Everything screams AVERAGE!

User Rating: 6 | Arcania: Gothic 4 X360
With the release of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim getting closer I needed to get into full on RPG mode so, with Oblivion having already taken up over 400 hours of my life, I chose to play an older RPG that had passed me by… in this case ArcaniA: Gothic 4.

Now let's be clear here, I've avoided buying "Batman: Arkham City" until the end of the year to make time for Skyrim, the days between now and then being used to catch up and clear the pile of games that have built up while the likes of Deus Ex and L.A. Noire have occupied my time… ArcaniA has sat there since the end of June… if I'd known what it was like it could have sat there a lot longer.

The demo that was released made it clear that this is a very linear game, sure you can explore the area but there's sod all to do there unless you HAVE to go there, you can't stumble across a cave and explore it, you can only explore it when the game wants you to… you can find a dungeon but it'll be locked until some quest giving character gives you the key… so it's effectively very linear indeed.

There's no character customisation which I always feel cheated about, if I'm going to spend 25 or so hours roaming the world fighting goblins and the like I want to have at least some say as to what I look like… here you can't even chose your gender, because the plot is written in stone… you have to be male, you have to have dark hair, you have to have the dodgy 70's porn-star beard.

You don't even get to pick your name, at the end of the game I have to admit I didn't even know if he had a name, it may have been mentioned early doors but it escapes me… you are who you are because the game wants you to be that man with that look.

Tasked with exacting revenge on the people who destroyed your home town it follows the traditional RPG model of opening new areas as you progress, where you have to perform certain tasks before the new area opens up, in traditional RPG style your weapons, armour, spells and potions level up as you do.

Initially you're told that while you want revenge you can't have it yet, you're too inexperienced and the bad guys too powerful… you need a weapon, forged on the anvil in a sacred temple of magical material, so you're first goal is to find the temple… then to get inside it… then to find the anvil and then to create your weapon.

As you perform the obligatory side quests to open the door to the next area you realise that the developers have only seen fit to include maybe a dozen character models for NPC's, a task may be given to you by character A and, whilst performing the task, you'll end up speaking to character B or C if it's a long task and find that they have been allocated the same character model as character A, so while you may recognise the face of the new character the name will probably be different… and when in a large city this becomes even more apparent.

There are a series of collectibles throughout the game and one can only be collected by breaking into a building via a balcony on the back side of a building… which means jumping onto the balcony… easy enough but the game doesn't allow you to just walk off the edge of anything so you have to then try and jump from the balcony wall onto the balcony itself… get this wrong and you fall to your death… jumping is not an exact science here.

Eventually you reach the temple, a sort of point of no return as once a battle against two guardians kicks in the path back to whence you came is closed from that point on… left a previous quest half done and were chasing that "Complete all quests" Achievement… don't panic, that pops as you reach the final city and doesn't include all the quests that you get once you've arrived there.

You reach the anvil and chose to interact with it… I thought about what weapon I would forge, a large two handed blade to inflict maximum damage? A magical sword to impart fire or lightening damage with every stroke? A wonderous bow to power magical arrows to kill my enemies from a distance? Why bother… the game doesn't let you chose.

I was presented with an Axe that dealt a massive 3 more damage per strike than the one I'd been using, within an hour I'd levelled up to the point where the weapons I was finding in chests did more damage than my magically forged weapon… what a con.

Speaking of cons the game features teleporter pads, which I assumed allowed for fast travel around the play area, so having left one task half-finished I figured I'd be able to teleport back to finish it off… as I was also chasing the "Complete all Quests" Achievement… only to discover that these pads only work with one other pad each, and you couldn't use that until you'd activated the other pad… so you can only use them to travel from one part of one area to another… not throughout the rest of the game world as I first thought.

The dialogue throughout is dreadful clichéd, delivered badly and very predictable, there is a twist but it's one you'll see coming a mile away, the boss battles are as equally predictable and unrewarding… when you kill a boss in RPG's you're meant to get a great item to show off, a new weapon, a great big shield, a magical ring… at the very least some gold… here… nothing.

Achievement wise the game is bugged… one Achievement for collecting all recipes can't be completed as one is apparently unobtainable, as a result the Achievement for getting all the other Achievements (how cheap and tacky is that) is also impossible to collect… beyond these two there are Achievements for jumping 1,000 times and another for spending 1 hour of real time with your character either seating or on a bed.

In summary it's linear, it's annoying, it has terrible dialogue and the ultimate weapon is one that's just really the next in a long line of levelled weapons… yet despite all this you need to see the end, you can't help yourself but keep going to get to the end because that in itself is an Achievement, that you can complete the most dull, average RPG around and not smash your controller to pieces while it overwhelms you with average of every variety.

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