Arcania: Gothic 4

7.0 Overall Score

Written by on March 23, 2011 in

The folks at JoWooD Entertainment have created the fourth installment in the ArcaniA series and this humble little RPG hopes to find its footing in the ever-expanding open world of epic adventures.  The story begins in the troubled dreams of a king slowly losing the grasp of his kingdom and reality.  This dream state serves to introduce the player to the games controls while moving the plot line along.

We are next dropped into the serene if slightly boring life of a shepherd in the sleepy little village of Feshyr.  Several quests further teach the gameplay and fighting style as the nameless hero’s fight for the hand of his lady love turns into a much larger battle of good versus evil.  After returning from an adventure to win the approval of his future father–in-law he finds his idyllic life lay in ruins when a horde of marauders destroy his homeland and killing his love.  Swearing vengeance he goes forth to slay those responsible for his misery but finds his destiny instead.  A destiny to save his King and mankind fromthe clutches of a great evil about to be unleashed onto the world.  This is no quick fix game.  The story has a lot of depth and a large amount of side quests that will last a while.  The main quests can take roughly 30 hours to complete and side quests can easily add another10 to 20 hours of gameplay.  If that is not enough there is a new add-on coming out later this month, ArcaniA: Fall of Setarrif, promises an additional 10 extra hours of adventuring.

Before I go too far, there are a few things that may bother those gaming elite out there.  I did experience a few moments when I was transported to another realm known also as “falling through the world”.  There is a big open world to explore but if you dare attempt to jump around certain out of bounds areas like the acid pit, as I did, then be forewarned that the world may just swallow you up and spit you out to suffer a slow painful acid death.  Luckily this phenomena was rare and most of the world is very gorgeous.  The light airy feel of the lush world artfully disintegrates so the player can get their bearings without desperately trying to find your character among the trees.  The environment, powered by the Vision Engine 7 middleware, is lush but allows the player to see where they are and orient themselves to best deal with the oncoming evil minions.  There are other less than stellar moments in the game such as the dialog.  The voice acting can be a little stiff but you can progress through the lines quickly using the ‘Y’ button if long dialog starts to bother you.  I did like the story even if the story tellers faltered at their craft.

There are some fun elements of the game that I would love to see further implemented in coming games.  One such element is that the player can interact with many items in the world. For example you can turn a skewered pig on a spit over a fire, or use a whetstone to appear to sharpen your weapons, or sit on down and smoke a bit on a water pipe.  The only sad part of all these actions is that while they are entertaining, it would have been even more fun if the actions resulted in some real reactions.  I would have loved to see my nameless hero get back up after his smoke to  stumble a bit or have the sharpening stone actually add damage stats to my weapon.  This is a fairly minor point that would have made for some intriguing gameplay.

Another nice element is the crafting icon that shows up on the screen if you have collected all the ingredients necessary to craft an item.  If you find some of the many scrolls that teach you how to craft equipment, potions, or food that the game will let you know when you have all the ingredients necessary to craft something by displaying a little crafting hammer icon in the lower portion of the screen.  This allows the player to relax and collect ingredients to theirs heart’s content and stop to craft once they have enough to create an item.  It is a very nice idea and allows players a relaxed crafting environment.  You don’t have to find a forge to create armor or a stove to cook up a meal.  Just click on the item you wish to craft and create it.  This may take some of the fun out of the process for those hardcore MMO crafting gurus but the weekend warriors may appreciate the easier process.  The only thing that would have made it perfect for me would have been incorporating an element of crafting I fell in love with in Two Worlds II.  I am utterly spoiled by the ability to dismantle crap loot to upgrade my better weapons and I think that this element would add greatly to ArcaniA’s already easy crafting system.  I was happy to have a bag that could carry as much crap as I could pick up from the corpses of the evil I had vanquished but trying to scroll through the insanely long list of items to find anything worth saving got a little frustrating.  Selling the stuff at the local merchant was a nice alternative but, honestly there was no reason for me to amass wealth in the game since there was no real estate to purchase and the best gear was gained from quests or looting.  The only reason to desire wealth is the achievement for earning over 200,000 gold.  It would be nice to have a reason to need the loot but since there were no space or weight restrictions for carrying enormous amounts of loot I forged on like a crazed thief.

There is one last wish for new games in the ArcaniA series.  This game seems to have no easy way to travel quickly throughout the extremely large world.  There are portals but they were seldom useful to make my journey much faster and I found myself running very slowly from one area to another.  I was really missing the sprinting option from games like Fable or Two Worlds.

Now I will return to the fun stuff.  This, as I stated before, is a game with a lot of depth.  There are quests aplenty and I enjoyed how even the most trivial quests seemed to progress the story.  The tutorial quests in the beginning give the player experience in the different fighting elements of the game and the crafting aspects while showing the player our nameless hero’s humble past and his reasons behind his vengeful rage.  Quest mobs and NPC’s are easily identified by large exclamation marks over their head and white circles that appear on the small map when you are close enough to them.  Achievements are also a consideration for some and this game has quite a few that are fairly easy to get throughout the game without much extra effort.  One such achievement, “relaxed attitude”, can be gain by having the hero sit or lay down for over an hour.  Another achievement rewards the player for impersonating a “Jackrabbit” and jumping over 1,000 times.  Not all the achievements are frivolous, however.  Others are the typical achievements for progressing through the main quest but I really appreciated that there were also rewards for completing some of the side quests.  It was a happy surprise that at the end of one such side quest a cheery chievo dinged and made quest worth the effort.  This is a wonderful idea that should be incorporated into more games of the genre.  Why supply tons of side quests that are completely optional and without any true purpose?

In the end this is an RPG for those newer to the genre or less patient than the typical RPG guru.  The quests are straightforward, the crafting is painless and the environments are very light and easy to see.  This is a game without a lot of frills.  It’s a nice story and will provide many hours of good adventuring.  I would recommend it to those intimidated by the complexities of the more hardcore skill-tree-intensive RPG games.  This was a very entertaining entry-level game and an impressive entry from a smaller developer.

A copy of ArcaniA: Gothic 4 was provided to The Married Gamers for review and evaluation.


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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

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