Arcania: Gothic 4 Q&A - First Impressions Plus Story Details

We get our first look at this upcoming sequel to the Gothic series, then grill producer Kamaal Anwar for more details.

The sadly underappreciated Gothic role-playing series has been around since 2001 and has told the tale of a soft-spoken nameless hero who ventures forth into a dark fantasy world and eventually becomes a skillful archer, mighty warrior, or powerful wizard while avoiding the perils of being slain by an orc. Perhaps even more sadly, the previous game in the series, Gothic 3, was released with noticeable technical issues, despite the fact that the game also took on an ambitious graphical overhaul. Now, the series is back with a new developer, Spellbound, and a new chapter: Arcania: Gothic 4. Arcania will have a new nameless hero, a new story, and a new home--whereas the previous games were for the PC only, Arcania will also appear on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.

We recently had a chance to see the Xbox 360 version of the game in motion to get a quick overview of the game, which starts off on a fairly large "tutorial island" before shipping you off to the rest of the game, which takes place on two other, even-more-vast islands. You play as a nameless shepherd (a brand-new character) whose entire world has been turned upside down by a violent, bloody raid on his home island perpetrated by the new king, Rhobar III, who bears more than a passing resemblance to the previous games' nameless hero. The king's raiding party kills off all your character's friends and family, not to mention his fiancee, so you embark on a journey to seek revenge for your fallen comrades, and you can eventually become a swordsman, archer, or wizard, just like your predecessor.

Arcania seems to be easy to control and easy to play with the standard Xbox 360 controller--your character's various skills are mapped to quick buttons (a single button press will switch your character from magic to melee to archery), while you can use the D pad to immediately switch to different quick-use items (such as food and other healing items)--a godsend to Gothic fans who previously struggled to pull healing potions out of their packs while they were being beaten to death by monsters.

The king killed your family. Now it's time to make him pay.

In addition to reintroducing the series' three different combat professions, Arcania will have a skill-tree system with points that can be invested each time you gain a level, and its combat systems will be streamlined to make them a bit easier to use. For instance, melee combat will take place with a single button to attack (but will have specific combination attacks based on timing and your character's invested skill points) plus a separate button to either dodge or block with a shield if you have one; archery will let you autolock your targets at the cost of doing less damage, or zoom in on your targets for deadly headshots once you become more skilled; and magic will have three primary schools in fire (which can be developed to rain down damaging blasts in an area), ice (which both damages and slows the speed of enemies), and lightning (which temporarily stuns enemies by causing their bodies to briefly convulse in pain).

Since Arcania's story takes place only 10 years after the events of Gothic 3, you can also expect to see reappearances by other familiar characters in the series, such as Diego and Gorn. And again, that new homicidal king sure looks and sounds a lot like the previous games' nameless hero…but the developer suggests that the story of how the king became what he is may not be as straightforward as it seems. The game itself will be a bit more focused around its story and will have a more-linear structure that will take an estimated 30 to 50 hours to complete for players who just want to reach the end, though there will still be plenty of side content for those who want to poke around and do some exploring.

For more details on the game, GameSpot sat down with producer Kamaal Anwar.

GameSpot: Give us an update on the game's development. What aspects is the team currently working on?

But first, some light hiking in Arcania: Gothic 4's huge open world.

Kamaal Anwar: We're getting close to finalizing the game, actually. We've kept things a bit open to allow us to revise things over this last period if necessary. Most of that is lurking around forums and paying careful attention to the discussions in response to what's being featured by press. In addition, there is a large focus on quality assurance (QA) right now. Every remaining issue is being identified and addressed to ensure that this game runs as intended on all platforms.

GS: Given that Arcania is the successor to the Gothic series, what are some of the primary improvements that the team wanted to make to the series, particularly over Gothic 3?

Arcania will have a more-linear structure but will still offer plenty of room to explore.

