It’s been a hell of a week playing through two lengthy titles. I finished Fallout New Vegas last Friday and moved right on to Spellbound Entertainment and Dreamcatcher Interactive’s new title, Arcania: Gothic 4. Released last Tuesday for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC for prices between 40 and 60 bucks, I was able to play through the PC version and get a feel for the 360 version so that I can compare the two for you. Now, I haven’t played any previous Gothic games, but this title has remarkable similarities to Risen, which I reviewed earlier this year, so I’ll be referencing that a lot. If Computer Role Playing Games get your blood pumping like they do for me, let’s check out Arcania: Gothic 4.
The overall story in Gothic 4 is nothing we haven’t seen before. You are a nameless hero, a shepherd on a small island, about to marry the local farmers daughter, when all hell breaks loose and the king of a neighboring kingdom invades and slaughters your entire village. As the sole survivor, of course you vow to avenge your loved ones and set out right away to the attackers’ homeland to track down and murder the king. You run into an old friend who recommends you first search for an ancient temple that contains a magical anvil, which could be used to construct a powerful weapon to aid you on your quest. Finding the temple actually takes up the majority of your time though as you’ll travel through various towns, performing favors for the locals to gather information and equipment. But all of this is really just a façade for something much larger affecting the entire world, and guess who just so happens to be “The Chosen One”, and gets to put a stop to it all.
The series of events that lead to the final battle are pretty sweet, but I really had no clue what the ending cinematic was, and lots of the time it was tough for me to figure out EXACTLY what was going on. I understood the overall story arc, but I couldn’t keep up with all of the names of the people everywhere. The story is just kind of bland, but that’s perfectly acceptable to me because the game-play was damn fun!
Gothic 4 took me about 20 hours to complete, but I could probably have spent another 10 hours or so exploring, completing additional side quests and hunting down all of the hidden treasures. Like Risen, the island that the game takes place on is freaking MASSIVE, but you can’t teleport around like you’d expect. Instead, teleport ruins are scattered here and there, but they work in pairs, so you’d essentially have to daisy chain between them to get from one side of the map to the other. The island is also broken down into several large zones, but once you exit the zone, you can’t backtrack until right near the end of the game.
You’ll participate in a large number of quests throughout your adventure, but I think this is the first game that I’ve played that keeps track of quest progress even before you have it, that is, if you kill say, 8 bugs, and then get a quest to kill 10 bugs, the quest will automatically be up to date at 8/10 when you get it.
If you recall back from Risen the inventory, quest and map management system on the Xbox 360 version of the title was terrible when compared to the PC equivalent. Gothic 4 makes some progress in this department, but again, the PC version is far superior. Because there is no weight or encumbrance, your inventory will get pretty bloated and a mouse just traverses this screen much more efficiently. One thing I didn’t particularly care for though was that you can’t view what you currently have equipped when you are looking at a merchants goods, so you never know if the item you’re about to purchase is better than what you have already.
Finally, this game is pretty resource intensive. I have a pretty powerful gaming rig, and when I maxed out the settings, I was averaging about 30 frames per second the entire game. Granted, this was quite playable at that frame rate, I think I would have just enjoyed it more at 60.
I love the game-play of these third-person Computer RPGs. It’s so much fun to watch your character progress, gain new powerful weapons and abilities and just beat the crap out of all the monsters. Overall, the game-play mechanics are nearly identical to that of Risen, except Gothic 4 doesn’t have any puzzles to solve or insta-gib traps to avoid.
Your character is classless, so as you earn experience and gain levels, points may be spent in a talent tree to grant you access to the game’s three upgradable spells: Fireball, Frostbolt and Lightning, advance your skills in melee and ranged combat, and even learn to sneak and pick locks. Early in the game it is pretty fun to combine all of these skills together but eventually you’ll just get to a point where Fireball becomes pretty much spammable and just destroys the enemies, really making most encounters pretty trivial. That is, assuming you maxed out Fireball like I did. Combine this with the fact that health and mana recharge over time, and combat becomes a breeze if you’re good at kiting.
Now, there are no requirements for weapons, armor or consumables, so you can mix and match your gear however you like. If you want to be a plate mail, sword and board fireball-casting son of a bitch, so be it. There are also items scattered EVERYWHERE and these can be combined together in a pretty simple crafting system to create your own gear, or more importantly, any number of the nearly limitless variety of potions.
While all of this is quite fun and I really did enjoy myself through this play through, I didn’t really feel immersed into a rich world like I did with Risen. I didn’t ever feel a sense of danger and there were no repercussions for my actions. For instance, in Risen, you couldn’t steal things from people or they would react violently to you. In Gothic 4, you just do whatever you want.
The graphics in the PC version of the title are absolutely beautiful. Not as pretty as those of Risen, but really beautiful regardless. When compared to the Xbox 360 version you can really see how much better these types of games look on a machine that can handle them, but there is no built in support for Anti-Aliasing, which was kind of a letdown. While the environments and weather effects look great, the character models are actually reused quite a bit, which again, really prevents you from getting immersed into the huge world.
The music in the game is wonderful and just goes great with the environments that you’ll travel through, but aside from the main character, the voice acting is absolutely terrible. Some of the characters are just freaking crazy, and one lady was voiced by two different actors in the paragraph. I know I recognize the voice of the main character but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The voices also don’t sync up with the lips very well, though I’ve got to assume this is because the game supports multiple languages and I’m guessing English isn’t the primary one.
While my overall impression of Arcania: Gothic 4 was positive, I have a lot of mixed feelings about my experience with the title. I think I was spoiled by Risen earlier this year as it was a better game in nearly ever regard, BUT, I don’t think that should discredit this title. This is still a really fun game and one that you should totally check out if you enjoy this genre. If you don’t have a PC powerful enough to handle this bad boy, you might still check out the console version, but really, these types of games were designed to be enjoyed on a PC. The inventory, quest and map management system is far superior on the PC, and the power of today’s PC graphics simply blow the consoles out of the water. I know this genre is not for everyone but I absolutely love it! So what are your thoughts? Leave your questions and comments below!
Developer: Spellbound Entertainment
Publisher: Dreamcatcher Interactive
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release Date: October 12, 2010
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**This title was provided to me free of charge from the publisher to review for you.