ArcaniA, which is also known as “Gothic 4”, came out originally on the 360 and PC in October of 2010. Almost three years later, it’s ported over to the PS3, bundled together with its expansion called “Fall of Setarrif”. Unfortunately, apparently nothing was done with the game during those three years, as this version of the game proves to be the worst of the bunch, and a butchered shell of its former self.
Considering this is a game that was released years ago, I will concentrate more on the competency of the porting job more so than the game itself. Still, just to summarize the story of the game, it is a third person action rpg where the “chosen one” saves the world. As you might have guessed, it didn’t win any awards for originality when it was first released.
Immediately after putting in the disc, the game required a lengthy and sizable install of over three gigs to be played, which took about fifteen to twenty minutes. Then, during the introduction FMV after starting a new game it froze and required a complete restart of the system. Even before I was able to control my character, the game began showing its true nature. The second time proved more successful when I was able to load into the game, to behold one of the worst looking games I’ve ever seen on the PS3.
The shadows were flailing about as though they had a life of their own, the animations of the characters were choppy and unnatural. Worse yet, upon closer inspection during dialogue scenes, the texture pop-ins on the character models were so painfully slow that the first five to ten seconds of the conversation were spent staring at ghoulish figures that vaguely resembled humans. When the textures finally fully loaded they were muddy and full of inconsistent transparencies. Even while looking this horrible, the game also suffered from a terrible frame rate where in certain parts of the world, I could not stand playing for more than thirty minutes before I started getting a terrible headache. In fact, the graphics were so terrible at portraying what I was looking at, I ended up being stuck at a place for an hour where I thought I had encountered a game breaking bug. It was a passage that I had to go through, but there was an invisible wall there that I could not pass. It was weird because an enemy had gone through there without issue to come attack me and yet I was unable to pass. So I looked around the area, went out and talked to all the NPCs looking for hints then after a while, I ended up resorting to reading a FAQ.
The FAQ said that the invisible wall that I was facing was actually water and the whole area was supposed to be flooded.
I then had to go to a large room which I had already passed and flip a switch to drain the water.
The whole point of graphics is to accurately portray what something is to a player without any confusion, and Arcania fails spectacularly at it. The music of the game was not spared from this tragedy as it constantly cut out and skipped as though it was playing through a record player on a roller coaster.
Even with all these problems, if there was a part of the game that was unique or interesting, it could be an endearing disaster but there’s nothing redeeming here at all.
The combat engine is incredibly bare bones and broken up into melee, ranged and magic. There is also an option to use stealth but it was completely unnecessary, as I was able to topple all the enemies the game threw my way just by mashing on the square button. While there is a skill tree that allows for a bit of customization, most of the skills gained from it prove rather pointless when smacking things until they stopped with a few spells thrown in did the job perfectly well. The handful of enemy types all choreographed their attacks with the speed of a comatose turtle dreaming of being a snail, and I never once felt threatened by what I had to face. The animation of the enemies would also glitch out, often making them look like they’re not holding weapons at all while they were in fact holding swords. Then, they would often disappear and teleport right in front of me after being several yards away, after clipping on a wall or a part of the ground.
Then there’s the quest design. If there was a game I would have people play to show as an example of how not to do quests in video games, it would be this one. I think most of us are familiar with the concept of chain quests and how they feel like a chore that seems to continue on forever. Just imagine the worst case of that and multiply it by several folds. To give an example, there was a quest where I had to go to some Orc encampment to negotiate the return of a hostage. When I arrived at the gate, the guard told me that he wanted booze from a shaman for him to let me in the camp. I tracked the shaman down and he told me that he wouldn’t give me the alcohol unless I found someone for him. I leave the shaman behind and find the person he wanted found only to be told that he won’t come with me unless I get his amulet for him. I then go to the person who took his amulet and beat him up to get it back but he tells me that he hid it in a cave… filled with goblins. There is no exaggeration here for comedic effect, that is exactly what happened in the course of a single quest and it didn’t even stop there.
There were many quests like that, where I was led by the nose to do one thing after another in a seemingly endless cycle, so much to the point that I eventually ended up avoiding all the quests except for the ones that would progress the story. This was strange for me as I am one of those players that go around finishing every quest that I run into without fail, always saving the story progression quests for last. It spoke volumes in how little enjoyment I was getting from the game and how it had more or less become a singular quest to finish the damn thing so I never have to play it again. Honestly, I don’t know if there’s anything more damning I could say about a game than that.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the small things I enjoyed about the game. First is the fact that there is unlimited inventory space for the player. I’m sure there are a lot of people having horrific visions of being overburdened when someone mentions inventory space but that’s not a factor here at all. There are also a handful of quests that allow for multiple solutions some having notably different results. Even though these aren’t entirely significant, in this miasma of incompetence, the little bright spots glow like the fires of a thousand suns.
This being a “Complete Tale”, it also includes the Fall of Setarrif expansion which takes place immediately after the conclusion of the main quest with everything carrying over, but given its short length of approximately three hours, it’s more appropriate to call it a bite sized DLC than an expansion. Combining that to the length of the original game and there’s about twenty to thirty hours of game play here depending on how much time is spent doing side quests. There is also a section for “Extras” in the game but it’s just a bunch of concept art and nothing more.
ArcaniA – The Complete Tale stands as one of the worst games I have ever played to completion in my nearly twenty years of gaming. It’s an example of how a terrible porting job can serve to do nothing but damage your intellectual property. A clear case in which losses should have been cut and accepted but instead we have this tragedy of a game, unfit for even the most hardcore action RPG fan.
Fun Tidbit: If you feel that you absolutely must play this game for some reason, play the PC version, it’s leagues better than this one.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.