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Opinion: Elex has made a choice that many developers can learn from

I’ll start by saying this: I really like Elex.  I’d put it up there alongside my favourite games of 2017.  But, it certainly hasn’t received universal praise.  I can see why, I’m not blind.  It has more than it’s fair share of bugs (although it’s much better multiple patches in) and the story-line and dialogue is a little janky in places. But, there is one major game system decision which I think developer Piranha Bytes has got absolutely spot on.

RPGs are my favourite genre (broad as that may be.)  I love the feeling of starting from nothing and slowly growing in power throughout the game, until by the end you’re an untouchable God.  Or something like that.  But inventory management is a chore.  It’s something you put up with in order to play through a great game.  Elex solves this problem by giving you a completely unlimited inventory.  It’s liberating.  See some ammo for a gun you don’t yet have?  Why not pick it up?  New sword on the floor which may or may not be better than the one you have in your hands?  No worries!  I couldn’t escape the feeling that Elex was made a significantly more relaxing experience in the wake of not having to worry about what I was picking up.

Comments made anecdotally on many of the biggest rpg’s message boards refer to gamers with OCD who just cannot help but pick up everything they see.   Of course a significant minority of RPG players do not suffer from medically diagnosed, obsessive compulsive disorder.  This merely refers, facetiously, to the mostly unpleasant experience of going from house to house grabbing every wooden spoon, broom and plastic cup, just in case they hold some value later on in the game.  Naturally, playing like this, you quickly run out of space in your inventory.  This necessitates frequent returns to the nearest hub, often a significant distance away, to sell off what has been picked up or, even worse, keep in that particular title’s storage solution, to potentially come back to at a later date.

None of this is necessary and Elex recognises that.  In games, belief is already mostly suspended.   The Witcher 3, for example.  You’re spending your time collecting bounties for humongous, people eating, birds or nasty creatures that appear out of the fog. What does it matter if I want to carry around 76 pumpkins?

It doesn’t fit in with the game’s lore you might say, exasperatingly, in response.  You’ve got something of a point.  But CD Projekt Red already recognise that players have a problem in open world games in not being able to carry enough equipment around.  To allow you carry more you can equip your horse with saddle bags of an ever increasing size.  How big must that saddle bag (or horse for that matter) be if I can fit 5 or 6 different complete sets of armour, 11 swords, 5 crossbows as well as enough food to feed the 5 thousand?

There have been more elegant solutions over the years.  Torchlight 2’s pets which would run back to town and sell all your unwanted items is the best example I can think of.  But in lieu of having to invent a completely new system to deal with the issue, why not just let players carry around what they like and not worry about it?  Games are all about choice now right?

 

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