Arcania: A Gothic Tale First Look

The Gothic series is back from the darkness whence it came.

The Gothic franchise has forever been defined by free-roaming open-world gameplay, sweeping story and settings, and bugs. Lots of bugs. Publisher DreamCatcher freely admits that Gothic 3 was a great game in theory but an unplayable mess in execution. So former developer Piranha Bytes is gone, replaced by Spellbound Entertainment in the hope that fans of the epic role-playing game genre will eventually see Gothic in the same bright light as Oblivion. Spellbound's next project is Arcania: A Gothic Tale.

The name change serves two purposes. First, it hints at a world rich in magic and fantasy. Second, and completely from a marketing perspective, it helps give the Gothic franchise a fresh start in North America, where it has failed to gain significant popularity. And gaining popularity in the good old US-of-A is goal one for DreamCatcher. The team invested months of research into the differences between European and American gaming preferences, so much so that there will be two different color palettes for Arcania: North American (bright and beautiful) and European (muted and gritty). Truth be told, we didn't notice much of a difference when DreamCatcher stopped by our office to show off a very early build of Arcania, but you have to admire the attention to detail.

Gothic: Now featuring European or North American sun.

Arcania picks up 10 years after the events of Gothic 3. The Nameless Hero from the original games has vanquished the orcs from the land and ascended to the throne. But as the king, our former hero has become consumed with power and is no longer held in favor by much of the population, including the Witches of Fate that started him on his noble journey in the first place. Betrayed, the witches find a new Nameless Hero, most likely a humble fisherman, and charge him with righting the wrongs of the new king. Of course, this being a Gothic game, you can do pretty much whatever you want, be it join the king, overthrow him, convince him to change his evil ways, or set up shop as a mercenary and mind your own business.

Our brief demo began with a placeholder hero running around a forest as DreamCatcher showed off the new lighting and texturing models. The placeholder was actually the player model from Gothic 3; the team is still trying to decide exactly what our new Nameless Hero will look like. But the sun shone brightly in the sky, and the trees and grass swayed softly in the wind. A picnic table was set for lunch with plates and cups. Smoke from a nearby cabin wafted into the air as a warm fire burned in the hearth inside. The game is still more than a year from release, but it's impressive how far it has already progressed visually.

The major focus at this early stage of development is improving the combat model. Melee attacks are currently tethered to a stamina bar, and you can hold down the attack button to charge a strong strike. We watched as our hero did battle against a human enemy yet to be programmed with any kind of AI; he just swung away randomly, much like you probably did if you played Gothic 3. It's early and difficult to get a gauge on how deep the combat system will go, but at this stage it looks rather simplistic. Nevertheless, we've yet to see the new magic abilities, archer mechanics, or the deep weapon- and armor-customization system. Every weapon or piece of armor can be broken down into base components, and you'll be able to mix and match sword hilts with blades or chest pieces with chainmail. Although there won't be any player-creation system as you start Arcania, the dev team is hoping that the customization system will make your character truly feel like your own.

To further reinforce this, attribute points will be more flexible. As you improve in skill within traditional classes such as paladin, archer, mage, and thief, you'll be able to shift some points around if you wish to change your style. There will also be ample XP to max out in about two different classes, should you decide to undertake each of the countless side quests in addition to the main story quests.

DreamCatcher promises that no two environments will be the same.

As indicated earlier, you'll find a greater emphasis on magic in Arcania. Of course, no magic has been implemented at this stage, save for a glowing blue orb that is used to show off the strengths of the new lighting system. But you will find a lot more than ranged missile attacks because skilled mages will now be able to harness elemental weather. In addition to changing the time of day, you can alter the weather, causing it to rain or snow. Calling a thunderstorm over a group of patrolling guards forces them to take shelter by the warmth of a fire inside the guard hut, freeing you to sneak by unimpeded. That's because guards hate rain.

