ArcaniA – Gothic 4
Posted 2 years ago By kingquagmire - David Collins
You ever get the feeling that a game arrived just a bit too late to the party or maybe was a bit ahead of its time? That does happen every now and then and Arcania: Gothic 4 is one such example. While the experience isn’t really a bad one per say, it will make you feel like you fired up your console circa 2006.
First, the disclaimer. This review is solely based on the Xbox 360 console version. I’ve seen various reports that the visuals on Windows are better than what I’ll be noting in this review. While I can’t attest to that first hand, I don’t doubt it simply because the Gothic franchise has its root firmly planted in the PC gaming space.
For those who are not well versed in their PC gaming lore, the Gothic series began almost 10 years ago following the adventures of the Nameless Hero and his subsequent escape from prison as he ultimately faces off with the beast known as The Sleeper. The first game was generally well received by critics but the sequels that followed were met with a more mixed reception. Jumping ahead to today, it’s now been four years since Gothic III first graced monitors in North America and with this latest entry, the franchise will make its first leap into home console market.
Arcania brings back the Nameless Hero in a revenge tale we’ve all experienced time and again throughout the echelons gaming history. The journey begins with a new hero in a coastal town on a tiny island. After completing the requisite infant tasks to get the player acclimated with the controls, our hero - along with his betrothed - prepare to embark on a journey off the island and on to a bigger and better life. After completing one final bit of business, he returns to find the village - along with everyone within, including his bride-to-be - has been destroyed by the maddened King Rhobar III (the Nameless One from the previous Gothic games).
Since the hero - with his home and loved ones left in ruins - has nothing left, he ventures to the island of Argaan in search of vengeance against the imbalanced King. There’s a bit more to it than that but ultimately, the focus is not centered on the story. Oh don’t misunderstand, it does try and I’m not going to kill it simply because the effort is there. However, there’s a lot of localization and minor technical issues that kept pulling me out of the story. So much so that I eventually just stopped caring.
For example, one of the key delivery methods to the player is the dialog. Yet the issues pop up right from the outset. The player is given the script via both written text boxes and voice acting. But if anyone is following along, they will quickly find that the two don’t match. Not a huge deal as the gist of the conversation is there. Unfortunately, the issues don’t stop there since the voice acting itself is disjointed with every interaction. The tone of the lines as they are delivered carry subtle changes that don’t match the conversation. Many times a light hearted bout of dialog would be taking place and one of the participants would shift their tone, going from happy to angry sounding and back within three sentences. Add in the fairly static character models (there’s nothing like having a heated conversation with someone who’s perpetually smiling) and it won’t take long for you to skip most of the dialog altogether.
That saddened me a bit as this is an Action RPG. Though I soon realized as I moved deeper into the game that the emphasis is more on the Action is less on the RPG anyway. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it RPG-lite, but the opportunities for role-play and character skill development are fairly minimal. There are several skill bars that represent different facets of the character, from melee to ranged to stealth and magic. The player nets three skill points each time they gain a level and in total there are nine paths that one can invest said points into. Regardless, specializing still boils down to the three forms of combat and I think I found more value in attaining better equipment than I did bumping my stats.
The mission structure won’t help things none either as it’s all nothing but fetch of kill quests. Go kill Big Bad Guy A or go talk to Nice Guy B or find healing nuts for Bonnet-Wearing Lady. It’s all uninspired and by the numbers. At the same time, it is a means to an end as there will be tons of enemies to wage battle with, which seems to be the true focus of the game: Fight and get loot. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the level design. Where the questing side left a lot to be desired, the locals cover beach-side fishing villages, forest hamlets, mountainous castles and a ton of caves; all of which are nicely laid out.
There is a crafting system in place that works fairly well. Nothing can be be put together until the requisite recipe has been learned - a wide variety of which will be acquired during your journey. Once that’s been accomplished, creating the item is a simple button press as long as you have the correct ingredients. Everything from potions to weapons and armor can be crafted and some of the items you’ll piece together can be quite valuable.
Loot. That’s pretty much the gist of the game. While I abandoned the story early on, the action-centric nature of the rest of the experience was further heightened by the mounds of loot that I collected during my travels across Argaan. Items, weapons, armor, crafting ingredients, and more littered the land, be it sitting on someone’s shelf or confiscated off a recently deceased foe. There are tons of things that can be found ranging from the mundane set of pliers to an uber-magical set of armor. Off course that’s a double-edged sword too. Lots of goodies will be acquired by walking around and looting other people’s property. I don’t want to knock Arcania for not having a morality system, but after playing so many games over the years that penalize you for robbing the citizens blind, the lack of an in-game moral compass ends up adding to the dated feel of the overall experience.
The visuals provide a bit of a distraction, both good and bad. They do look nice, although they certainly won’t sit side-by-side some of the other eye-candy we’ve had hit the market over the last few years. The draw mechanics seem to have some trouble though, as once you get close to some of the foliage, the leaves and other trimmings disappear, as if some pixel-hungry ShopVac is sucking them away. That in itself can be a bit disconcerting but the framerates also struggled throughout the entire game. Regardless of where I was or what was on the screen, there was a discernible jerkiness to the whole thing. It wasn’t bad enough to make the game unplayable by any stretch, but once again it did drive home the dated feel of the game.
Arcania isn’t a bad game. It just feels like it should have come out a few years ago. An overused story that’s poorly delivered, some technical difficulties and a decisive lack of RPG staples make this a lot more of an action game made for the 2006 crowd. Fortunately, the combat is solid and in games like this, that’s usually not the case. Overall, Gothic 4 won’t stand out on any scale, but it does hold it’s own int he middle of the pack. You won’t pick this up before grabbing Dragon Age, but if you’ve already moved past the RPGs released over the last few years, Gothic 4 is an easy going and serviceable runner up.
+ Lots of loot
+ Level design is well done
- RPG side is minimal
- Visuals are a mixed bag
- Repetitive and insipid mission structure
1 week ago :: Injustice: Gods Among Us
1 week ago :: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14
2 weeks ago :: BioShock Infinite
4 weeks ago :: Gears of War Judgment
1 month ago :: (Kinect) The Hip Hop Dance Experience
1 month ago :: Tomb Raider
1 month ago :: Crysis 3
2 months ago :: DmC Devil May Cry
2 months ago :: (XBLA) Serious Sam Double D XXL
Download us here!
Game Junkies podcast and audio interviews
Release Date : Q4 2010
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Dreamcatcher
Developer : Spellbound
Category : Action-RPG
ESRB : T
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10