noticeable loading time. Because Elex is made of one piece, the separated islands have disappeared Risen 2 + 3.

Faction quartet
Magalan can be roughly divided into four areas: forest, desert, mountains, volcano. The first three of these landscape types are populated by just as many guilds; you join one of them in the course of the game. Berserkers, outlaws and clerics differ in terms of appearance, equipment and talent tree. You can find more information about the groups in the box on the next page. The fourth parliamentary group goes by the name of Albs; the brutal tyrants initially attack the hero on sight. You are not allowed to join them. In the course of the game, however, you can make decisions that correspond to the motives of the Albs; this should have an impact on the end of the game.

The agony of choice
More decision-making moments, more consequences - these are key terms for Piranha Bytes Elex-Development. So your quest decisions made over a playing time of several dozen hours should, among other things, influence the balance of the factions in Magalan - until at some point even the largest city in the game changes hands. In addition, Jennifer Pankratz, responsible for story and game design, is committed to more exciting and complex assignments that have more effects on the (this time more pompously staged) main story. Among other things, you will lead a murder investigation, search for a missing caravan or help an outlaw reprogram a drone. On your travels you will be joined by companions who bring their own quests and with whom you can chat in a central base. There's a real role-play party in Elex but not, just like with the Risen-Series you have a maximum of one comrade in tow, who automatically supports you in battle. You are not allowed to change his or her equipment. You will find a lot of items for your main hero.

Swords, firearms, grenades, spells: Elex offers a colorful mix of combat tools, many of which are reserved for a specific faction. The same goes for the thickest armor in the game, some of which are in Mass Effect or fallout would feel at home. However, there are also clothes that you can put on your avatar in the first third of the game if you have not yet decided on one of the three guilds. That's a good thing, because the huge world, which is freely accessible from the start, offers a bunch of missions that you can complete regardless of which faction you belong to. Depending on the speed of the game, 10 to 20 hours can pass before you actually join a group. Only then do you get access to the faction-exclusive skills such as magic, mind control (useful to “persuade” interlocutors) or the production of medicines. These talents have their own submenu in the skill overview. As with all abilities in the game, you need learning points to unlock (available when you level up), the currency Elexit (you get - among other things - by selling toilet paper) and a certain attribute value. And then you also need a teacher who will teach you the desired skill - a classic piranha byte mechanic. On the other hand, you increase the five attributes of the hero (strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence and cunning) yourself, and you get the corresponding points when you level up. Attributes and skills are often queried in dialogues, they activate special conversation options and increase the role-play feeling. It is not known whether there is a level limit, but it is known that after the end of the story campaign you can simply continue playing to complete outstanding quests, unlock all skills and also knock down the last remaining monsters.

Full pound in the mouth
Fights are also at Elex an important part of the gameplay and, as in the quasi-predecessors, it takes some time to get used to the real-time battles. The good news first: Compared to the Risen- Play work the fights of Elex More sophisticated, the controls work very well with both the mouse and keyboard as well as the gamepad. Practical: When you press a button on the connected controller, the user interface changes immediately from the long number bar for quick access to weapons and skills to a smaller selection menu tailored to the digital control pad. A new endurance mechanic gives Elex a touch of Dark Souls: Strikes with melee weapons as well as evasive roles cost strength that must first regenerate. This means you have to be more tactical than before. The fights are therefore no longer as hectic as they used to be, and the decision about victory or defeat is no longer a matter of luck. As a reminder: In Gothic 3 the player could easily defeat even the thickest chunks with a chain of quick attacks Risen 2 could not be blocked from blows from animals and monsters.

The bad news: The animations of the characters are one of the weak points of, especially in combat Elex, that's nothing new in Piranha Bytes games. The many new firearms such as shotguns or laser rifles also lack penetration power, hit feedback and recoil do not stand up to the comparison with thoroughbred third-person shooters, which is why their use is less than satisfactory. Exceptions are heavy weapons such as grenade or rocket launchers, which have devastating effects on the life bars of the targeted enemies and even eliminate entire groups of enemies in a short time. In the face of overwhelming odds, the jetpack once again proves to be extremely useful: With it you can stay in the air for a moment and let death and ruin rain down on your adversaries. But be careful: some human opponents, especially the mighty Albs, also have jetpacks and many monsters cannot simply be slaughtered defenselessly from the air, but use ranged attacks, such as spitting poison. Those who have chosen sword and shield as their weapon of choice will also benefit from the jetpack. Once at a lofty height, a click of the left mouse button triggers a fall attack. Not only does it look cool, it also causes extra damage. In the duel man against monster and electric hammer against giant paws, you alternate between light and heavy blows. If you string several hits together without interruption, you fill a combo bar at the bottom of the screen. If you have collected enough energy, you can start a powerful special strike at the push of a button.