Given that Gothic games tend to start slow--the Nameless Hero can barely tie his shoes early on, let alone conjure spells--you'll dig into the story when you start interacting with the numerous villages and cities in Arcania. Depending on your actions, you may receive a hero's welcome from the local population as they shower you with praise and adulation. Rub them the wrong way and they'll run you out of town, charge higher prices for items, and do everything but throw rocks at you. Rocks hurt.

You won't have to go back and play the other three Gothic games to appreciate Arcania, according to DreamCatcher, but you will appreciate the subtle references to past events and characters if you do. To that end, DreamCatcher will release a Gothic 3 expansion later this year. Gothic 3: Forsaken Gods will bridge the gap between the end of Gothic 3 and the beginning of Arcania, offering 20-25 hours of new gameplay. Of course, Forsaken Gods is being tested extensively for bugs, so you should be able to play through seamlessly without experiencing any of the crippling errors found in Gothic 3.

Arcania will be packaged under Microsoft's Games for Windows brand, and we wouldn't be surprised to see at least an Xbox 360 version, considering that DreamCatcher used an Xbox 360 wired controller during our demo. Of course, that's more than a year away, and at this point we are just excited to see the promise of Arcania in action. Much like Gothic 3, the game shows potential. But will it deliver? We'll know more later this year.

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Discussion

155 comments
renocs
renocs

demo is good so far.. cutscenes and dialogues are a little bit clumsy. A laughter without a lip movement..come on we are in 2010.. But the gameplay is good. This time you feel you hit something actually. Bow and arrow combat is nice too

kazama-1
kazama-1

damn why i dont like that you need to create your own hero i like that one in gothic 3 and 1.2 that the same hero but wahy in gothic 4 its ahhhhh sucks i hope that gothic 5 wil came after this and will be based on 1 hero. its wonderful when you can enjoy the story of game some bugs are nothing with story of gothic

Torff
Torff

I hope this game will have less bugs than gothic III :D

Fizzer789
Fizzer789

this looks like a good game i might consider buying it lol.

GRoss_1
GRoss_1

hopefully they can pull this off

ninja-pcx
ninja-pcx

I have my eye on it for a long time reminds me Oblivion, I hope someday will released..

redmachine
redmachine

my eye is def on this one. I love Gothic.. best rpg experiences i've ever had, and i've had ALOT!

Elfy310
Elfy310

*Praying* Less bugs, Less Bugs, Less bugs, Less bugs

chechak7
chechak7

i think Ai will be much better and higher graphics ,but is it support dx11 ?

xxxBlackDogxxx
xxxBlackDogxxx

I can't wait for this game!Hope they don't mess up and they still keep the feeling of early gothic games.

Amurg
Amurg

no piranha bytes, no gothic... just has the "gothic" word somewhere in the name... gothic's soul lives on through Risen (bought it, played it, loved it)... it's all in the characters and story... i saw gameplay of this on youtube that looked a little better than Risen's, but without the story and living characters and world that piranha can come up with, i predict it'll get boring in a couple of hours... especialy if the main hero remains turned into the same 'I WILL SAVE THE WORLD!!!" homo that spellbound made out of one of my favourite main characters...

Norwegicus
Norwegicus

Lets see, it says Jowood... Its going to be broken and buggy and rushed for release. I'm going to read some forums before i throw my money on this.

MrMarlbor0
MrMarlbor0

lets see.....Arcania or risen will win the battle

ninn1000
ninn1000

Sounds awsome! I just hope that I don't end up jumping off a cliff again from lag... I absolutely loved playing the hunter class in 3 so I hope that isn't changed too much. Last thing that changed a lot was Plain White T's, and I'm not gonna talk about them...

