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Elex, from the makers of Gothic and Risen, might be a disaster

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What even is this game?

Elex’s newest CGI trailer.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for the team at Piranha Bytes. While I skipped the Risen series, Gothic and Gothic 2 remain some of my most formative gaming memories. But with its next title, Elex, the studio’s reach may be at risk of exceeding its grasp.

Or, this high-concept game could just demo poorly. I’ve seen it twice now, and I still can’t make heads or tails of it.

Elex is billed as a high-fantasy, open-world role-playing game mashed up with a post-apocalyptic science fiction game. Imagine The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim with Dead Space 2 and Mad Max bolted onto it. In motion, it’s a bizarrely jarring gameplay experience for a demo. A few weeks ago, during an exclusive E3 preview event in Los Angeles, I opened up four different save files to putter around with. Each one looked and played like a completely different game.

Moving clockwise from the upper left, allow me to introduce you first to the Outlaws of Tavar, a godless clan of scavengers. Next up are the Clerics of Ignadon, who live in volcanoes and fight with mechs and plasma weapons. Next up are the Albs of Xacor, a super-strong faction who believe in ritualistic sacrifice. Finally, we have the Berserkers of Edan, a group of tree-hugging magic users.

These four groups all populate the planet of Magalan, which has been nearly destroyed by a meteor impact. That meteor also brought with it a substance called Elex, which has become the planet’s source of power. Each faction has its own political and religious beliefs, its own weapons and armor and its own distinct sections of the massive game world. How the player interacts with them is, supposedly, entirely up to them.

But it could just as easily be a series of fetch quests. I have no idea.

So far, the game demos I’ve experienced have proven to be very uneven. There have been crashes and glitches, including a pretty distracting one related to breast physics. The difficulty curve is also all over the place. One minute I’m sniping critters left and right with a bow and arrow, the next I’m being smashed to death by a swamp troll.

Bugs aside, the voice acting and the animation of the non-player characters is painfully bad. Likewise, the dialogue system appears to be paper thin. In the few conversations I’ve had, it felt like there was little choice offered. I could kill the cat, rescue the cat or ignore the owner of the cat entirely.

With this much ... stuff going on in the lore of the game, I’m hoping for a surprise as Elex finishes up its development. But, to be completely frank, this feels like too much game for Piranha Bytes to pull off. It’s interesting, but my experience so far has not filled me with confidence.

Elex announced a launch date of October 17 today on its YouTube channel. It’s headed to PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.