Arcania: A Gothic Tale Hands-On

We pay JoWood a visit and check out the latest PC build of Arcania.

by

Earlier today, during a meeting with JoWood, we had an opportunity to spend some time with a work-in-progress version of Arcania: A Gothic Tale on the PC. The fourth game in the Gothic franchise, Arcania is purportedly being designed specifically to appeal to role-playing game fans in North America where, historically, gothic games have never been very successful.

One of the problems with the previous games, at least according to the JoWood representative who talked us through the game, was simply that they weren't very accessible. To illustrate this, we were shown two features of Arcania that are new for the series: a minimap in the upper-right corner of the screen and a World of Warcraft-style quest tracker. Hardly mind-blowing stuff, but they are steps in the right direction for sure.

As we've reported previously, Arcania takes place some 10 years after the events of its predecessor and casts you as an all-new "Nameless Hero" who has been tasked with righting the wrongs of the previous hero--now an evil king. The new hero isn't customizable at the outset, but there are purportedly more than 100 different weapons and pieces of armor in the game that will dramatically alter both his appearance and his attributes.

Weapons in Arcania will include bows, as well as all of the usual melee suspects--both two-handed and one-handed--that can be used in conjunction with a shield. In addition, you'll have access to a number of different magic spells that run the gamut from a simple fireball to changing the time of day and the weather. Much like the control system in Fable II, spells, ranged attacks, and melee attacks will each be mapped to a different button on the controller, enabling you to switch among them on the fly. You'll perform different attacks depending on how you push those buttons as well. Tapping the button will perform a light attack, holding it down will charge up a slower, more powerful attack, and when using melee weapons, it'll be possible to perform combos by timing multiple button presses with visual cues (your sword glowing briefly, for example). It's an easy system to pick up, and we can report that the puny fireball--once you've leveled it up and charged it up--becomes a pretty spectacular explosion that causes damage to all enemies in a large area. The game incorporates a lock-on targeting system that makes combat even easier, but the flipside is that when you're locked on, attacks do half as much damage as those when you're not.

The island of Argaan--one of three on which the game is set--is divided up into six regions that will become accessible for you to explore as you progress through the game and unlock them. The coastal region that we were walking around in had some interesting spots to explore, including marshlands with a green mist hanging over them and lots of huge trees, one of which was hollow and had been turned into a neat-looking building of some kind. We also found our way down into a maze of underground tunnels, but we backed out of them before we got lost because they hadn't been textured yet and there really wasn't much to see.

Up top, though, there were some impressive visuals on display: The transition between day and night (which we saw sped up) looked great, and when a thunderstorm occurred, the world took on a very different appearance. Not only did the flashes of lightning make the previously beautiful scenery more dramatic and foreboding, but the rain falling from the sky also formed puddles, running down surfaces and even dripping through holes in the roof of a hut. It was even more impressive when the rain stopped because the water continued to leak through the roof until the pool of water above was depleted.

JoWood estimates that the 300 or so quests in Arcania will take most players about 80 hours to complete and that the story-critical quests are good for at least 30 to 40 hours of play. The PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 versions of Arcania are all currently scheduled for release sometime this winter.

Discussion

102 comments
sochap
sochap

I liked Gothic 3, but I hope this game will be optimized better, so that you don't need triple SLI to run it decently...

eric1000
eric1000

Graphics are good and if you like gothic 3 then you will likely like this as well, for me however the game is actually quite poor with voice acting straight out of the B movie rejected actors bin. The game as you would expect is open world but the storyline has you tramping from one meaningless quest to the next with the tracker guiding you by the hand every step of the way, go here, kill X number of Y or collect X number of Y and return to quest giver, very last decade and particularly boring. Arcania also suffers from the same humdrum button smashing combat as it's predecesor that is guaranteed to destroy your mouse buttons after a couple of months and mob behaviour that ruins all sense of immersion. To explain that last remark you have a well trodden path from a village to a tower that a local yokel happily walked along a few moments ago with every mob in sight totally ignoring him, while these same mobs turn into brainless psychotics as you walk past and run at you in the time worn fashion that ultimately leads to them being turned into fertilizer. As I said earlier fans of the gothic series will like the game but for the rest of us there are much better RPG's out there. Expected better from a game released in 2010.

