Inside Pulse 12

Review: ArcaniA: Gothic 4 (Microsoft Xbox 360)

ArcaniA: Gothic 4
Publisher: Dreamcatcher Games
Developer: Spellbound
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 10/19/2010

Ah yes, Gothic. Here we are at game number four. I’ve briefly played the other three, and I do mean briefly. This is the first version of Gothic that I’ve played on a console (XBOX 360). I remembered having a bit of fun with the personal computer versions but will I have fun in this fantasy romp on a console?

Story:

You are UNNAMED. UNNAMED works his flock on a small island with his love interest (Ivy) and various villagers. UNNAMMED’s island *spoiler* goes through horrific tragedy and everyone dies, including his unborn baby *spoiler.* UNNAMED, armed with a club (because clubbing is the best) and magic scrolls after being told he can wield magic, now goes to avenge his people and sheep (I killed those myself though) on King Rhobar III’s forces, who are responsible for the bloodshed. Everyone is looking for a magic anvil and you, UNNAMED, mean to stop King Rhobar III from getting that anvil. Rhobar III has gone crazy, by the way, and is no longer noble but evil. UNNAMED, you must stop him!

Standard operating procedure.

Story Rating: Poor

Graphics:

ArcaniA: Gothic 4 looks nice. The trees, shadows, orcs, dragonflies, lizards, other lizards, skeletons, grass, herbs and whatnot all look okay. The thing is, most everywhere looks the same. The swamp level? Less a swamp and more of a forest/grassland with a bit of weird brownish looking parts. The coastal castle city? It is at least different because it is inhabited by large stone houses instead of more trees, green grass and rock outcroppings. Your home island is more than just a proving ground, it is the basis of hours of what you are going to look at, even an orc-like thing! Still, the looks aren’t shabby-there’s just no variety. Sure there is weather but rainy looks rainy and sunny is sunny. I found it further confused me as to where I was in the game.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

Sound:

Things buzz and gnash their teeth at you. People have voice acting and there’s an orc language. I noticed there was some background music. This music was utterly forgettable. I decided to turn on my computer and listen to my own music instead of listening to the game since none of the sounds held my attention. In fact, since things are voice acted, you get things line by line instead of everything in chunks. This slowed me down. There is a major plus to the sound though: BONE CRUNCHING. When you smack something hard with a blunt object, you can hear the joyous sound of body being tenderized. I liked that a lot!

Sound Rating: Mediocre

Control and Gameplay

You have a choice of easy, normal, hard or GOTHIC. I decided to choose normal because that is, well, normal. The game starts you out with a some sort of dream sequence that gets you acquainted with the mechanics of doing things in the game. Then you are given the role of UNNAMED island man.

Fighting varies on what path you choose: melee, ranged (bows/crossbows) or magic. With magic, you are limited by mana. With ranged combat, your limit is arrows and the time it takes to fully power a shot. Melee is a beast divided into two halves: stamina using attacks and regular old button mashing. Attacks that use stamina are limited by your total stamina but do more damage blow by blow than your button mashing chained melee attacks. As you progress, you can put points into these branches, eventually gaining stealth to make your guy more of a thief for ambushes or going precision for better ranged attacks. Stronger magic and longer flurries of attacks and better single stamina using power attacks are also options. On normal mode, I found that using chained attacks was best for me, merrily pressing the x button while chaining both two single handed weapons. I preferred the blunt instruments because I am civilized. Cutting is for emos and bad poetry night at the student union. When lacking blunt options, I would go for the axe because an axe is just a more primitive version of a club -a club with a blade. Kind of like a retarded club that goes to special club schools on short buses.

You run around the world in a third person view, with the camera being controlled by the right thumb stick while most everything else is done via the left thumb stick. A quick use bar is mapped to the thumbpad and that is actually useful, as it allow you to hotlink scrolls, healing items or random inventory items. Your attacks via melee are done via the X button. Ranged attacks are done by pressing the right trigger to switch to your ranged weapon then pressing the trigger again and holding it for the power of the shot. You line up the shot with your left thumbstick. Magic is mapped to the right button. You press it once to change to magic than press it again and again for magic missiles of varying spell schools. The Y button is for rolling around in a direction and you move your thumbstick to or blocking.

The start button brings up your menu where you can choose between learning about your quests, spending your points from leveling up on the aforementioned battle specialties, your inventory, crafting and the map. Quests are listed and you can highlight them on the map, helping to find out where the heck to go to collect 54 wasp wangs or lizard winged wangs. The map shows you the world and you can zoom in to an almost useful close up but are left just far enough away to be annoyed. Inventory lets you change weapons, clothes, and go through all the crap you have absconded with along the way. Crafting is a basically, “Find a recipe, use it, then see if you have the necessary materials to make it.” Then you press A to confirm crafting things. A confirms, by the way. Select brings up the save, load and whatnot menu. Press A to select save or load. I had to look for my most recent save because it was not the first save listed when I accidently selected the first save in the load menu. The text is okay in HD but crap if you are cheap and decided to take it to a room where you just have old cathode ray joy tubes. Cheap people need reading too!

