Let me tell you a tale of Elea. Not only has she the power to walk at a pace a tortoise would be embarrassed by. She has abilities to only read one piece of literature indefinitely, get trapped in virtual reality and – oh yeah – sit down inside of doors! I kid you not, at one point I got to clip through and sit inside a door.
Do You Have The Time?
Now, now; Elea – Episode 1 is an early access game and we can’t expect it to be a polished aluminum ball right away. What we can expect, on the contrary, is for it not be so jagged it begins to resemble Gordon Ramsay’s face.
Going into it, I believed Elea to be just another walking-sim. All of a sudden, I find myself lining up audio to hack into a system and figuring out a rather convoluted way to get onto an escape pod. These puzzles are rather unnecessary to the plot.
I think this indie game doesn’t quite know what it is yet. At the moment, we have a strange mix of walking-sim and puzzle game. If the developers could pick one or the other, then it’d all be fantastic!
A video-game needs to have ways of making the player think about what to do; get them truly into the situation. I can deal with that. But the stuff I was shown just never truly pulled me in.
The Story…I Think!
The premise is this: a disease that affects children has left humanity ravaged. Elea’s husband, Ethan, was sent on an expedition to find a new planet. Soon, his ship goes dark. Worried, the protagonist joins a recovery mission to understand what exactly’s going on. Pretty simple right?
Not one bit. For some reason, there is also a virtual world that you find yourself in. This is a way for Elea to go over her memories, giving an Assassins Creed twist to the story. Unfortunately, it has added nothing so far. Other than to show the developers’ ability to craft beautiful futuristic cities, it is completely unnecessary.
I understand the idea of building a parallel timeline to draw from, but the main plot should benefit from it. If swimming through Elea’s past feels like going on a tangent, the entire system isn’t working.
I think the developers at Kyodai wanted to cram too much stuffing into an experience which doesn’t need it. They’re trying to craft this beautiful sci-fi setting, but it seems like they hope to wow the players by overloading us.
It Doesn’t Stop There!
Moving on, the next major bugbear is rather easy to explain. Except what I learned through dialogue, I had no idea what was happening around me. All of the screens I ran into showed the same piece of text. No matter what item I clicked on, I could only read a single short note. This is a huge issue that ruined the immersion for me.
I also can’t avoid talking about Elea’s walking speed. Based on the section of the game you’re going through, the walking speed will mysteriously change… and my lord is it skin-wrenching!
Walk into something that requires you to load the last autosave and you’ll have to trudge through the invisible tar once again. At one particular point, I found it took me between 20-30 seconds just to climb a flight of stairs.
I know, this trick may be used to bring attention to a detail of the level. Maybe the game’s highlighting the character and giving us some time to look at her. But it is just so dreadfully slow! It makes me want to stop playing!
More Bugs than A Bait Shop
Then, comes Elea – Episode I’s overall stability. Navigating this mix of plots turns out to be pretty hard. One of the worst bugs I encountered was kindly offered by the door to the captain’s quarters. I’m walking along a corridor and spot an icon that lets me sit down. Curiosity gets the better of me and I click on it.
Before I can react, I’m consumed by the door and plunged into a virtual memory of Mars. I slowly wander the platforms in an alternate world which, I must say, is very beautiful. However, there’s no exit; no way whatsoever to leave it. Anything I click on just shows the same wall of text and I find myself trapped in that virtual prison.
I think this was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. As funny as toying around was, it just highlighted the lack of polishing this game so desperately needs. I’ll chalk these problems down to lack of experience, being Elea – Episode I this studio’s first indie project.
No Reason To Get Hyped-Up?
I wouldn’t say that. By no means is this a total train wreck of a game. The title’s only going into early access now, after all. It so apparent that the people behind it have talent when it comes to crafting beautiful environments. The voice acting is also on point.
Hopefully, the team behind it will take on board some changes and seriously work out the kinks. It’s things like the walking speed; the bugs that I have mentioned. Most importantly, though you should define the scope of your idea. Find a clear and concise direction for the game so that you don’t end up going in circles.
At times, when I entered the virtual memories, It felt like I was playing two different games. I’m not saying to completely cut out that element, it’s a solid base. Simply stick to a checklist while you’re building the game. Understand what to prioritize and work on that first.
In the next episodes, Elea just needs to find a way to flow naturally. Make players happy to explore their surroundings and they’ll come in droves!