dibblah
dibblah

I played Gothic 3 and on the whole did enjoy it. Saying that I do love the FPS /RPG formats in general. As others have noted, the combat was however inconsistent with loads of Orcs cut down easily and then a fight-to-the-death situation with a bloodfly. Also the bugs were there, and they were a pain; frustratingly preventing several side quests from completion amongst other things. I've re-installed the game tonight and I'm currently downloading v. 1.7 880MB patch! Honestly a patch this size! To release a game of this significance and not playtest adequately and give the devs enough time to get it right is more and more a completely inexcusable action by the industry. Customers want a game that works and are begining to tolerate fewer and fewer bugs/glitches in what supposedly should be a finished product. If the publishers push an incomplete title to a release date whereby the product is unfinshed at point of sale, then they should expect the fairly reasonable anger of people who've paid good money for it! It should not be incumbent on the player/user to have to install these lengthy and in this case huge patch. It's as if they are releasing faulty goods to the marketplace. Would you by a new jumper with a hole in it? Time to get off the space hoppers and get this right. On the upside the v. 1.7 fix-list does seem to address many of the inconsistencies from the initial offering so I'm hoping to re-play with a fresh, bug-free game. My only concern is that I'm on the cursed Vista of Antioch; I hope this does not screw things further for both games! Also I hope that the growing trend of dumbing down PC games so they can translate over to consoles ends soon and that Arcania does not go down this road. Looking forward to a bug-free, intelligent Arcania please.

mkreku
mkreku

I absolutely love Gothic and Gothic 2 (not so much Gothic 3..), but having a new developer on this is both worrisome and exciting. It'll be fun to see what news they'll bring to the table, but chances are they won't recapture the "Gothic magic" from the old games. Anyhow, keep an eye out for Risen, the next project from Piranha Bytes (developers of Gothic 1-3) too! It looks great so far!

JediKnightGairu
JediKnightGairu

The name change may prove a fresh start to North America, but it's always been the best RPG series ever to me

Goblex
Goblex

Gothic 3 was an amazing game and i was so anxious to continue playing even when i couldn't. There were some bugs,that often helped you out of trouble,and some bugs,that got you into trouble.but regardless of that,the game was awesome,the antalising was the only thing that needed adjusting.Gothic 4 is probably going to be good too,so I can't wait to play:)

DeathPhoenix37
DeathPhoenix37

I've played all the games in the Gothic series and I think they were all good,I only found a few bugs but sometimes they were quite funny. I'm looking forword for Arcania also knowen as Gothic 4 as well.

elioeni
elioeni

I'm really looking forward to Arcania... I've often wished a company would re-make the game "Arcanum" which I thought was amazing but looks terrible now (graphics). To get back to the Gothic Franchise... I have received way more than my money's worth with the Gothic series. I even have Gothic 1 in one of those huge boxes games used to come in. From Gothic 1 to Gothic 3, I have experienced very few problems... (sorry folks). I'm not sure why. I did notice some broken quests and other annoyances but, for me, right out of the box everything worked all the way through every game. My biggest problem came with installing "Night of the Raven..." What an absolute nightmare. Anyway, I'm certainly with all of you: Spellbound must release a great game "out of the box" or the Gothic Franchise is over. There's no reason why the Gothic series couldn't have been one of the best games ever made (it actually is to me)... but bad "press" through the gaming community can destroy a game before the masses have purchased it. Good luck Spellbound!

ottojuno
ottojuno

Gothic 2 was the Best RPG I have ever played. G3 was a big letdown. They turned G3 into a clone or actually a step child of Morrowind. I could not stand Morrowind. I hope they go back to G2 gameplay. It was way more exciting to play.

dysguised22
dysguised22

Really, the bread and butter of the series is G1. Though the story was a touch more linear, it threw a few curveballs into the mix to still keep it flowing beautifully with only 2 (yes..2) game breaking glitches that only involved turning a winch (gatehouse lever). Once you knew that, and since there were only 2 winches...you didnt touch them because they werent needed to be touched in the long run anyways. The monsters made sense, in that the minecrawlers were ONLY found in caves/mines as the book bestiary said they would. No open sunny fields, no mountain sides. In the dark because they cant see in light ala Pitch Black before there was a Pitch Black. Places also changed as the story evolved and so did some characters. Everything had its place in the world and it all felt natural. Though the graphics are more than harsh now compared to today's standards and the combat is tough to get a grips to as there's pretty much no mouse involved whatsoever, it's worth learning. Simply put, all the Gothics do not compare to the Original which is sickening because you'd think with the evolution of technology over the years, they'd be able to do more. G2 is a good second choice and though I love and own all the Gothics (including the ever so catastophic Forsaken Gods), G1 still lords over them all in actual experience fulfillment. -My two cents. -Dys.