KA: It's no secret that Gothic 3 had its problems when it came to bugs and accessibility for those not familiar with Gothic. [Most players who were] lucky enough to get around the bugs and invested enough time to get comfortable with the Gothic universe enjoyed Gothic 3. For everyone else, it was a frustration before its layers could ever unfold. As these were two of our primary concerns when we started Arcania, we've focused on bug-fixing and accessibility. Having a new main character, for example, lets us naturally introduce the cast of the Gothic universe to players who may not have known them from previous games, while at the same time covering all the bases for fans of the series. A few more-perceptible improvements are the graphics. We've boasted about what's been achieved by the talented developer Spellbound--fans simply didn't believe the first batches of screenshots were real.

GS: Give us an overview of Arcania's story.

KA: Arcania takes place 10 years after the events of Gothic 3. A lot has changed in the world with the original nameless hero, now Rhobar III, unifying Myrtana and extending his influence throughout the rest of the world. In Arcania we find Rhobar III expanding to the islands south of Myrtana, in particular Argaan. While Rhobar III comes off as corrupt, he rationalizes [his behavior]. [He feels that what he does] is best for a world that has been so consistently helpless in the past. However, there seems to be more driving his totalitarian approach to world peace. Throughout the game, we are introduced to new characters as well as old favorites who will ultimately help decide the fate of the world.

GS: How have the events in the previous game shaped the world of Arcania? What has happened to the factions of the previous games--which factions are in power and which have fallen out of favor?

KA: As you can see, everything in the previous games has a direct tie in some way to the story of Arcania, even though it doesn't focus particularly on Myrtana. I have to be a bit tight-lipped about the details of the factions, because they do play a great role in the story, and I wouldn't want to spoil any of the many twists Arcania has to offer.

GS: The Gothic series is known for letting players create a character specialized along the lines of magic, archery, and melee combat. Can you tell us about how character development will work in Arcania?

KA: Similar to the previous games, you are playing a set character. How he develops, however, is completely up to you and similar to the previous Gothic games. While unlike the previous games there is now a skill screen, it doesn't cover everything you can eventually be capable of. What we have done to improve over the previous games in this regard is better balance the rewards of choosing any of those specialties.

GS: Are there any plans to change or enhance the melee or ranged combat systems in Arcania, especially considering that the game is planned for consoles as well as for PC?

KA: It's been changed quite a few times already, actually, and is currently going through slight revisions to tighten everything up. Every form of combat is effective and intuitive on either the PC or consoles. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that went into making sure that players weren't forced into using a particular form of combat because the one they wanted to use just wasn't designed properly. While ranged combat is not quite like playing a first-person shooter, it's an excellent method of combat as either a supporting or primary strategy depending on how you've developed your skills.

GS: Are there any other specific enhancements or additions that are planned to help the game be more console-friendly? A new interface, for instance?

How about a little lightning, scarecrow?

KA: There are specific interfaces for the console versions opposed to the PC version. We've been conscious about how the play styles differ from platform to platform and what gamers expect. After all, we're gamers too. The console version is not just Arcania in "easy mode," and neither is the PC version. There are, however, interface modifications that can be enabled or disabled at any time that may affect the difficulty you experience.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Arcania?

KA: Of course, tons! But I'll leave the rest for E3.

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Discussion

239 comments
vadagar1
vadagar1

hmmm I'm not impressed sadly :(

coal_james
coal_james

As a game in the gothic series it fails on all levels, but as a 1 time play *barginbin/rental* its still only average. I brought the game on the merrit of the name "gothic" but I think It was let down and I lost a fair bit of my gaming cash that could have been better spent.

sambo342
sambo342

Hello there ! Despite the negative things I read here, I like the game and as any it got its' flows but I like it so fare and I'm almost at he end.But I tching every game should have on disk link to up great like some games do.I'm now having one problem and that I can locate entrance to last boss Xiviria I thing according to last person I talk to, it suppose to be on east side at marsh there,but I can find it .Suppose to be hidden but where ?I vent along entire east cost there and no luck to find it.If somebody know the answer I aprishieate to help me with this :) Thanks' My email address is : beluga5@telus.net

