Thursday, 21 October 2010

Arcania: A Gothic Tale (aka Gothic IV)

Arcania: A Gothic Tale is the latest game in the Gothic series, now under the stewardship of new developer Spellbound.

If you want your Arcania: A Gothic Tale review to be short but sweet, here it is: The game looks good, but is let down by repetitive quests, some graphical glitches and poor, poor voice acting. Seriously, the dialogue often sounds terrible but you'll get to a point where you can enjoy it in an ironic way. Still, it's a pleasant enough, if incredibly generic fantasy RPG adventure. So where does our story begin?

Arcania begins with our nameless hero working as a shepherd on a little Island. Life is going quite well for our chappy, who's planning to propose to his girlfriend. Of course, if everyone lived happily ever, Arcania probably wouldn't be much of a game. So, as you can probably guess, bad things happen that means our man heads out into the world seeking revenge.

Now then, what is the best way to get revenge in an RPG fantasy? Why, it's by carrying out lots of menial tasks and goblin bashing of course! The people of Gothic IV are perhaps the laziest and most demanding people you'll ever see in an RPG. You name an item and they want it collected. Naturally, they're far too bone idle to do it for themselves so our nameless hero is sent to various forests, caves and dungeons in order to pick mushrooms, retrieve lost boxes of money, and lots of other dull tasks. Of course, any loot you find on the way is yours, which is nice. Unfortunately this doesn't make up for the somewhat repetitive nature of the quests.

Naturally you can't travel from point A to point B without any problems occurring. On your travels you'll have to beat the crap out of a familiar list of RPG enemies including Orcs, Goblins, the undead, and various types of large lizards. Combat is simple enough with left click used to swing your choice of stabbing implement - or magic spell - while right click is used to block and evade. It's simple but effective, so much so that the combat can occasionally feel too easy. This hack, slash, avoid, counter routine can therefore begin to feel repetitive. Noticing a repetitive theme here yet?

The people of Arcania: A Gothic Tale also feel rather familiar. There are two reasons for this. The first is that most of the characters confirm to usual RPG stereotypes such as Kings, mages, and plenty of common townsfolk. The second is that Arcania's population seem to share about four faces between them. A lot of important named characters share the same faces which can make understanding who they are or what role they're playing somewhat difficult! It doesn't help that the graphics occasionally glitch and you therefore find yourself talking to someone without a head.

Speaking of graphics, the game world generally looks amazing with realistic weather and lighting effects. Arcania: A Gothic Tale is a beautiful looking game - especially when you're exploring the wilderness - but is let down by noticeable issues. Shrubbery will regularly just disappear right in front of you, which is to be expected in most games. However, when an entire temple on a hill disappears then that's an issue. These glitches don't occur that regularly but it's obvious when they do.
That all said, if you can ignore the glitches, Arcania: A Gothic Tale isn't a bad RPG but it isn't a great one either. Its simple nature may put off veterans of the genre, but Arcania does provide a somewhat entertaining, if somewhat generic RPG adventure in the 16 hours or so it'll take you to finish the story.

Perhaps you could invest in Arcania: A Gothic Tale if you need an action RPG to fill the time between now and the release of Fable III on PC. That said, I can't help but compare Gothic IV to the similar - and far superior - Divinity 2: Ego Draconis. The latter offers up more goblin bashing action in a world that's less repetitive, more fun when it comes to combat, and is just as pretty.

However, if you're a die-hard dungeon crawler, or a fan of the series, then you can do worse than invest in Arcania: A Gothic Tale despite the fact it doesn't live up to its potential. Just be prepared to do a lot of quests that involve picking up fruit and vegetables. However, if those sorts of quests are your thing, then Arcania: A Gothic Tale is very much the game for you!

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

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