itachi100
itachi100

if gothic 3 wasnt so bugged, it wouldve been a classic! i hope this one follows through

Lhetre
Lhetre

Gothic 2 had a combat system way too punishing, it was kind of a job trying to play it, but I got no problems with Gothic 3, finished it two times, enjoyed more than Oblivion : more variety in landscapes, clear and understandable story with identifiable characters, definitely looking forward to Gothic 4.

reinss17
reinss17

Forsaken Gods is being tested extensively for bugs, so you should be able to play through seamlessly without experiencing any of the crippling errors found in Gothic 3. yeah right. in Forsaken Gods are more bugs then in Gothic 3

henrik02
henrik02

I don't know what fuss it is about Gothic 3 being bad. Sure, it wasn't as good as Gothic 2, but on it's own it was a great game and I found no bugs there...I hope that the forth game will be at least as good.

MrMarlbor0
MrMarlbor0

plz plz plz let this be good.....and dreamcatcher kill any bug you see!!!!!!! gothic series FTW (expept G3)

joshjo9
joshjo9

I played gothic 3 there is alot of bugs but i thout it was addicting i didnt realy like oblivion it just seemed to go over and over again with the same gameplay but this is on my wish list

mong115
mong115

I am happy to hear the Gothic series is not ended. Gothic has a loyal following. However Gothic 3 scared away maney people new to the game due to the problems with the game. I am sure the Gothic community will be following the progress of Arcania with hope and expectation.

queiros
queiros

i have one thing to say everybody should try gothic 1 or 2 but 3 is not as high quality Daverde dragon is absolutely right the story should be thought more

Sammojo
Sammojo

I own Gothic 3, but I don't think I patched it before playing. I got lost not know what to do or where to go. It felt like they weren't giving you enough help early on so I just left the game alone. Might revisit it now though, and patch to 1.2...

Nickgio
Nickgio

There is also one more reason why the game isnt called Gothic 4, thats because piranha has the writes of the name and i think the name gothic 5 but im not sure about that.But Dreamcatcher still has the publicing writes of the the tittle and all the other stuff.

blowtrees
blowtrees

Always looking for a good new rpg. Hated NwN2 and got sick of oblivion before i even beat it (here's hoping bethesda does better with FO3). Although those first 40 or so hours were very entertaining. I think Oblivion lacked a LOT in character customization, but I can agree that it did cater to different playing styles. I feel those are seperate entities though. Arcania sounds like they've got a nice system going, even if you always start with the same mold. But then, in theory and in practice are two very different worlds. If I can find the first two Gothic's cheap, I'll probably snatch em up, but it sounds like I can skip Gothic 3.

BilliesLax20
BilliesLax20

This game looks pretty neat, but i think that theyre deviating from the feel of Gothic 1 and 2 even worse than they did in Gothic 3 :(. Feel free to disagree with me, but I think the storyline and effort put into the plot was far more evident in the first two games than it was in the 3rd. Dont get me wrong, I enjoyed Gothic 3 quite a bit, but it definitely wasnt anywhere near the first two in terms of storyline and character depth. I could be wrong, I really hope this game doesnt disappoint!

