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Elea: Epsiode 1

Posted by GG Goblin On September - 10 - 2018

In space, no one can hear you ask “what’s going on?”.

Developed by Kyodai Ltd and published by SOEDESCO, Elea: Episode 1 is the first episode in a new, episodic, sci-fi adventure game that the developers have described as “surreal”, which is available now on both Steam and Xbox One. I can confirm, it is certainly a bit strange.

elea1 (Copy)

Episodic games are always difficult to review because the enjoyment of the overall game is something that will remain hidden until all of the episodes have been released. That being said, it is the job of the first episode to set the scene and get the player excited for where the game is going. So, where is Elea going?

There is a rich, classically sci-fi story here. Players will follow the story of scientist Elea here, on a mission to find here missing husband Ethan. Of course, there is a much more global reason for her mission in that Ethan was aboard a massive spaceship, Pilgrimage, that had zipped off to colonise a newly found planet some years earlier. However, the ship has been radio silent since, and now Elea’s mission is to find out what happened. Throw in some traumatic events from the past and a global pandemic, and you have the base of what should be a rich and powerful story.

elea2 (Copy)

The game begins with Elea presumably aboard the spaceship, undergoing some kind of medical procedure. I’ll be honest, it is all a little bit vague at this point. It doesn’t take long for the player to be taken back in time however, to a point where Elea is in her home, pregnant and talking to Ethan on the phone. At this point, the player will have to navigate the house in order to eventually get into Elea’s son’s room, as he has locked himself in.

This is where the player will first be able to get to grips with the games controls. There is no tutorial as such, just a screen showing all of the controls, but the home is expansive enough, and the pace of play is slow enough, that players will be able to get to grips with things in this early area. I have to say that the visuals and imagination that create this home of the future are quite impressive. There is no shortage of things to interact with either, something that carries through much of the explorable game. It does feel like the game was perhaps originally intended for play in VR, with simple interactions such as sitting on chairs for no reason being something I would more expect to find in a VR game. But still, it can be very immersive, as long as the player can get used to the pace of the game.

elea3 (Copy)

In this early part, set in the past, Elea moves very slowly, and this is explained away as being due to her pregnancy. However, Elea never really seems to speed up. She may be a bit quicker in the later game, but not by much. Exploring the spaceship setting and interacting with anything and everything, trying to get some grip on what is actually happening in the game, it really is a slow trek that can become frustrating. Add to this on a couple of occasions where it would seem that a puzzle is beckoning, but is actually a point where the player just has to stand and wait for things to pan out, and it does feel like the game is dragging its feet, almost artificially increasing the running time.

Anyway, things quickly become a bit trippy as the player finds themselves in a room where all manner of trippy things are going on. Did I just see a whale outside the window? What is this ball floating in the middle of the room. It is times like these where things become confusing and it is unsure as to whether the player should be doing something, or just watching the strange events unfold. In this first episode, there is not a whole lot of Elea to do other than explore here environment, occasionally find things, and let the confusing narrative play out. While there is a lot to look at, there is not a huge amount the player needs to look at. It is light on gameplay, which is not necessarily a problem, but struggles to make the player realise it.

A warning is given at the beginning of the game regarding flashing lights and epilepsy, but I don’t think any warning could prepare the player for the visual explosion in the game. Some areas, the more reality based ones, are beautifully recreated and beg to be explored. However, when things get trippy and the player is accosted by flashing images, psychedelic colours and all manner of other visual anomalies, it is both breath taking and disturbing all at once.

elea4 (Copy)

Elea’s narrative, which is all important in this first episode, can be difficult to follow and understand. Some things don’t make a lot of sense at this point in the series, while other things just don’t appear to have been played out fully yet. There is a nice cliffhanger at the end of the episode, which is always a great way to get players to come back. The gameplay is very light, and the speed of Elea’s movement can be frustrating. However, with all of that said, it does feel like Elea is heading in an interesting direction. There is enough here to make me want to play the next episode, just to see what is going on. But it would have to be an improvement over Episode 1 to keep me coming back for more. Elea: Episode 1 is a bit hit or miss, but for sci-fi fans looking for a trippy walking sim, it may well be worth checking out.




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