Finding the Time for Real-Time Strategy: A Closer Look at Element

Element Hero image

Element is a real-time strategy game that’s set during the last moments of a solar system’s life. You’re racing to mine enough elemental resources from all the planets in order to escape. But how does Element differ from other “RTS in space” games? Developer Flightless calls it “a real-time strategy space game for people who don’t have time to play real-time strategy space games.”

It’s a common enough problem: You want all the enjoyment that comes from tactically building units, managing resources, and outmaneuvering opponents… but where to find the time? Your backlog of unplayed games certainly isn’t getting any smaller! So, Element aims to streamline the RTS experience by stripping everything back to the essentials, in an effort to let players get into the action as quickly as possible. This ethos is even reflected in the game’s aesthetics, as the game features a very clean, designed look, using flat colors and geometric shapes in a way that’s both visually pleasing and easy to read at a quick glance.

Every planet in the solar system is its own level, and as you progress through the game, you visit larger and larger planets to mine their resource. At the recent ID@Xbox showcase event, I tried my hand at the introductory planet – named B, for Boron. It’s a tiny little sphere of a planet, and it doesn’t take more than two or three seconds to rotate the camera around its entirety using the analog sticks.

Using the D-pad, I quickly navigated up and down the action menu on the left side of the screen with ease, choosing whether to build more attack units, defensive units, heal my base, or mine more resource. Each type of unit or action has up to three power levels (with each successive level requiring more energy, naturally), but that’s basically it – no specialized units, or micromanaging.

Element also does away with the fog of war, so you can build anywhere you like on the planet, right from the get-go – even directly next to the enemy base. Units all work autonomously, but you can also manually direct missiles to blow things up. It didn’t take long before things got frantic for me; in my first attempt, I only managed to stay alive for a mere five minutes before I was destroyed by the game’s A.I. I immediately hopped back in for a second go… and this time, I lasted 10 minutes. Suddenly, I’d played more RTS games in the span of 15 minutes than I had in a long while!

Element debuts on Xbox One later this year.