Retread38
Retread38

Movement in this game is not as good as gothic 1,2 or 3. Piranha did a much better job. My game with a quad 4 processor and a 9300 nvidia card jumps all over the place.

vadagar1
vadagar1

its a gothic game, difficulty HARD, so if u get frustrated easily avoid all gothic games :P. thats why rpg fans worship it (me included)

Havickk
Havickk

I've never heard of this game, or this series before, but after some research and looking up screenshots and info I'm really liking what I'm seeing. I'm a die hard rpg head so I have a fondness for good rpg games that people will probably be sleep on. This game has some great graphics and the story seems solid but cliche, although that gets a pass, I like the class system so I'm hoping you can really dig deep into the classes. My only disappointment so far is I heard there's no character customization but i can live with that. One thing I do know already and I aint even played the game yet is that the magic system will be better than fable 2. Damn I hate the way they did that magic system. Whats funny is that I stumbled onto this game by accident, I was looking up info on the witcher 2, when this game popped up outta nowhere, and I'm glad I did cuz now I'm anticipating this games release. All in all spread the word rpg heads so this game can get some shine, cuz I'm pickin this up for sure.

TheSokDrawer
TheSokDrawer

Ok I'm confused...I've looked this up on a few sites, one says It's already been released, but Gamespot says it gets released the 19th. Can someone enlighten me? I have a 360 if that makes any difference.

coal_james
coal_james

Just saw a release for PC and Xbox today, hopfuly well get a full review soon.

mongoose90
mongoose90

Spellbound! I can't believe it! My favorite publisher with my favorite series!!

f_nastase
f_nastase

Fore the sake of G1 and G2(of which i was a huge fan) i will get my hands on this one...it looks better than G3 and in the end Gothic series is one of the few games that has exactly what RPG stands for. I only hope that my comp will cope with the requirements for G4.

Leonagard
Leonagard

My opinion about the demo and my thoughts about whats coming is not that good... I liked the demo but... after demon´s souls gameplay style that arrives, developers should have learn how to make a decent 3rd person rpg controls dont they??? I woudnt say that Arcania has a poor system I liked it but... blocking ant the feel of blocking dont exist... I Would love this game much more but its better than the 3rd one, no customize char is also unbelievable nowadays... overall this game will get a 7...

MihaiHornet
MihaiHornet

It's official, it will require one time SecuROM activation (unlimited installations though). It surely looks like a good game but I'm not buying it.

Locolaurence
Locolaurence

Liked the demo although the voice acting was horrible.

Mariner32
Mariner32

Just played the demo and I've gotta say this is the kind of RPG I've been waiting for ever since I finally got bored of Oblivion. It's a bit rough around the edges but if the storyline is as epic as the demo promises, I'll pick it up for sure.

j1965
j1965

play the demo,it is like two worlds but better gameplay.I also like the in game menu for your weapons,food and level up.I'll pick it up.

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

@Dematrix, it's a European title, of course it won't get in the limelight because of the biased North American game media! Name a single major European release title that has got 90%+ and at the same time, name a single major North American title that has got less than 90%! For example, none of the STALKER'S, none of the Gothic's, none of Sacred's or The Witcher got 90+ scores!

Mizuki88
Mizuki88

Looks fun. Never heard of the series ever before. But I'm interested now. There's an interesting amount of variation with the monsters as well.

Dematrix
Dematrix

I hope this is the restart gothic needs to get into the limelight - really is a great series (bugs aside).

