When I was asked to write a review over Arcania: The Complete Tale, my first thought was, “What’s Arcania?” Having now played the game, I can tell you I’m no further to understanding it than when I first popped its disc into my PS3. The 4th installment of the Gothic series is little more than a confusing, poorly written, graphically dumbed-down Oblivion clone. It’s not a drastically horrible game, but it’s about as average as they come. If you’re truly interested in what makes this particular game so ho-hum, read on and I’ll do my best to explain.
Arcania has many faults, but it’s main downfall is its largely uninteresting, clichéd, and poorly constructed story. The game is jarring in its introduction and takes no time to introduce its players to the mythology of the world that they’ll be playing in for the next few 15 hours or so. When you first start it up, you’ll be struck with a clobbered together mess of exposition as the game attempts to set the stage for its “epic” story. There’s something here about two kingdoms engaging in war over land or something, but I wasn’t able to grasp much because within only seconds the game abruptly shifted gears and stuck me in the shoes of the nameless protagonist.
Those gamers who’ve played their fair share of RPGs will shudder when I say that the game’s story starts proper after our no-named warrior returns from errands and discovers that his village has been burnt down by military forces. Of course, his fiancée and best friends were killed as well. So now he’s tasked with getting revenge on the marauders. As you expect, you’ll follow the main character throughout the game as strives to get vengeance for his closest friends. Along the way he’ll get pulled into political machinations and some otherworldly prophecies concerning demons, goddesses, and possessed kings.
There have been many games that have told stories such as these and still managed to entertain. This is not of those games. As said, the story told here is so poorly implemented that anyone playing will have an extremely tough time keeping anything straight. If the characters were stronger, the game may have been able to stand on its own feet, but they’re bland, bland, bland. No effort is given to characterizing any of this world’s inhabitants, and the person we spend the most time with (the protagonist) comes off as a whining bastard most of the time. His conversations with other characters are grating and stilted. They’re a chore to sit through, so I recommend bashing the “skip dialogue” button as much as possible.
Fetch quests are the name of the game when it comes to this department. I’d go so far as to say that the entire game boils down to a long line of fetching. You’ll be given a task to complete by an NPC only to encounter another NPC that requests another task of you. This chain will continually repeat itself until you’re eventually involved in a favor run for about 6 NPCs at the same time. And those are only the main quests. Sidequests here are bland as well; characters will inevitably ask you to fetch “one more item” or kill “a group of monsters.” Creativity this is not.
For anyone who’s played Oblivion, the battle system is pretty much a clone. There’s a regenerating endurance, health, and magic bar. Spells, armor, and potions can be linked to hotkeys, and you can customize your character as he levels up. If there’s one aspect of this game that’s enjoyable, it’s this system. But it’s already been used by games before it, so no points for originality.
The map system is useful, as you can place markers to help guide you toward your next destination, and there’s a helpful bestiary of the numerous grotesque monsters you’ll come across throughout your journey. You can save, load, and switch the combat difficulty at any time.
Unfortunately, the game suffers graphically as well. Pop-ups and uneven textures make their presence known regularly. As the game progresses, flaws are less and less noticeable, however.
The cinematics are impressive, but they’re plagued by a jilting frame rate that rears its head every now and then. At least they’re pretty to look at, even if they aren’t implemented into the narrative in a constructive manner.
I was hoping Arcania might be one of those cult classic-diamond-in-the-rough type of games. It’s not. Even with the additional DLC (The Fall of Setarrif) the story it tells never manages to be even close to interesting. Its steady influx of fetch quests doesn’t help to lift it out of its mediocricity. Skip it.