Shortly after the flurry of E3 2021 announcements died down, Piranha Bytes and THQ Nordic came forward with the reveal of ELEX II, the sequel to the 2017 open world roleplaying game set in a post-apocalyptic world where magic and technology both have a strong place.
The game isn't too far off its release date (Steam even briefly listed it for 2021, though that was replaced with 'Coming Soon' and THQ Nordic PR said launching this year is a goal that isn't ensured yet), so we gladly took the chance to send a list of questions about ELEX II to the developers. Below you'll also find the first glimpse of ELEX II gameplay, though it is obviously just a work-in-progress build.
What are the main innovations that you've put into ELEX II?
Piranha Bytes: True flying is the new feature everyone will notice, as well as aerial combat. Something that’s not jumping straight into your eyes is the increased density of content throughout the world. Although the game world did not grow compared to ELEX, there is much more to do in ELEX II. And the third most important change was the overhaul of the combat system. The players have more direct control, it’s up to the players to decide how long they raise a sword or a club to intensify an attack – the longer you hold, the harder you hit. That makes it much more dynamic than before. We’ve also overhauled the AI of your enemies and also redone all animations.
Did you look into importing saves from the first game? If not, how will the actions made by players in ELEX matter in ELEX II?
Piranha Bytes: We have indeed looked into it, but after analyzing ELEX and the players’ behaviour, we found out that over 90 % of all players hat chosen the finale we have now made canon for ELEX II.
How much time has it been since the events of the previous game? Will any former companions come back?
Piranha Bytes: Six years have passed and Jax has chosen to live alone in the wasteland of Carakis, leaving the other factions behind. But when he returns, he will still meet a lot of familiar faces, including some of his old companions. And they are willing to follow him again. But there will also be some new ones to cooperate with.
Will it be possible to revive them/for them to revive you, and to improve their capabilities by acquiring new skills or items?
Piranha Bytes: No, but they have different ways of helping you during combat and will come with an interesting backstory and quests to experience.
Can you elaborate on the new moral system? How will "creation vs. destruction" be different from the "cold" system in ELEX and how does it play into the different factions in the game?
Piranha Bytes: Your answers will have strong consequences – and we like contrasts. Depending on how you answer, on how you play your character, the world will react towards you. And you can even alter the end of the game and the state in that you leave the world behind when the game is over.
Speaking of factions, is Jax still restricted to only joining one at a time?
Piranha Bytes: There are more factions to choose from and we will tell you more about the factions soon.
Will romances be deeper and more involved in this sequel?
Piranha Bytes: Yes! There are more characters with whom Jax can get into a romantic relationship and the storylines of these characters are also more complex, giving more room for romances.
Will choices matter more in ELEX II? How many different endings can players expect?
Piranha Bytes: The world reacts heavily to the player’s choices, even entire battles are happening or not happening because of what the player did. Some consequences will be happening directly, some much much later, spanning over different acts. The choice of the faction you join is an important part of that experience, too. As for the endings: there are many. Depending on what faction you joined, what companions you chose, how you acted within the moral system, and several other choices in the game will lead to a specific ending, telling you what your actions have meant for the fate of the world and its characters.
The official website mentions a 'massively improved control system'. Does that mean combat animations will be smoother, delivering a less clunky experience?
Piranha Bytes: 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.
Did you improve the balance? In ELEX, some of the enemies in the early portion of the game were just too strong, and some of the requirements to wield rarer items felt too high.
Piranha Bytes: Generally speaking, we have a lot of enemies who are a big threat for low-level players, so it’s important to be careful until you are strong enough – like it has been the case in Piranha Bytes games all the time. For some quests, however, we are making exemptions from this rule, most notably some companion quests. It’s up to the player when to start them – maybe in the first act, maybe even in the last act. And we neither want them to cut through these quests like Moses through the Red Sea nor we want players to be slaughtered by a rat.
Therefore, some quests will have a level range for their enemies to make them an interesting experience whenever the player decides to start them. But the feeling of a player, coming back to an enemy like a giant Mountain Troll that kicked his *** some character levels ago and now finally being able to beat it is a core experience of every Piranha Bytes game and of ELEX II as well.
Is it possible in ELEX II to fully specialize in a single combat style, for example, magic?
Piranha Bytes: Absolutely. You won’t start with any specialization, but if you are aiming to become a magic user, you should think of joining the Berserkers, for example. But as typical for Piranha Bytes games, you don’t pick your class at the very beginning of the game but you develop it as you like while you are playing.
Are there any changes/tweaks to the way Jax acquires skills? Can they be customized?
Piranha Bytes: No.
Is there a greater variety of NPCs, both in terms of visuals and abilities? Will there be more unique boss fights, too?
Piranha Bytes: Yes, the variety is greater. With the added aerial combat and the flying enemies alone, there will be plenty of new creatures and adversaries. Boss fights won’t be special staged or scripted events in closed encounters but organic parts of the open world and fit perfectly in their surroundings. Each boss encounter just happens as part of the open world experience, so you will be able to move out of the combat if you realize you can’t finish the enemy yet. You will definitely meet powerful enemies with special attacks, but ELEX II is not a Souls-like at all.
How many new weapons are in ELEX II? Were there any major changes to the existing ones players already used in the first title?
Piranha Bytes: There will be many weapons from bows to rocket launchers and axes to chainswords. There will be shields and twohanded weapons and you will even be able to use melee and ranged weapons in aerial combat.
What kind of technical improvements did you bring to your own engine?
Piranha Bytes: At the moment, we are not ready to talk about any technical details. We will use the remaining time until the release to exactly specify, what technical features each version will offer on what hardware. We are trying to put in as many features as possible while keeping good performance. But we are not certain yet, what the final results will be and we will address this topic closer to the release when we are certain.
Thank you for your time.