The game is perhaps best recognized with it's setting, story and atmosphere. The world in this game exists under the ground, full of caves, underground villages, and tunnels. People and creatures are forced to settle there, because of a dying sun. The beginning starts out generically. You are a man who wakes up in a Goblin prison, suffering amnesia. It's a premise that has been seen many times before, but it always succeeds in making the story interesting. Because your character has no memory of his name, he is called Am Shegar. He eventually escapes from the prison cell and must learn more of his past and the place he is stuck in. That's all I can say for the story since I haven't played too far into the game, but it grows to become interesting.
Unlike many RPGs, Arx Fatalis is extremely atmospheric. There is no music at all during the gameplay (only in cutscenes) so the game relies on ambience in order to immerse the player, and this is done surprisingly well. To add to that are the fantastic areas to explore and visual details. The graphics are very detailed in environment and the colour is often pretty moody. I can honestly say that not once did I ever feel safe, even when I killed all enemies in the area. The game has beauty in it's art, but it is worth mentioning that you will experience a number of creepy moments in this game as well which you will not forget any time soon.
Arx Fatalis is a simplified RPG. It has the standard design of featuring side-quests, exploration, leveling-up and open-ended gameplay. A lot of things you can do in real life, you can do in this game like cooking fish, picking up any object you find, attack anyone you wish etc. Spells are also worth mentioning as they can be used for a number of things like combat and solving puzzles. The game indeed has puzzles. They haven't been challenging so far but still held my interest.
It is a great game in many ways, but a heavily flawed one. For starters the interface is confusing and the tutorial is practically useless. I had to replay the intro several times to understand the game mechanics because I even could not figure out how to scroll pages in the in-game tutorial guide. The voice-acting is often good, but Am Shegar sounds so shallow and boring. The combat is even worse. Although it is sometimes intense and pretty bloody, you get the small feeling that Arkane Studios spent the least time on that. Not only is there no parry function, but it is incredibly clunky and slow compared to your foe's quick reflexes.
I often do not let such a small number of flaws affect my rating as heavily as this, but this is one of those rare occasions where they just frustrated me far too much. It is such a pity that a game which has ideas that are my cup of tea, had to be let down by a few other points. To briefly conclude, if you are fussy about the quality of combat, interface and learning curve, don't give second thoughts about trying it out. However, if you are a huge fan of RPGs with claustrophobic, creepy atmospheres and immersive storylines, then this is a very good choice.