If you are a gear collector, like me, you will find that going through your menus is tough. Everything gets sorted one of two ways: most powerful on top or least powerful on top. Your list will always go through to least powerful, making you scroll up to find things. There are some things you cannot sell, like your shepard’s crook or your dead baby mama’s bow. Those stay in your inventory FOR-EV-ER. FOR-EV-ER. Curses! I hate the inventory system. I don’t care about quest items and I hate that I cannot hit left trigger to get to the final list when I open up the inventory. I also dislike having to use the left thumb stick to switch between the buy and sell lists (my own inventory and the shop owners). Then, if I sell something, I have to hit the left trigger to get to their selling list page by page of their list, from miscellaneous to ranged to melee and equipment instead of just going straight to their full list. This is stupid. Utterly, completely stupid. Thanks for wasting precious time of my life, jerks.

ArcaniA: Gothic 4 is a world where fetching things for people is pretty much all you will do. The game is “open world,” which is code for having you wander around until you finally remember where you are going. The map doesn’t zoom in well enough for my eyes and people keep telling you to go get spider wangs and bat wings (not really those exact things) so they can then do something for you. Progress is artificially stalled because you must rescue the grand transvestite King of City That is Not Forest, so he can then say you can go through a gate/door thing. Repeat this over and over again. This is not so much an adventure as an errand. UNNAMED hero does do heroic deeds but, cleverly, refuses to say his name. Oh ho ho ho, how clever you are people that made this game. UNNAMED hero is too modest to let people talk about his heroic fetching of lizard eggs in the swamp or bringing back some weeds in the forest that looks like the swamp but is not the swamp because the swamp comes later and everything looked so alike I do not remember much past the swamp except that I had to appease an orc and some wizards to get by the orc. Quick, UNNAMED hero, fetch me some booze!

I didn’t like this game too. M-O-O-N that spells please Walking Dude, end my misery.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Poor

Replayability:

Any replayability you get from Arcania: Gothic 4 comes from two sources. The first comes from the few times where you have a choice, my favorite being whether or not to beat someone up or find someone in order to get someone else freed from jail. The second is choosing whether or not to be a magic guy, a guy who is a wizard with a bow or my choice: someone who uses melee to slaughter. Otherwise, I think this game is a one and done if you are in this for story. You can play harder modes but, well, all you get is harder stuff and nothing new.

Replayability Rating: Poor

Balance

When you face things one on one, often times there does not seem to be a sense of danger. Lacking that danger in one-on-one encounters kind of hurts the game, but thankfully (?) you rarely face anything one on one. Everything hostile in ArcaniA seems to be part of a gang. You face four dragonflies or eight skeletons of differing skill sets. Sometimes you face a big worm or a stone golem or a pissed of jerk who won’t give you someone’s sketch book. You kill those pretty easily. One handed weapons are faster, two handed weapons are powerful, magic is crap if you don’t spend points in it (like it should be) and bows/crossbows can be good even if you are not an expert.

Healing items and the ability to spam them is limited by how many you possess… but I rarely ran out. There are plentiful weapon drops to sell and upgrades found off of dead people or in chests. If you play the game, you’ll find it’s nicely balanced, but that’s all that’s really nice about it.

Balance Rating: Above Average

Originality:

Civilized orcs, a generic fantasy setting, magic, and kings all tied together with a quest for revenge. I cannot say much more. I found very little to be eye-poppingly original. There were turtles who weren’t turtles but evil monsters. I guess that was something. Otherwise, you have your straight fantasy role playing game romp.

Originality Rating: Bad

Addictiveness:

ArcaniA did not have me hooked. The story was rather predictable and the constant fetching was irritating. I hated running all over the map, eating up time. Combat was mainly pressing one button over and over with little variety in any mechanic. It’s just… not something I could see myself playing all that often.

Addictiveness Rating: Bad

Appeal Factor

Fans of the series may like this game as well as Euro RPG enthusiasts. The game is not awful, just sort of like a bland bowl of oatmeal. There aren’t even any raisins or cinnamon in the oatmeal. ArcaniA is a diversion, but not an engaging diversion. Considering that ArcaniA came out around the same time as Fallout: New Vegas, I cannot see spending money on A: GIV unless you already finished other games and are looking for something to tide you over if you do not have a back catalogue.

Appeal Factor Rating: Poor

Miscellaneous

The world itself is smooth with little loading, unless you take a teleporter and then you have a bit of stoppage, but not much. Also, people’s wardrobes suck unless they are adventuring!

Miscellaneous Rating: Mediocre

The Scores
Story: Poor
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Poor
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: BELOW AVERAGE GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary

My time spent with ArcaniA: Gothic 4 was more like spending time in a waiting room than anything else. It is bland, something to play just to finish it and kind of irritating. I really do not strongly dislike ArcaniA but am quite irritated by Gothic 4. A: GIV is that irritating vertical hold problem of VCR legend. The game had the potential to be something fun, but instead, it just bothers the crap out of you and it may just be another terrible slasher flick like Driller Killer. It’s just not worth it in the end. If you must play this game, rent it or buy it on the cheap.