DaVerdeDragon
DaVerdeDragon

For those of you who don't know what Gothic, Gothic 2, it's expansion Night of the Raven (NOTR), and Gothic 3's Story so far here is the jist. Gothic: Your a prisoner in an un-escape-able prison, you kill the "Warden" a.k.a. The Sleeper which opens all the doors. Gothic 2 + NOTR: You escaped the prison and want to leave the island, the "Warden" called in backup before he/it died, you kill the backup, and the group lurking behind the backup and escape on the boat Esmeralda. Gothic 3: Your on the mainland and have to decide between 3 paths, 1: serve Innose (good god), 2: serve Beliar (bad god), and 3: follow Xardas into the Unknown lands. If you choose choice 1 or 2 that god will be paid homage to for 1000 years, either way you become ruler of the world. Finally if you picked #3 you leave to the Unknown lands never returning to this part of the world again. In Gothic 4 or Arcania: A Gothic Tale, from what this article reads, the nameless hero is now King, the problem is that choice 1 or 2 was made (knowing human nature it was likely choice 1 Innose) and one man is unable to live for 1000 years, allowing this new hero to choose between the good god or bad one abruptly ending, or continuing the rule of the current one. I believe that the developers should have gone with choice 3, where Lee, a friend of our Nameless Hero in the Gothic world, should have became the new King where part of the kingdom is split because of Kan ,The General of the Orc Army's during Gothic 3, is King of the other half. This choice allows for the fight between good and evil to still rage, and allow our Nameless hero to leave to discover what is in The Unknown Lands with Xardas, which can allow for another game to be born.P.S. Sorry for the length

MottoK
MottoK

There's yet another great game going on Xbox and probably not PS3 (I own a PS3 and am getting slightly pi*sed off at the lack of games for it!). I'm not sure I see the major difference Zurreen I am currently playing Gothic 3 again on the PC and still loving it, it slows to a crawl every now and again but it's still so much dam* fun! I played and completed Gothic 2 and it was great and your probably right I did feel more involved with it than Gothic 3 but still think Gothic 3 is great for anyone. Couldn't get Gothic 1 to run well at all so gave up on it which was a shame because I really wanted to understand the origins of the game and especially the characters.

Zurreen
Zurreen

You really need to play Gothic, Gothic 2 and the Gothic 2 expansion pack TONR to understand what jrossltpc is saying, Huntress. Believe me, you have no idea what you missed. Gothic 3 is nothing but a caricature -- a kind of quick and dirty way of taking ADVANTAGE of the fame -- of the earlier Gothic and Gothic 2 games. Gothic 3 is best suited for kids under 16. So unless you belong in that category, nothing less than Gothic 1 and 2 would be satisfactory. They are so real-life, you would think that you were actually LIVING in that world! In contrast, Gothic 3 was like watching a cartoon on television. What can appeal more to a real adventurer: to actually feel as if he/she were there, LIVING the life of the Gothic world, or watching a bunch of cartoons slicing and dicing a bunch of other cartoons? :( The choice is yours, of course. But I do hope that the dev's will deliver something that caters to the tastes of the "real grown-ups" this time in Gothic 4? The underaged have plenty of silly games out there to keep them "entertained." :(

Huntress67
Huntress67

jrossltpc ...I'm not sure what your saying about character choices as such? There were indeed choices to be made in G3 that certainly did affect the game and story. Consequently, as you went through the game depending on those choices, determined who and how you would end up till you understood what those choices meant! Then if you made certain choices too soon, you would play a heavy price the further you went. :D So I don't think making a character class, other than those choices you make along the way to the way you want your character to portray in his method of combat...seems to be quite sufficient for that purpose...at least that's make take on it. :) Character class and game play were all intertwined with each other. So I don't see anything more needed in that regard for choices in how you'll end up playing the next version. It would also take more time and development (money) to implement somethng like your suggesting and I don't think the dev's would be very willing either at this point. But who knows exactly what they all have in mind?

jrossltpc
jrossltpc

I enjoyed Gothic and Gothic2 NOTR. Gothic 3 seems like it was a collection of everthing the developers could think of and just thrown into the pot. I would hope the new development team would focus on a central story line with lots of subplots. It would be even better if the central character could be designed on the order of Oblivion so that the variation in character choices would impact the story.

