Now I may be being somewhat of a traditionalist here, but I like my games to have some semblance of sense, or at least something relating to the actual game, in the title. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to rename Halo: Reach ‘Big-hairy-ball-sweat-slurping-twats-constantly-defecating-into-your-ears: Reach’, but giving an indication of what’s involved in the game in its title is something that low-grade western RPGs particularly seem really bad at. Oblivion managed it; you’re trying to prevent a bunch of soon-to-be dismembered mages from opening the gates to… a realm called Oblivion. There you go, wasn’t hard. Mass Effect manages it reasonably well; the mass effect thingy that runs the transport wotsit is pretty integral to the plot… probably. Again, not hard.
No, it’s when you get down to the strata of RPG that Arcania: Gothic 4 sits on that you start losing all semblance of coherence from a game. It’s the kind of low-grade port from the PC that, frankly, no-one cares about, that seemingly gives the developers a reason to skip all the bits that they don’t want to do. Their job on Arcadia Gothic 4, I imagine, was somewhat like going to a school where the dinner lady only ever gave you what you wanted, namely cheesy chips. She let the cabbage and tapioca pudding slide… every single day. What you wind up with is a very happy, fat dev team that have only worked on the bits they wanted to. Then the dev team get home and their collective mummys are just as lenient. “Awww, mummy, do I have to craft reasonable dialogue tonight? Can’t I just watch Pokemon?”, “Oh, all right darling, no-one will mind if the lead character talks like a moron.”
Trouble is – mummy – that people do mind. When your little boy leaves home and goes to work in a German development studio, because of lackadaisical parenting and a well-meaning, but ultimately counter-productive school dinner regime, I get to play a shitty game like Arcania: Gothic 4.
There are two major problem areas in Arachnid: Giblets 4, namely development ones and porting ones. The development ones may be more interesting, in that they give rise to some kind of argument, or discourse, if you will, on the various merits of the game versus others in the genre; some of the worst games I’ve ever played have had good ideas to offer at least a touch of balance to an argument. The trouble is that the porting issues render every subsequent point or counter point irrelevant. This is an unplayable game, mostly due to the fact that playing for more than a couple of hours makes you feel like you’ve had your eyeballs ripped out through your anus, deep fried, then stamped on by everyone you love. So, with that thought, I’m just going to spend the next few hundred words wailing on it, if you don’t mind.
To clarify the reason for my frothy-mouthed assault on Angry: Goebbels 4, I don’t know what the PC version was like, but I imagine it didn’t have quite so many issues with the visuals. A combination of environments that look like they’ve been exclusively made from razor blades, Mr Blobby seemingly in control of the camera and a frame rate that makes Michael J. Fox look like a steady-handed surgeon from Steady-Hand Hospital, Steady Town, doesn’t make for a pleasant experience. I adjusted everything possible on my TV and desperately searched for the ‘make my games look not-shit’ button, and nothing eased the pounding headache and nausea-inducing nonsense that happened on the screen. The game seems okay if you’re not in any kind of populated area, but seeing as it’s reasonably well populated, and every damn animal, vegetable or mineral on the planet seems to wants to wear your lower intestines as a bonnet, there aren’t too many places where this isn’t an issue.
Then of course, there’s the derivative nature of the game. You get crafting (like Warcraft, but crappier), spells (like Oblivion, but crappier) and a large variety of the most standard baddies in videogames. “Oooh, look, giant moles, I wonder if I’ll have to kill them a thousand times for some inane quest.” No-one seems to have made the slightest effort to make anything even a touch different. There are fetch quests aplenty, so if you’re into going to get stuff, then you’re in luck, and an insane amount of crap to pick up. The whole world is just one giant flea market, spread out over a couple of continents. The only reason for half the houses is as a convenient place to store boxes in readiness for your arrival, like some one-man plundering army.
Then there’s the combat. If it weren’t for the shocking port, I would have a few positive things to say about this. The system, in and of itself, is genuinely slick, and it’s easy (if a little slow) to swap between ranged, magical and melee attacks. Even the support items and healing kits are easily accessible, but as the lone, unstoppable kleptomaniac psychopath that you inevitably turn out to be, combat feels like a troublesome diversion from the real meat of the game – getting every bit of stuff you can get your hands on.
Marcus: Trescothick 4 is point blank unplayable, and made worse by the fact that the reasons for this unplayability sneak up on you like malevolent dormice with rabies – it’s hardly noticeable to start with, but once the bad shit kicks in, you’ll be weeping into your pillow begging for mummy to make the pain go away.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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