Video games, like movies, can be either high budget or low budget. There are titles out there which would be the equivalent of a straight-to-DVD film. This is exactly what Arcania: The Complete Tale is. It’s in the vein of games like Skyrim or Dragon Age but without the polish, imagination, or fun that those particular games provide. Not that there is anything wrong with this per se, but it’s hard to justify this game’s existence when there are stronger alternatives available.
Arcania is actually the fourth installment in the Gothic series. The game was originally released for the PC and Xbox 360 and eventually the PlayStation 3. Since now is the age of the remasters, Arcania is finally receiving another chance on the PlayStation 4. Why this particular game needed to be remastered isn’t something I can answer, but nevertheless, here it is.
This is a fairly standard Western RPG (WRPG) as far as mechanics and gameplay are concerned. You will travel to various lands to meet people and fight monsters along the way. As you progress by completing quests and slaying foes, your character will level up, unlocking new skills and spells. Again, this is all standard stuff which is not at all bad in and of itself, but the way the way the game handles this simple function, leaves much to be desired.
Since this is an RPG, you will spend most of your time killing all manner of creatures and unfriendly types. You start off with simple blunt weapons and graduate to sharp and pointy instruments of death as you progress. However, hitting an enemy with a club or sword doesn’t provide much of a difference. It always seems as if you are hitting a carboard box with a wiffle bat; something that doesn’t make you feel like a bad-ass warrior.
You can freely dodge out of the way of attacks or stop them with your shield. Some enemy attacks can be countered with a well timed shield or sword parry. However, since this mechanic is very clumsy, it’s better to just roll out of the way of attacks.
Similar to most games, Arcania utilizes a targeting feature. This helps keep players from wildly swinging at nothing by focused on one foe. Although the lock-on feature is helpful, you will still need to be careful of other enemies who may cast projectile weapons at you from indirect angles.
In addition, players will obtain spells to use in and out of combat. Using spells is a bit cumbersome since players will have to sheath their weapon before using them. This could have been simplified by having the character automatically put their weapon away to fire off spells, but that isn’t the case here. Unless I was caught in a position where I needed to use a spell in order to break an enemy’s defense, I typically stuck to using melee attacks so I wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle of casting spells.
Players will cover a lot of ground as they go about doing the (mostly menial) fetch quests. The environments themselves are a mixed bag. While there are some nice looking lighting effects here and there, you can tell that this is covering up a game which was already ugly to begin with. Neat additions like raised grass that sways in the wind don’t prevent you from seeing muddy or flat rock textures, gelatinous looking water waves, and of course, the ugly denizens of the world. Graphically speaking, this game looks like an old troll with a really pretty wig on. The wig looks nice but it does little to hide the hideous beast underneath it.
Speaking about ugly, let’s get to the voice acting. While I recognize that this is an older game, even titles from its time didn’t feature voice acting this horrendous. The main character delivers the best performance… which is sad considering how phoned-in his delivery sounds. This is a testament to just how bad the voice acting is. I like the Wizard of Oz as much as anyone, but when I heard the stereotypical broom-flying, snickering “I’LL GET YOU MY PRETTY!” witch voice from the first witch I met in the game, I almost gave myself a brain aneurysm from rolling my eyes so hard. Considering the unprofessional voice acting, it almost seems as if the developers asked their friends to provide low quality dialogue after work and after too many glasses of cheap wine.
Before we wrap this up, I have to talk about the various glitches which plague the game. There is a lot, and I mean, a lot of texture pop-in which occurs frequently as you enter new areas of the world. This is bad enough as is, but things get even worse when the already aesthetically challenged characters’ faces form before your eyes. There is also the issue of the music just randomly stopping for no real reason. Not that the music is particularly inspired either, but having it just decide to unexpectedly quit made things even worse.
I hate to knock a game to this degree, but it really isn’t worth your time, or the time of anyone else. No developer sets out to create a bad game, but this one just isn’t very good. With so many better WRPG alternatives out there, anyone outside of hardcore Gothic fans would be wise to skip Arcania: The Complete Tale.
This review of Arcania: The Complete Tale is based on a digital review copy for the PlayStation 4 provided by Nordic Games.