PHeMoX
PHeMoX

Don't count on it Huntress67... this game will demand quite a bit of your system for sure, more than G3.

Huntress67
Huntress67

Well here's my 2¢ worth. I do enjoy RPG's very much but like many others was put off by G3's bugginess. Not the running of it, even though my machine isn't the greatest, I played the demo without really any significant problems. There were a few but was able to work-around them w/o too much fusting with it. It played well enough and enjoyed playing it that I went ahead and bought it. :( I went on the forum and then discovered much to my dismay...all the broken gameplay ppl were discovering. So I hung around the forum reading and participating in various topics while waiting, waiting, waiting for the main problems to be fixed (patched). There were many fixes offered by the community but it took some techno experience to figure out how to do some it and I'm not tech adept...so the game remains uninstalled. I really wanted to experience the whole game as I found the demo very interesting and the world was wonderful IMHO. No I haven't played the first two and probably won't. I'm also very much a PC player and hopefully this new addition/game will not be dumbed down if they do end up making a 360 version later...and I do not want to use a controller either! I also hope they do not push the tech up to require Vista/dual CPU's/vid cards to the max. We are not all ultra hard-core gamers, let alone the affordabilitiy of such requirements. If they can keep it in the realm of G3 tech, minus the major bugs that were game destroying...then I will look forward to seeing the new production. So here's keeping my fingers crossed. :)

Zurreen
Zurreen

If the writer of this review is correct and Gothic did fail to attract attention in North America, it was only because of the failure of the MARKETING department to adequately promote it here in the U.S. The original Gothic, Gothic 2 and Gothic 2 - The Night of the Raven were far SUPERIOR to anything ever promoted in the States. But Gothic 3 was an utter failure and not surprisingly, because it was nothing like the three games preceding it. Indeed, Americans did participate in the making of Gothic 3 which was probably why it was such a sorry product, akin to the pathetic Pirates of the Lost Caribbean. In other words, the recourse to Americans only served to deteriorate the quality of an excellent game; and, if the above review is correct, the company is only seeking to destroy the great quality of that game even further by seeking the help of more losers. Why can't they get it??? It's not the GAME that failed to attract the North American attention but poor advertising, Stupid! I do so hope that the company will get its head straight and would be able to deliver the kind of fine product that we saw in Gothic, Gothic 2, and Gothic 2 - TNR. Gothic 3 was an absolutely SCUMMY caricature of what used to be a great game. I had so hoped that the company would forget the amateurish, cartoonistic travesty that it delivered in Gothic 3, and finally return to the real-life-like wonderful world of Gothic that we had come to know in Gothic and love even more in Gothic 2 and its expansion pack. Is it too much to ask the company to return to its "old values" and forget all its idiotic attempts to make it "better"? They have just made it WORSE so far! :(

jroony96
jroony96

Good thing they canned the former developer. Sounds like they are getting their act together for this one. Though I will wait for a few reviews first.

Skrewdriven
Skrewdriven

Gothic 3, was as fun as it was frustrating, it was on alot of levels funner than Oblivion, but the bugs oh my the bugs. At least they are takin it serious and ditching that god awful piranha bytes. Can only be a good thing, lookin forward to it.

EliotFingerbutt
EliotFingerbutt

I actually like the Gothic games, so I'm interested in seeing how this one turns out.

DamageIncM
DamageIncM

Well, I don't know much about these games, never played anything. But don't expect the same, there is a different developer, they know it wasn't that good and they will probably improve it. I'm not even sure what kind of genre this is. But the Gothic free-roaming part of it is intriguing to me. So I'll check our footage and see if it's a nice game with good gameplay. Then I might even play it.

vssullivan
vssullivan

would never go near one of there games , ever tried playing gothic 3 on vista ,vista is bad and gothic 3 is a joke runs like a dog no reason for it really