It's very rare in games to have a sense of a genuine 'novum'; more often than not they can be functional rather than truly gripping. When I first started playing Arx Fatalis I could tell immediately it was the kind of game I would enjoy. For an indie game developer Arkane Studios have done an admirable job in the sound and graphics department to convey a brooding atmosphere and slightly skewed storyline. A la 12 Monkeys, albeit in a medieval setting, humanity is forced to migrate underground to escape the dying sun (somewhat reminiscent of the apocalyptic "Dark Earth"). An eerie whoosh of air emanates throughout the cavernous corridors which is effective in creating a sense of isolation - the the first thing I noticed when I started playing the game. Your footsteps echo eerily in the near-silence surrounding you, an estrangement effect worthy of say Silent Hill. I felt a genuine sense of dread, never knowing to expect. This is the central facet of the game; you are always alone, and the lack of music and lighting (except ambient music/lights tied to certain locations) creates a hollow, foreboding atmosphere. Although I wouldn't classify Arx Fatalis as a scary game, it has a creeping sense of unease which kept me compelled.
Unfortunately the game has a few problems that might deter some from playing on. For one, the interface is quite clunky; using items and the inventory can be a chore. And while there is a lot you can do with the game world, it's not always readily clear what you have to do. The puzzles in the game can be quite challenging. Nevertheless, I feel for inventiveness that this game deserves credit. After playing a slew of action RPGs it is nice to play something a little bit more measured and cerebral. A PC RPG gem which captures for me what the core of the RPG experience is: genuine adventure in a novel setting.