Piranha Bytes’ 2017 action RPG ELEX wasn’t a game without its issues, but there’s no shortage of people out there who had a great time with what it had on offer. With its upcoming sequel ELEX 2, the developer has the opportunity to expand on all of its best ideas and make necessary changes where there was room for improvement, and as such, deliver a much more engaging experience. To find out how ELEX 2 is aiming to do that and all the new things it’s bringing to the table, we recently sent across some of our questions about the game to its developers. Below, you can read our interview with creative director Björn Pankratz and game designer Jennifer Pankratz.
"The world reacts heavily to the player’s choices, even entire battles are happening or not happening because of the what the player did."
The first ELEX is definitely a bit of a cult classic, in that even though the game had some issues, there are a lot of people who enjoyed it thoroughly. With ELEX 2, what are the biggest ways you’ve looked to improve upon the first game. At the same time, what aspects of the first game did you decide to bring over as is, or with minimal changes?
The ability to fly is the new feature, everyone will notice. And the increased flying possibilities have a strong impact on the game world – as in ELEX 2 the whole world is simulated, we had to make sure, even if the players are reaching areas where they are not supposed to be (yet), the world and the people in it react to that in a believable way. Also directly tied to this feature is the aerial combat. This includes melee and range combat in the air and of course it comes with specifically designed enemies. Although this will only become available while you play and not from the very beginning, flying will become an important part of your adventures in ELEX 2.
We’ve seen that there is no need to make the world bigger than it was in ELEX but to put even more interesting stuff into it, to increase the density of content. Also, we’ve improved the pacing. There is now a well-guided central thread you can follow to experience the storyline for those players who asked for more guidance and who want to follow the main story. On the other hand, we still only offer it – the players don’t have to follow it but can still wander around Magalan and explore the world as they like. Another learning was to offer more and more detailed difficulty settings, to make all players able to play the game as they like it best. ELEX 2 will be a typical Piranha Bytes game.
Choice and consequence mechanics are clearly going to play an important role in the game, but exactly how much freedom will they offer to players? How radically will the story shift and react to these choices?
The world reacts heavily to the player’s choices, even entire battles are happening or not happening because of the what the player did. Some consequences will be happening directly, some much much later, spanning over different acts. So certain choices in one act will affect your story in another one. The choice of the faction you join is an important part of that experience, too. It works just as in ELEX – but we even improved and expanded it. It’s more complex and dense, with more consequences and bigger impacts and more surprises in different storylines. Storylines are even longer than they used to be and will have many “oh!” moments.
"We had players who played ELEX for 300 hours – and players who finished it in 30 hours. ELEX 2 has even more content now, so 60 hours is absolutely realistic."
What are the biggest improvements being made to the combat in ELEX 2?
We wanted to improve, and we reacted to the player feedback. So, we have put a lot of effort into the new combat system, to make it feel more dynamic and react directly to the players’ input. It is much more responsive now, than in ELEX. We have gone through several iterations, have made a lot of tests to bring it to the next level. One of the strengths of the combat system is the flexibility – melee or magic, range or reinforcements. You can lure any enemy into a bunch of guards around the corner or fight them from above or use quick attacks & dodge. There are always many different ways to overcome an enemy. Our goal was, to offer the players an entertaining experience and not to punish them for not reacting in exactly the right way.
What can players expect from ELEX 2’s side quests? Will they tie into the main story in significant ways?
We have more characters in the game, we have more dialogues, more quests and overall more content – but all in a game world of similar size. The players will have the feeling that there is much more to do, just because there is indeed much more to do. We’ve doubled the number of companion quests and yes, this has some impact on the main story – especially, what faction you join, what companions you choose etc. – but of course the main story arc will happen in the main story quests.
"We have put a lot of effort into the new combat system, to make it feel more dynamic and react directly to the players’ input."
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of ELEX 2 be?
That’s always a tricky question. We had players who played ELEX for 300 hours – and players who finished it in 30 hours. ELEX 2 has even more content now, so 60 hours is absolutely realistic. Of course, this depends heavily on the type of player – some people are enjoying to explore every single part of the world, some only want to follow the main story.
Do you have any plans to launch the game for the Switch?