Arcania: Gothic 4 was released on Xbox 360 and PC back in 2010. It wasn’t very good. Now, three years later, it has magically reappeared on PS3, complete with previously PC exclusive DLC, Fall of Setarrif. Has it improved? Has the intervening three years given the development team time to polish this buggy, poorly written and rather ugly fantasy RPG? Well, no. In fact, despite the intervening years, the PS3 release is somehow glitchier and uglier than the already bug-filled 2010 release.
Arcania: Gothic 4 was a relatively poor game back in 2010, but since then, the industry has seen the release of the genre defining Skrim and Witcher 2, two games that make this previously poor game, look like a rather embarrassing one by current standards. I don’t like to shit on games, but with so many fantastic fantasy RPGs available, there really is no excuse to play this decidedly shoddy take on the genre.
Packed to the rafters with all the staples of the fantasy genre and a world that, on the surface at least, appears large enough to challenge the all-encompassing Skyrim, Arcania and its standalone add-on pack, Fall of Setarrif provide a vast, but ultimately shallow world filled with invisible walls and an array of glitches that will keep you from straying too far off the beaten track. What is here isn’t terrible, and it’s world is arguably its greatest strength, but in comparison to the big hitters of the genre, feels decidedly two dimensional and is once again let down by its technical deficiencies.
For those that can look past the glitches, the questionable audio and poor visuals, there is certainly plenty of content to be found between the main game and add-on, but even here, despite a collection of relatively interesting story missions, the whole experience is weighed down by a lack of imagination and an overt reliance on fetch quests. If you’re not fetching something, you’re killing something, and if you’re not doing either of those, well, you’re probably playing another game.
Yes, the usual array of equipment and collectibles does imbue the experience with a degree of addictiveness and the third person perspective does allow you to see the gains of your exploits (something I always appreciate), but sadly, any enjoyment gained from the collection of such goodies is usually offset by the rather terrible combat. It works from a purely technical perspective (just about), but it’s never what you might call fun and certainly doesn’t come anywhere near matching the genre standard and is a million miles away from the quality of combat found in the totally underrated, Dragon’s Dogma (note: play Dragon’s Dogma instead – it’s fantastic).
For all of its content, the fact of the matter is, none of it is actually very good. You can do everything you would expect from a fantasy RPG and most of it works, but none of it is especially exciting and absolutely nothing found here hasn’t been done better (usually a lot better) somewhere else. The lack of polish, new ideas and raft of technical issues would be easier to forgive if the storytelling was any good, but here, Arcania: The Complete Tale is arguably at its worst. The bland tale of revenge is forgettable, but worst of all is the writing and performances which are of almost cringe-inducing levels of awfulness throughout. You never believe that any two characters are actually conversing naturally with intonation often all over the place and faces usually blank and decidedly lifeless. The delivery is often poor, the facial animations laughable (something the whole genre is admittedly somewhat famous for) and the script itself, despite the occasionally solid chunk of dialogue, is rife with cliché and largely devoid of genuine emotion or humour.
Despite its poor visuals, shoddy voice work, forgettable combat and raft of technical issues, Arcania: The Complete Tale isn’t a complete write off when judged upon its own merits. The world is vast and the combat is usually competent. The array of collectibles also serve as the kind of dangling carrot that the story so completely fails to provide. The problem is, in light of its competition, Arcania: Gothic 4 and its expansion, Fall of Setarrif are rendered utterly pointless. There are simply too many other fantastic games in the genre, games that shine a bright light on Arcania’s extensive list of problems while leaving any of its few positives completely inconsequential by comparison. Arcania: Gothic 4 was hard to recommend in 2010. In 2013, it’s a game that I would suggest gamers actively avoid.
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