A step backwards, tripping then tumbling down a steep hill

User Rating: 6.5 | Arcania: Gothic 4 PC
There are two ways to review this game. As the last addition to my favorite RPG game series, Gothic, or as the completely new game that it is.

Rating it as a Gothic game would give it a disastrous score, as it is plain simply just a bleak shadow of said series. At best it is a completely unrelated game trying to scam itself onto fans of the original series using a much loved brand as a cover.

Instead I chose to forget about its past, and review it as a completely new game, so that the review might be useful to new gamers unfamiliar with the Gothic universe. So, let's just call the game Arcania, and forget about Gothic from now on.

Arcania is an action adventure game, with the slightest flavor of RPG mixed in. If you ever played Fable, then this is pretty much what Arcania tries to be, although it never reaches that level.

If you do not click yourself quickly through the mediocre cutscenes, as I mostly did, you'll find you are playing some guy out for revenge to kill the ones murdering his fiancee and unborn child. Could have been a pretty touching story, except the main character shows the emotional depth of a wooden doll. - Oh, family dead, off to slay some monsters then...

The horrific voice acting wont help a bit to immerse you into the world either, but then again, who ever cared about stories in games? If I want a good story, I'll watch a good movie or, god forbid, even read a book. A game is all about gameplay. So, what about the gameplay then?

This is how it goes. Meet character A, he will ask you to fetch object B for him. Locate B and fight the generic enemy C protecting it by rolling around to avoid attacks and using melee or ranged combat to win the fight. Bring object B back to A, and A will remove obstacle D to the next section of the world for you. Then off to meet the next A.

That's it, repeat over and over, while picking up loot and obtain experience points on the way so you can deal more damage and protect yourself better.

It's a linear and pretty much brain dead experience as the game is holding your hand the whole time, highlighting quest items with big red exclamation marks hanging over your target, and animating stuff you can pick up. Great if you play Super Mario Brothers, but less so when trying to immerse yourself in a virtual world. It just never stops reminding you that you are playing a game.

This applies to the game logic as well. For example at some point I met a random orc that refused me to pass a path he was watching, in an area where I just killed dozens of orcs. But suddenly killing this particular orc was not an option, and you have to obey its denial of passing until you do some favor for him (right, fetch generic object B). This kind of forced logic keeps making the world feel like a fake stage set up for you.

I really missed the option to solve problems in different ways. For example in the above case, it would be so much cooler if you could choose to sneak past the orc, kill the orc or actually be nice and do him the favor. No such options here, play it the way the game designers tell you to. People in the town even ignore you if you bash them in the face with a sledgehammer, or if you steal from them. The developers didn't want the trouble to make this matter, the only thing that matters is when you play it the way they designed it to be played, then you will incrementally drive the story forwards.

What does save this game though, is the great visuals. The 3D engine is awesome, and I love the big world you can explore. Even though the game is very linear, you do have quite a lot of freedom to go where you want, and on your travel you can kill random monsters hidden here and there and pick up treasure.

It does feel quite rewarding to gradually collect loot and experience to shape your character into a mighty warrior. They got some details right to, I really liked that when you as a spellcaster get more powerful spells, they do not just become more powerful, they also look much more powerful. A detail often overlooked in similar games. The most powerful fireball spell you can cast looks more like a small nuclear bomb leaving the whole area burning, than your regular a Molotov cocktail fireball. Awesome.

If you like simple button mashing action games, after a long day at work/school, and you just need to turn your brain off. This might be a good choice. I think it is overpriced though, as it certainly lacks the depth of a good RPG, and the game seems quite rushed.

I'm still giving this a generous 6.5, since I despite finding a lot of flaws with the game, actually enjoyed playing it quite a bit. And in the end, that's what defines a good game. Not great game, but it will do for now until a decent RPG arrives.