“Each level drops you into a single screen arena with enemies pouring in from multiple entry points. You must use the correct element to defeat them, or you will find yourself overwhelmed and unable to continue on your journey.”
I made The Elementalist as a side project during my A Levels, as one of many side projects at the time. The idea of an action game which involved using elements to counter each other had been in my head for a long time already, but I always over-scoped the project, trying to make massive Metroidvanias or RPGs when that was far outside of my abilities as a 16-year-old.
Realising my limitations, I scaled the idea back to a series of single-screen arenas where the player fights hordes of enemies, inspired by Super Crate Box. I also saw the opportunity to try to do some more writing, something which I only had a little experience in at the time, but interspersing cutscenes between these rooms.
As I wasn’t really creating this game “for” anything, other than myself, I didn’t put too much thought into the design, instead just mimicking games which I knew I liked and enjoyed or were popular. Since then, I’ve become a lot more critical, and looking back on The Elementalist, can see a lot of shortcomings, especially when it comes to the narrative. It was largely unstructured, with very strange pacing considering the game’s short length.
Although I tried to create a narrative where the player character, Vos, restores the Kingdom of Reprobi by destroying the Armies of Darkness there, the player never really got a sense for what Reprobi or its inhabitants were like. Compared with a game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, with a similar narrative objective, Vos only meets a handful of Reprobrians, whereas Link can talk to hundreds of Hylians, creating a greater sense of attachment to the world.
Still, I was fortunate enough to be a finalist in the 2018 BAFTA YGD competition for The Elementalist, among many other excellent games.
My work on The Elementalist can be contrasted with my work on Queen Dick; years later, I have learned all the elements of narrative structure, of character development, of thematic cohesion, and so forth, which I was lacking when making The Elementalist.