All of this contributes to the fact that battles are more varied and interesting than in the intellectual predecessors, different levels of difficulty should optimally challenge both beginners and professionals. As complex as in The surge (see test part) it’s in Elex but not to, although a target lock is also available here in combat. The can be set to manual or automatic; just one example of the many options of Elex, from standards such as freely assignable buttons to hiding the minimap, the borders for items as well as NPCs and the entire HUD. This should please old school fans as well as the fact that quest markings and GPS systems are optional; If you want, you can only use the directions given by the conversation partner to guide you to order locations and monster locations.

1A open world
Exploring the gorgeous, life-teeming environments is also likely to be in Elex make up a large part of the motivation again. In any case, our fingers itched for the first few hours to search through all the dilapidated factory ruins and valleys populated by mutants for useful objects. In gloomy dungeons you will find audio messages and everywhere the game tells little stories that exist parallel to the main story about the Albs. Although the foresight when looking out from a mountain or tower is limited by a milky sneak, the landscape is one of the visual highlights of Elex. The fact that every visible part of the world can be reached from the start (provided you get past the powerful opponents), together with the jetpack, creates a great feeling of freedom. In addition, you are allowed to be different than in the Risen-Series climb up everywhere; by pressing the space bar, the protagonist pulls himself up on protrusions at head height, for heels further away there is a rocket drive.

However, Piranha Bytes has come up with a new obstacle for overly curious explorers: According to the post-apocalyptic scenario, some areas are radioactively contaminated. You should only venture there if you have previously raised your resistance value to a safe level with armor and other items. stalker greetings! In addition, you will occasionally come across mined areas; Attentive observers recognize the explosive stumbling blocks in good time and defuse them. Fortunately, no quick-time event is necessary for this, a mini-game is only used when hacking locked doors. However, this does not rely on quick reflexes, instead you solve equations like X> Y

Old problems, new animations
Piranha Bytes has a lot for Elex renewed, which was launched in 2001 Gothic-Formula is adapted and changed. When we visited the studio, we could literally feel the new creative energy that the change of scenario released after 17 years of unified fantasy in the team. The role play is in many ways a new start for the traditional German studio; Among other things, because a new publisher has been found in THQ Nordic. But technical, time and financial restrictions cannot be overcome that quickly, either Elex is not polished to a high gloss in detail. This is especially noticeable in the dialogue sequences, in which the characters regularly reel off the same, slightly clumsy gestures and facial expressions. In addition, the dynamic camera tends to be disoriented in such scenes, focusing on a wall instead of the person you are talking to. But that's a small price to pay for the size and freedom that it offers Elex promises, especially since the German developers compared to Risen 3 Made advances in facial animation. Sometimes a subtle smile flits across the faces of the characters. The role-playing game should also elicit such a game from science fiction lovers and fans of Piranha Bytes games when it is released this August.

PETER MEINT

"Piranha Bytes breaks out of the fantasy rut."

Whoever mixes the scenarios of Elex sees the first time, inevitably thinks: “It can't go together!” That’s how I’ve always felt since the first presentation two years ago. But when I was finally allowed to immerse myself in this unusual world, I noticed after a short time: "It works!" The different types of landscape merge organically and the opposing philosophies of the three guilds exist side by side without, for example, the more classic fantasy Berserkers faction falls out of the sci-fi framework. When it comes to world design, Piranha Bytes does not lead to anything. Except maybe that The Witcher 3-Developer of CD Projekt. But Elex To compare it to such a milestone in RPG history would be subtly unfair. Just because of the different starting situations: Around two dozen employees work at Piranha Bytes in Essen, at CD Projekt there are over 600! So I can forgive the lack of fine-tuning in animations and (still tricky) fights: Elex likely after the slightly uninspired Risen 3 finally deliver German roleplay entertainment at a high level again!