Tomislaf
Tomislaf

Well if you ask me i just loved the combat system in gothic 2 alothough i dont know the storyline because i havent played gothic 1 the game was fantastic. The game was hard and it was right so coz orcs are suposed to be fat and strong so they can kill 2-3 humans. In gothic 3 everything was inverted and i hated it first the combat system next the easy orcs to kill and third it was so full of bugs the game needed to be in version 5,4 to get out of alpha testing. Hope Arcania is more like gothic 2 because mindless buttonmashing is the least such a game needs...

vadagar1
vadagar1

Yes my dear friend Breserk8989 Diablo 3 graphics look like dropings now :P they say Arcania will be out this year Sep. maybe I don't remember exact date, but from all the game play vids I say this game is looking pretty good so far, and yes all the kidy options like mini map and stuff like that will be OPTIONAL so you can turn them off. I personally find that making these options "options" shows a lot of respect to RPG fans and gothic fans (like me), and we should be gratefull for it.

zymbo
zymbo

Thank god another open world RPG is coming out. I'm so sick of the hand holding linear RPGs. We need less hand holding in games today, not more. Bring back the feeling of "Where the hell do I go now?" This is what made games challenging and actually enjoyable to conquer. The Gothic series was spot on in terms of difficult combat and questing. This game will not disappoint.

Genesis_123
Genesis_123

@Dawn Of Doom People play games like Oblivion and Fallout because they're immersive and more of a challenge. It forces itself right in your face and says "time to get serious". The characters, variation in quests, and story are what makes the games great, as well as some pretty decent combat (though you do have to lvl a bit) and that is why people are playing them and will play them. Besides how could you not get immersed in Oblivion? You start out finding the next heir to the throne, and end up trying to kill who is essentially the king of hell!

2x4b96123
2x4b96123

@Conduras Hey that rhymes. Neato! =D

Conduras
Conduras

seems like Gothic for the mentally challenged (game fans in North America ? ) .easy this ,easy that ,ppl didn't play it cause it lacked a mini-map ?

Berserk8989
Berserk8989

Agreed vadagar1, i piss on Diablo and Blizzard anyways by now... Delaying it for far too long and the graphics are now already s***.

vadagar1
vadagar1

if some one said to me, do you want diablo 3 or this game, I would chose this game, can't wait :)

Dawn_oF_Doom
Dawn_oF_Doom

There are 2 kinds of RPGs... linear ones and free world ones. Linear ones are easier to make and are more story-involved... these are games like The Witcher or Dragon Age or Diablo... Open world RPGs are games like Two Worlds or Oblivion... Not the second ones are really hard to make because the player may feel lost and his without purpose, thus making him feel uncertain about what to do next and demoralize him and make him stop playing the game. You have to give him incentive... not just: ok, here is your world, go play in it... do what you want... as long as the game permits you to do it. You have to give them a purpose and a reason to play the game... linear RPGs do that very well... they give you just enough freedom to do what you want and complete a task how you want, but the task still needs completing and the quests must be completed in a certain order. Limiting your choices is sometimes a good thing. Two worlds failed because some players would just say: frack my sister... I have no reason to save her, I feel, as a player, no connection to her. Dragon Age succeded because it involved you from the start. as a noble human for ex: WHAT! They killed my parents and took away my heritage.. Son of a BIatch.. I am so gonna get him for this. Now... what did Oblivion do right to get players want to play it?? :) I will leave you to answer that question as you see fit.

DrunkPrince
DrunkPrince

i played all the 3,5 games of gothic tales.. (i bought new pc to play Gothic 3) and i say 3,5 cause forsaken gods was a totally fail of the gothic series..anyway as all we know jowood took new team to create the game and a great one. (I hope to give caution in dual welding :P) To much bugs and glitches, not even with hundred patches could not fix the problem, were some of the problems. But for me the Gothic games have everything that i want from an action rpg game. the old time theme is great for me Spells, combat, caves etc. all the new era are not to good for me except mass effect. The free wandering, the way to take quest from everywhere you wanted( another one bad option in forsaken, all to be link quests) And something last. whose players didnt enjoy Gothic 2?? For me was one of the greatest games in his age, So i hope and i believe it with that create team, to bring out a superb game cause Gothic must be one of the top.