KO4U
KO4U

after this and the recent ign hands-on I'm officially interested. Streamlined character use is often a difficult concept for PC developers to grasp (as they're used to an entire keyboard for actions). This could be the next game to leap from PC-centric RPG's to console with inviting results (following Dragon Age and Fallout. Sorry, Oblivion wasn't so tight on a controller).

kazama-1
kazama-1

i played all gothic 1.2.3 and now is 4 i hope they will mak it good at story i like that in all gothic games you have the same men i hop it wont be just slashing killing 1000 monsters but intresting game as always

gregerz
gregerz

I've played Gothic 1,2 & 3 and loved them despite the bugs. The addons were pretty much unplayable. I am hoping that since the series is moving to the console that the bugginess of the past will be gone. The gothic story lines have alway been more interesting and have a quirky sense of humor. The open worlds created in these games are beautiful and fun to explore and the creatures are some of the best arround. It has the best Orcs of any game out there.. I'm really looking forward to this game with high hopes of a more technically polished product with the same gameplay and story depth. Just haven't made up my mind if I'm going with PS3 or PC. Since it's played from a 3rd person perspective I will probably go PS3 since these games take long hours to play through and I would rather sit on my couch than at my computer. However graphically the PC crushes the PS3 & Xbox so it's a tough call.

Norwegicus
Norwegicus

Hope they didnt "dumb" it down to make it as an xbox version as well :/ Tend to be more complex when they make it for pc only from scratch.

scarhead1
scarhead1

i hope it will be long as the other gothic games and with no bugs

RageGT
RageGT

I love Gothic since the first with G2 being one of my all time favorites. Hell, I even had fun with G3 after they patched it. I really wished this was another Piranha Bytes game specially after the great job they did with G1, G2 and recently with Risen. I hope G4 can live up to the legend.

TheColdBlooded
TheColdBlooded

looks like a mix between TES IV:O and DA:O..... AWESOME !!

Kiriko_89
Kiriko_89

After reading this I can finally say it: This game is going to be legendary!

whitemute
whitemute

@SirMordredX Hey, if you're having a good time, who am I to stand in your way? Go get 'em, tiger.

SirMordredX
SirMordredX

@whitemute False rumors in gaming tend to annoy me, especially when people speak of them as truth. I seek only to enlighten the many gamers around the globe; enjoyment is merely a side-factor, a relative bonus depending on how much I succeed.

whitemute
whitemute

@SirMordredX Enjoying yourself? haha.

SirMordredX
SirMordredX

@richioso Untwist the brain! Open oneself up into elightenment! @mrboone01 Dude, don't you know what FTP means, or f2p? "Free to play", and Age of Conan is NOT free. It has an unlimited demo island to try out up until a certain level; which does not make it free. Of course there are lots of MMO's that are pay-to-play, that utilize much better tech - bot f2p games though... "Sorry to break it to you".

lambizkit
lambizkit

Gothic 2 was easily my favorite in the series. Due to the fact that this is being developed by Spellbound who has never touched an RPG in their life and is working with someone else' creation doesn't exactly scream 'great RPG' to me. I only have to look at the game developer Trine with their abysmal release of Forsaken Gods and then compare that with what Piranha Bytes has released to see that. Regardless of whether you liked Risen or not, at least it felt like a Gothic game.

ValentineHeart
ValentineHeart

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

ninn1000
ninn1000

DUDE! Burning Legion rock monsters :D This is now officially going to be pre-ordered. Unless there's lag. Then it can die.

conpanbear
conpanbear

Gothic 2 was one of the more memorable PC games of my younger days, so I'll be looking forward to this installment.

stonhengehill
stonhengehill

the game is very good but i dont know what is so special about this giant insect every time that i buy a RPG i see them they make me sick i really hate them

SideSwipes
SideSwipes

Combat looks boring and repetitive. Slash......Slash.......Slash........Slash. =/

tahrak
tahrak

nice game reminds me of dragon age

britanya
britanya

if its on xbox 360 i will get it

T0csiK
T0csiK

From that creatures intro .... i say .. the shadow beast and the golems looked bad ass :D

rezpatriot
rezpatriot

@WizardofGGG Actually I am wrong. Just looking on gamespot its the second highest tracked game. Even so, I will give it a miss. Hope you enjoy the RPG experience