Clunky controls and interface, poor dialog and voice acting, annoying camera angles, lack of diversity in quests.
When a game’s release date gets bumped back by a month or two, you typically don’t panic too much–it’s usually because the developers have a few bugs to work out or to make some last minute audio or graphical tweaks. When a game then gets bumped back a second time, you start question how it’s going to turn out. And when a game gets bumped back a third time, that’s when you signal the alarms and prepare for the worst. Thus is the case with ArcaniA – The Complete Tale.
ArcaniA, otherwise known as Gothic 4, an Xbox 360 and PC release from 2010, has been ported over to PS3 and rereleased on 360 with an expansion known as Fall of Setarrif. It’s been three years since the original version of this game was released; it received mixed, but fairly positive reviews. I’m not sure how it’s possible that in three years, Nordic Games actually managed to make the game worse.
It was hard not to go in with some skepticism. Aside from its multiple delays, I knew very little about this game. After playing it, I can’t help but feel robbed of my time. ArcaniA is impressively bad. Clunky controls, late-generation Playstation 1 graphics, laughable dialog and voice acting–this game is void of everything good. It’s pretty clear that this was scrapped together with little care for how the final product would turn out. What I’d like to know is, what was this game like before the delays? It must have been downright unplayable because this final version is riddled with so many issues in every aspect. I’m hard-pressed to envision what they went in to fix during these delays.
Let’s start with…wow, where do I start? The controls? The gameplay? The frame rate issues? I guess I’ll start with the gameplay. It’s bad. Nearly every quest in this game is nothing more than busy-work. It relies too heavily on backtracking to retrieve an item or kill a certain type of creature then returning to the person who assigned you the mission. The whole game feels like one big fetch-quest that amounts to nothing. ArcaniA‘s main quests feel like Skyrim‘s side-quests–the ones that are there to basically give you something to do, that don’t add much to the experience. There is no diversity, nothing unique that makes for stand-out moments–it’s just one long snoozefest. Hell, even the characters in the game look bored! Their dialog feels as if it’s being read to you rather than delivered to you. There’s no passion, enthusiasm, no emotion or sense of urgency. Each generic line clumsily falls out in such a dull monotone. How is the player supposed to get excited about avenging the main character’s family and friends when the main character isn’t even excited about it? Even the world itself lacks adventure. It’s not a world that I cared to live in or explore. That’s what RPGs are best at–immersing you, allowing you to lose yourself in the game. With ArcaniA, you’ll quickly be looking for the exit.
Next comes the frame rate issues. The game is consistently dipping in and out. Running, jumping, or engaging in quick combat causes severe tears. Audio is also in and out, with both dialog and music, which is another problem: the game’s soundtrack seems as if it is stuck in a minute-long loop. While exploring anywhere in the game, the music plays for a bit, stops abruptly, and then starts from the beginning. This gets real annoying real fast. Even just running around can’t be done without a stutter here and there.
I don’t know that I’ve played another game who’s combat is as bad as ArcaniA‘s. It’s slow, laggy, and just plain boring. There is little-to-no strategy involved. Every enemy I encountered was defeated by pressing square a few times. There is no challenge or excitement. Also, the camera angles during battles are extremely frustrating. I was constantly obstructed by treetops, boulders, and other environmental pieces while trying to fight. The targeting system is also frustrating. Most of the time, when I would go to lock-on to an enemy, I’d be turned in the complete opposite direction. The menus, everything from your inventory, map, and quest log, are all clunky. The interface is so cluttered and operates in the least effective way. Looking on the map is a pain-staking process that does not help you at all.
With so many other great RPGs out there, don’t waste your time with this one. This is nothing more than a super glitchy, bug-riddled port that was sloppily put together. If you’re in the mood to play a Diet Elder Scrolls game, then pick up ArcaniA – The Complete Tale.