LT-Voltaire
LT-Voltaire

Hope its as good as they make it sound. The weather system sounds good but will rain effect your fireball by cooling it before it hits its target there by decreasing the amount of damage done to your target. Will lighting travel through newly formed puddles to electrify your targets like in Bio Shock! I cant wait to see some game play footage.

Velvik
Velvik

If it's Gothic and not buggy/glitchy than I'll try it, I love the Gothic 3 but the unstable gameplay makes me mad

Un4givingAsault
Un4givingAsault

Tired of the whole Middle Ages style RPG. Besides Elderscrolls no others share the depth and longevity of that game.

Andyrew007
Andyrew007

Hope this is good, because even with all the times it froze on me, Gothic 3 robbed me of a hell of a lot of sleep :)

bigpimppapa
bigpimppapa

I just got Dragon Age and I wasted my cash all you do is run around on a wild goose chase to start another series of quest. They are run on quest like my sentences by the way!! Pass on this game as well if i do not rent them first

K-Grogg
K-Grogg

So far there don't seem to be many populated areas. Is that normal with a Gothic game? After Oblivion camps/towns/castles have to have that alive feel, that game did it so well.

ZelosOfHighrock
ZelosOfHighrock

im with zymbo, this one has a good feel to it so far. Im way interested in the visuals that they speak of

mne635
mne635

release 27 november 2009? confused much???

TheGreyArea
TheGreyArea

very interesting. Added to tracked games (... on PC).

aaron25m
aaron25m

one to watch thats for sure, maybe itll bury my copy of oblivion with my other games finally or maybe ill just have to keep draging oblivion out for my open world rpg fix time will tell i guess

Amurg
Amurg

died with forsaken gods, buried with this... thing...

zymbo
zymbo

Bugs aside, JoWood puts out games that capture the old school feel to RPGs. RPGs don't have the old school feel without the sandbox approach. RPG series like Fallout, Elder Scrolls, and Gothic allow the player to go anywhere at anytime and allow for superb character development. They allow you to wander around aimlessly, complete massive amounts of side quests, and stumble into treacherous ogre caves at your own peril. When you level in games like this you actually feel accomplished. If this game sticks to that formula it will be great.

lafery
lafery

"The biggest block to the Gothic series being successful in the US is the number of crippling bugs its publisher has been happy to release the games with." That's funny considering that didn't stop tons of american gamers to buy that XBOX 360 that kept dying on them - and they proved how much they liked bugs by buying more...

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

RPG gamers are their own worst enemies.This thread proves it with all this talk of Gothic games being buggy. Well, name ONE RPG that didn't need a patch?! Oblivion? There's an unofficial patch that fixes over FIVE THOUSAND bugs! Didn't Dragon Age, a much more linear RPG have a patch on day one? What about Daggerfall FIFTEEN years ago!!! When you have a sand-box game with 100's of quests/1,000's of NPC's, bugs are ALWAYS going to get through! I fully expect this game, Witcher 2 and the next Elder Scrolls game to have bugs, but assuming they are deep open world RPG's with lots of stats/attributes to play around with, I will buy them! Because while we get 20+ action games, we're lucky to get 1 old school RPG a year! It's so bad that games like Mass Effect are now called RPG's when gamers 10 years ago would call them 'Action-Adventures'! So support RPG's if you are a fan, don't knock them! Find the good in them and talk about that! The Gothic games were no more buggy than any other deep, open world RPG. They were patched and still have some of the best NPC interaction and AI of any RPG series! Between Arcania being dumbed down for the console market AND seemingly for the short attention span Americans, I have severe worries, fearing it may end up lightweight/ action based, rather than a deep Gothic style RPG. When all RPG's are action-adventure in style, maybe RPG'ers will say: "maybe I shouldn't have complained so much about the genre I loved that has now gone!"

cpeterstx
cpeterstx

I'm ready for it....let's go!

greater_bird
greater_bird

The biggest block to the Gothic series being successful in the US is the number of crippling bugs its publisher has been happy to release the games with. Both reviews and forum posts mention this perpetually, but the bug problem just gets worse. Hopefully releasing it on the less patch-happy console platforms will encourage them to actually fix the more obvious stuff before selling it to people. Fans like myself will stumble on through almost anything, complaining but forking out money on expansions and sequels anyway. But the average new buyer who isn't already committed to the series will just feel cheated and bin it.

wastelander898
wastelander898

this game looks like i could very likely be the 2010 goty and the best rpg to date. i am looking forward to playing it and hopefuly i am right.

smolarkiewicz
smolarkiewicz

gothic was great how cool would it be was co-op online and where the hell is blade of darkness 2 ! ( sorry last title was codemasters but way sick )

THOMJOHN3
THOMJOHN3

The Gothic series rocks!! If they can bring it to the console and keep the game intact, I'm all for it. However, the PC versions have been buggy - timely patching may be required.

