Release Date: July 30th, 2013
Publisher: Nordic Games
Platform: [Reviewed: PlayStation 3], Xbox 360
Genre: Action RPG
Rated: T for Teen
I love all kinds of RPGs, mostly ones that you can explore its world and influence it with your deeds of heroism or villainy. RPGs do a wonderful job of bringing players into its world of fantasy and putting them in the shoes of someone that makes a difference. ArcaniA: The Complete Tale has all the ingredients that make a RPG without the careful attention and care to make it anything more than a one-dimensional romp through a poor excuse of a story.
A war has broken out over the Southern Islands while in the idyllic and isolated isle of Freshyr a man who I’ve only remembered as “Shepard” is attempting to gain the hand of the love of his life. It isn’t until that our seemingly unremarkable hero is sent to a witch in the Dark Forest that tells him otherwise. And after “awakening” some unexplained power within him his village has been sacked and pillage serving as the crux of this unbelievably forced and sudden revenge story.
There are plenty of things to see and do in this repackaging of ArcaniA: Gothic 4; plenty of sights, caves, and towns to visit while there are plenty of quests to occupy your time. However, in the first hour of playing you will already have pulled backed the veil of what this game tries to pass as a RPG.
Those of you who are even slightly experienced in RPG combat might as well start at Hard difficulty. Almost every generic foe you encounter can be taken down by simply swinging your sword at it a few times. The only time I had any real form of a challenge was the higher leveled creatures like some sort of beetle queen.
The combat mechanics aren’t that great, but they’re not terrible either. The swordplay is accessible and easy to grasp while being too simplified where you simply need to mash the attack button. Granted you can level up your character to obtain “combos”, though, it boils down to just timing your button presses.
You also have ranged attacks like bows and spells at your disposal. When switching from one to the other, the transition is clumsy, unlike the fluidity of the Fable series where you can switch between swords and magic seamlessly.
There is one thing that will infuriate players and that is the auto-lock. The first problem is that there is no indicator as to which enemy you are facing. It’s not as big of a deal when facing just one foe, but against a couple or so and you might as well not even bother. Second is when you’re dodging while keeping your shields up; when you attempt to roll out of the way you’re character sometimes leaves his back open to enemy attack! A good example of the correct way to implement auto-lock is the Legend of Zelda series where Link is facing the enemy at all times.
A lot of RPGs grants the players to use its large and in-depth customization options to forge their own personal visage of what a hero looks like. The thing that will irk any roleplaying aficionado is the how incredibly limited every aspect available is.
There is no custom character creator, which is fine; you don’t need one to make a RPG great. But when you see what they offer in place of “customization” you’ll either laugh or quit the game seeing nothing worth going through the trouble for. When leveling up you can put points toward only eight skill sections. There are three sections each for melee and magic and one each for stealth and ranged.
Any one section you decide to put points on does nothing to change up the gameplay. All three melee sections are basically the same, and that also goes for the three magic skills. Ranged has no worthwhile abilities, that is until you reach the very last skill segments and sneaking is nothing more than a novelty, an extra skill that you may consider.
And while I unfortunately compare ArcaniA to remarkable titles I might as well mention another one: Mass Effect. Why Mass Effect? Only because the most noticeable name I was called was Shepard and in Mass Effect you have a plethora of dialog options, whereas in ArcaniA you sometimes have to choose a dialog option just to finish a quest….WHY??! Couldn’t you just let the conversation continue instead of stopping for no reason and try to give the illusion of choice?
The world of ArcaniA is one of lush thickets to humid swamps and provides a sense of an expansive and living world. It’s just a shame that this great setting has to be tarnished by muddy textures, pixilated lighting and shadows, twitching oceans whenever you move, and ugly residences walking around. One of the things a RPG must do to be successful is to make players believe that they are a part of the game’s world. With constant texture pop-up, glitches, and texture seams being visible you are always being forced back into reality, never able to place yourself inside the game.
The music in an RPG can really help a lot in providing the right ambience in the right places and that’s one of the things that Arcadia does well, but of course it is countered by awful voice actors and dialog. One of the voice actors was so unbearable that I actually had to mute the game until I was done talking to her. The only character that did admirably was Shepard, even if his voice acting can be quite awkward at times.
ArcaniA is as shallow as a grave with just as much charm. There is value to be had as The Complete Tale also includes its expansion/sequel. Other than that it’s your run-of-the-mill RPG that hasn’t aged well. Being rereleased after three years I would have expect the developer to have fixed a majority of the bugs, but even when I was required to do a mandatory install the game was still littered with glitches, and that’s really embarrassing. If you really want to give this game a try you might want to pick up the original release on the graphically superior PC and play it with a 360 controller. Even then I’d advise to avoid this release or its precursor.
Replay Ability: 1.75/5
Overall Rating: 2/5