A look back to simpler times.
Nordic Games have brought ArcaniA: Gothic 4 and its expansion Fall of Setarrif to the PlayStation 3, and later in the year to PC and Xbox360, in what is essentially a “Game of the Year” edition with ArcaniA: The Complete Tale. Packing in a plentiful supply of adventure in this action/RPG package, ArcaniA: The Complete Tale may well provide gamers with their RPG fix for the Summer, but that is only providing they can overlook some pretty glaring faults and don’t mind taking a step back in time with their gaming tastes.
Action RPGs have moved on alot in recent years, and ArcaniA: The Complete Tale has failed to keep up. In fact, I would suggest that the title was dated when ArcaniA: Gothic 4 was originally released some three years ago. The game seems to have stalled at a time when NPCs had no depth, when quests consisted of only a couple of different types, and when combat needed only one or two buttons. Still, that doesn’t mean that ArcaniA: The Complete Tale is not worthy of your time, it just may be wise to lower your expectations a touch.
Once the game has finished installing, which doesn’t take an insubstantial amount of time, the player is then presented with the choice of launching into the main game, ArcaniA, or the standalone expansion, Fall of Setarrif. It makes sense to start with the main game as this will not only give the player more of a foothold in the game, but it will also give the player a character to take over to the expansion. However, should the player choose to jump straight into the expansion, a character of suitable level will be provided to give the player a fighting chance.
Playing the main game, the player is treated to a fairly generic fantasy tale of an unexpected hero, a mad King and an evil presence. King Rhobar the third, who began by simply wanting to unite the Kingdoms, now seems to have gone slightly off the rails as he and his armies continue to plunder the continent of Midland. Could it be that something evil is behind the King’s actions? Well, maybe it will come down to an unlikely shepherd in a small village far away from the fighting to work all of this out and save the world.But first, this shepherd will need some motivation.
And thus the game begins with the player taking on the role of the shepherd as he deals with the new found attention of his would-be father-in-law. This grumpy old man has demanded that the player take on three quests before being allowed to marry his daughter. Seems fair enough to me.
The quests will give the player the most basic of tutorials, although nothing more is really needed. Combat in the game is as straight forward as it could be, with one button being mashed to hit a monster with whatever melee weapon you happen to have equipped. Variety is added with the use of another button to either block or roll out of the way. It is not the deepest melee system ever devised, and most of the time combat is simply a matter of mashing the attack button, but it does what it needs to, and that is defeat the monsters in the game.
To begin with, these beasties are nothing more nefarious than a few Molerats and Goblins. But nothing would stay that simple. The game also includes ranged combat in the form of both bow and arrow/crossbow, and magic. Both of these systems work quite well, although once again lack depth, but both suffer from the less than impressive lock on feature that doesn’t work for the most part.
As the player takes on these and other quests, they will gain in experience and level up. There are no classes in ArcaniA and the player is free to assign the points they gain from leveling into a number of different skill paths, some of which don’t unlock until the player reaches a certain level. These paths will provide the player with new skills, but once again there is a lack of depth here that feels out of place with most modern RPGs.
Of the quests themselves, they are mostly satisfying but fall into only a couple of different categories. Fetch this, find that and kill these. As far as a means for progression, they do their job. They just fail to immerse the player into this big open world, feeling very much like “by the numbers” quests.
Which is a shame as this impressive world just begs to be immersed into. Visually, the game doesn’t look too bad, although the character models can be a bit scary at times and there are some glitches that make the game feel unfinished. But the environments are nice and worth exploring. There is even a very limited weather system that will provide sudden and short-lived showers every so often, to provide some more variety. It is a world that needs to be explored.
Given the amount of content contained in ArcaniA: The Complete Tale, players who can forgive the faults and relative simplicity of the gameplay will find themselves exploring for many, many hours. And when you take into consideration the budget price point for this game on PS3, it does seem to be great value for money.
But the fact is that ArcaniA: The Complete Tale is flawed in many ways, and dated in others. Gamers have come to expect more from this type of action RPG over the years, and many will find themselves disappointed with this collection. Some gamers will find entertainment here, but only as a stopgap until something better comes along.