The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
I've got no problem with one-dimensional games so long as they are
up-front about it. Painkiller doesn't pretend to have a deep morality
tale under its demon-eviscerating surface. Hell, Mario makes no bones
about being anything more than a game about running and jumping on
things. Arcania: Gothic 4, on the other hand, goes to great lengths to
convince you that it's got a storyline and characters and everything. It
doesn't. It barely holds together as a loot-collecting exploration
vehicle. Diving past Arcania's surface in search of anything beyond
these facile diversions quickly reveals the façade as a paper-thin
lie.It's not impossible to have a good time with
Arcania. The world is gorgeous, with real-time shadows cast by the sun
passing overhead and hidden secrets waiting to be discovered in hundreds
of hand-crafted nooks and crannies. Decrepit watchtowers keep drunken
watch over the crashing tides. Trees shiver and toss in anticipation of
coming storms, which crash down with thunderous fury when they finally
materialize. Terrible beasts lurk in the tall grass of algae-drenched
swamps, ready to swarm anyone caught alone in their sodden domain.
Dozens of touches like this give Arcania's world a convincing illusion
of life, and lend a pure joy to exploring it.Defending yourself
against the threats that blanket the land is trivially easy much of the
time, to the point where any experienced RPG player should start out on
Hard or even Gothic difficulty. Swordplay has an easy flow to it, with
simple timing-based combos and evasive rolls giving skilled players
enough to do without requiring Devil May Cry levels of precision or
depth. Switching between magic, melee, and ranged attacks is
unfortunately clunky, though, which limits the possibilities of
exploring unusual hybrid builds for your hero.Placing the skill
points you gain as you level is one of just two avenues of customizing
your avatar, and neither it nor the equipment game has enough meat to
hold my interest. A mere eight skill tracks offer very little choice in
picking skills, especially considering that the three melee skills all
impact your play very similarly, as do the three magic skills. The
single skill track devoted to ranged combat gives lame passive bonuses
and eventually, at very high levels, unlocks extra damage for headshots.
Lame. The sneaking track offers no effective utility beyond letting you
ambush one enemy for bonus damage, as there are almost no alternate
solutions to obstacles – no luring patrolling guards into traps, no
slipping undetected into dungeons to free your friends. Just about every
situation has one solution: go somewhere, smash a dude in the face
until he drops his loot/gives you the information you want/opens the
door.Which brings us to the storyline, characters, and dialogue.
Or, more accurately, the lack thereof. The less spoken about these
elements the better. The writing is sophomoric. The NPCs are by turns
eye-rolling stereotypes and so bland they're hard to remember after
exiting the dialogue. The plot…ugh. Everything about the role-playing
part of the game is awful, save the main character's visibly growing
frustration at having to navigate every RPG trope of the last twenty
years just to get some revenge on the mad king who torched his hometown.
I feel you, brother.Arcania isn't what anyone thought Gothic 4
would be. It's a marginally competent action/RPG with all the depth of a
kiddie pool, not the huge open-world role-playing epics the series was
previously known for. At least it isn't afflicted by the plague of bugs
that crippled Gothic 3 at release. I didn't hate my time with it, and
it's by no means impossible to find some value here. Just know what
you're getting into before taking the plunge.
[Programming note: The title of the game is indeed Arcania: Gothic
4; it was changed mid-development from Arcania: A Gothic Tale. Due to a
technical issue in our web software, we are unable to change the game's
page to reflect that. As soon as that is cleared up, we'll be sure to
fix the title. In the meantime, please accept our apologies.]