Ok, so before you all grab your pitchforks and start sending me hate mail let me be clear and say this: I really liked The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It’s a really good game with deep, fascinating lore, interesting characters and jaw-dropping graphics. However, for the reasons I’m about to outline, I absolutely loved Arcania.
Arcania, which is also known as Arcania: Gothic 4, is a budget Western RPG which released on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 about five years ago. On the whole critics didn’t really dig it and many fans were disappointed. Many believed it to be a lacklustre sequel to the beloved Gothic series and many fans blamed this on the new, much smaller developer Spellbound Entertainment taking the reigns. I know that mechanically and technically The Witcher 3 is a newer, superior game. That’s something I want to make really clear. The Witcher 3 also had way more people working on it, most probably a longer development cycle and a ton more money put into it.
About a week before The Witcher 3 came out a “remastered” version of ArcaniA: The Complete Tale popped up on the PS Store for PS4. It boasted an improved framerate, draw distance and resolution. I was so excited to play The Witcher 3 I contemplated whetting my RPG appetite with Arcania. I’d heard of Arcania. I had seen some gameplay videos when it had come out 5 years ago and I had liked the look of it. But honestly back then my PC was garbage and struggled running 1994’s The Horde (another awesome game but I digress). As a result I unfortunately missed out. So, despite reading mostly negative to middling reviews of Arcania I took the plunge on PS4. Wow – I was amazed. What a wonderful and charming RPG.
Arcania has a lovely, classical fantasy RPG art-style. Sure, it’s aged a little over the years but there are still moments in the game where I had to stop and take in the delightful view. The draw distance is super impressive, it runs at a solid 60 fps and there are neat flourishes here and there that are pretty remarkable. For example, when it’s raining the NPCs react and find shelter and nearly every weapon in the game has a slightly different moveset. Also you can pick up everything you find and don’t need to stress about ever getting over-encumbered(a la Dark Souls) which is kind’ve a relief to be honest. But above all else it’s a small, budget game that has a bucket-load of heart. And I love it.
Here are my top 5 reasons why I believe Arcania is a better game than The Witcher 3:
1.) I know what the hell is going on in the story
The story and world within The Witcher 3, for better or for worse, is incredibly dense. To me, it’s intimidatingly dense. Arcania, on the other hand is a relatively straightforward good vs bad setup that I can buy into easily and comprehend without looking up a wiki. And there’s also one other thing about the Witcher 3’s story that put me off. Why the heck is everyone so serious and po-faced? Like. All. The. Time. Geralt has got a serious stick up his butt and in my 50 hour playtime I can’t remember ever seeing him smile. Like, not even once. Arcania, however, consistently made me smile. Ok, maybe it was mostly unintentional but sometimes those moments of unintentional humour are arguably better than the scripted deliberate attempts at humour from big budget games in my humble opinion.
2.) The UI is way easier to use
I can’t remember how many times Geralt walked passed something I was trying to pick up. Infuriating. I get the feeling it was because the game was designed for a mouse and keyboard primarily but so was Arcania and I never once had an issue with picking stuff up in that game. Oh and don’t get me started on The Witcher 3’s inventory system. I found it harder to understand than Demon’s Souls and that game deliberately makes it hard for the player to understand.
3.) The music in Arcania is legitimately one of the most awesome scores I’ve heard in an RPG for ages
I sing it while walking round the house. I sing it in the shower. I sing it in the toilet. That’s a testament to how awesome it is.
4.) The upgrades in Arcania are awesome – The Witcher 3 not so much
Personally, I thought the upgrade trees in Arcania were fantastic. Every time you level up you get to distribute 3 skill points in numerous skill trees that are clear and concise. So I can upgrade my melee, health, magic regeneration, magic power and stamina by just leveling up once. Cool. I can even unlock new spells or even new damage modifiers. Awesome. I really looked forward to leveling up in Arcania. But The Witcher 3, not so much. There was a point in The Witcher 3 where I had skill points but I wasn’t allowed to use them for some god forsaken reason. That kinda sucks.
5.) It’s got Troy Baker in it
Yeah, the most popular voice actor in the games industry and the guy who played Joel in The Last of Us plays the hero in Arcania. Enough said.
I know it’s human nature to side with the underdog and I know most people reading this will be laughing at what a ridiculous article this is. But I just wanted to get it off my chest. Arcania has been a sleeper hit for me and I’m glad that I embarked on its crazy, ridiculous, incredible and memorable journey. Are there any “bad” games that have really resonated with you? Sound off in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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