Donato11
Donato11

Well im wondering how this one is going to be like. The Gothic 1,2,3 were not bad actualy. They say "Arcania: A Gothic Tale" will that mean that it will have very Gothic like similaritys?

Troika101
Troika101

looks good. hope they don't screw it up.

vadagar1
vadagar1

people under age of 16 should NOT be allowed to play PC games unless its a simple puzzle game. this way the Game developers will be FORCED to make all games amazing. the minimap and all the NOOB crap is for 5 year old babies and single cell organisms hope they make this game bug free and I think it will be cool

mysterykid7
mysterykid7

Any one else thinking this game looks like its gonna be loaded with bugs and glitchy ?

LeoGoBezerk
LeoGoBezerk

After Gothic 3 expansion from another absolutely different company I don't care about Gothic series anymore. This is really bad that JoWood grab a license from the original developers Piranha Bytes. No more Gothics. Lets look for a new Risen instead.

Agent_Chameleon
Agent_Chameleon

Why do they assume that because I'm American I am too stupid to figure out how to play a game without a minimap or quest tracker?

Blue_Tomato
Blue_Tomato

Hope "accessible" wont mean it will remove any challenge. If I want adventure without challenge, I would just rent a DVD. Gothis series, with the exception of the horrible Gothic 3 expansion, is by far my favorite RPG games. Looking forward to this one, hope they wont f*ck it up.

MrMarlbor0
MrMarlbor0

i saw both arcania and risen in video footage.....risen feels more like gothic game than that....and when i say gothic game i mean the first 2 games that rock!!!(my opinion)

asmartkid50
asmartkid50

Although I am a fan of Gothic, I, II, and III, I am however a little disappointed with the fact that there is no character customization. If you could inject THAT into the game I'm sure most people would be pretty hyped! I, for one, would love to see more character customization in these kind of games. But then again that's just my opinion. Nevertheless I'm looking forward to another great game be JoWood!

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Excuse me, but what I do not get (am I missing something?) is why, with next generation consoles and more powerful PC's,we don't get everything 'switch on and switch off' capable. So in this game, make it so you can turn the quest marker and automap off, in RPG's, don't make them 'simpler' for the console market, give them all the stats in the world, and then let the gamer automate what he wants if he doesn't want a 'deep' RPG! We have RTS's that have no resource gathering or base building,to make them more suitable for console. Well again, make these two options that can be automated or player controlled! Are things like this too difficult somehow?!

skunknuts
skunknuts

Quest tracker? Mini map? So variety and challenge are going the way of the dinosaur, I see.

samsungx360
samsungx360

how can gothic be and i quote "excessively difficult to enjoy"...it was...and i do not exagerate one of the best game in the world. Lhetre, you must be out of your mind, of course de gustibus non disputandum but...c'mon gothic 2?.. 3 was boring as hell no story at all...just slashing left and right. i'm prety sure that if this game doesn't have a story just as good as gothic 2...it will be an epic fail. cheers

bennae66
bennae66

it will have to be good to get my girlfriend and i off mass effect 2, oblivion, fallout and sacred 2.

Lhetre
Lhetre

Gothic 2 was excessively difficult to enjoy. Gothic 3 was just right : nice graphics, interesting quests, a varied landscape, different solutions for the quests as you can side with the humans, the orcs or the desert people (can't remember their name). I finished it two times and found it more appealing than Oblivion. There is an un-official patch dealing with almost every bug of Gothic 3. So I am looking forward to playing Arcania.

ClayMeow
ClayMeow

Because they say they're making this to appeal to NA RPG fans, does that imply that we will not have had to play the first three in order to enjoy the game and understand what's going on? I sure hope so.