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Arcania: The Complete Tale Review

In a world full of Skyrims and Dragons Dogmas there is scant space left for any other fantasy role playing game. Apparently the team at Nordic Games thought otherwise and that their 2010 release was ripe for a re-release, or in the PS3 case, a first appearance, with their fourth game in the Gothic series, Arcania 4, now under the moniker of Arcania: The Complete Tale.

Arcania has had a long history on the PC format and it really shows on the PS3, not quite granting players with a familiar console experience that other better known RPGs offer. That is not to say this is a bad game, though there is an awful lot wrong with it, it’s just that there are a lot better games out there to try out first. If however you have played every possible RPG and still want more, than this will sate you appetite until the next Dragon Age, though it isn’t pretty.

To start with the story is quite a mess, which is mainly down to the poorly executed cut scenes that appear out of nowhere and end just as abruptly, not really giving you much depth to the main quest; with your character out to avenge the death of not only his beloved, but the destruction of his whole village. The story will then send you on a quest to slay the king responsible, with you being continually being one step behind whatever you need to do; pretty much every quest falling into the category of I will scratch your back if you scratch mine across the many locations of the Southern Islands, from mighty castles, goblin infested woods, swamps and even dark and dangerous caverns.

Presentation is very hit and miss with the graphics themselves feeling very unsettled with constantly slow texture loads and characters walking into solid items or just "magically" appearing next to you. At times the game will look like a game running on the wrong spec PC before any sort of patching or modding but then all of a sudden the game will catch up with itself, creating beautiful landscapes. The land itself offers lots of wonderful sights when the game allows it, but given it has the hallmarks of an open world, it is surprisingly linear, often using paths that have impassable sides and a lot of canyons with the quests themselves sticking to the main path, even the side quests do not really stray too far. When there are chances to wander around there is very little to take in, no hidden surprises other than the collection quests of scouring the land for tiny little idols.

There is a full vocal soundtrack to the game, with all of the main characters offering pretty decent vocal tracks, spoilt by the return of the dreaded texture loading as you chat and work out what you have to do before progressing. There is an attempt for a bit more integration than just watching people talk but it ends up just relying on you choosing from either END, or continuing the chat. There was only one real instance of making a choice, but I didn’t feel that it has any real impact on the world or how I was perceived. Though the voices work pretty well, the "atmospheric" music is anything but, jumping in now and then and stuttering through like a CD with far too many scratches on it, really taking any possible enjoyment, you tend to tune it out of your mind in the end; these sort of errors should not happen, especially after such a lengthy hard drive install.

Combat is in real time, allowing you to swing your blades or cast spells as you see fit and is by far the most enjoyable aspect of the game, though early on you do learn of a few tricks that pretty much negate the use of any magic or shield. With the ability to quick hold eight items on the d-pad (switching tiers with the shoulder buttons), you can lock on to a target and take on whatever the game throws at you, strafing and rolling out of the way of most attacks. Along with a large selection of swords, axes, staffs and broadswords you are also able to use a bow and arrow/crossbow and a small selection of magic with the right trigger buttons. Your character is able to quite easily switch between three classes, an all out warrior, a ranger style or magician, with armour and items used to boost specific stats. Sadly the poor PC to PS3 conversion attempt seeps through here, often not having any real satisfying impact, with times leaving you not sure if you are actually connecting blows.

The enemies you come across are pretty decent, offering the fantasy regulars like goblins and ogres, also throwing in poisonous bugs, wolves and lizards and later some impressive rock monsters. Though the AI isn’t exactly the bright, each race uses similar classes to yourself and they don’t really vary their tactics, with warriors just charging at you and the magicians and rangers holding back and sniping you from a distance.

The menu screen is a radial style brought up with the start button, allowing you to choose from upgrading skills and magic, view the map, check out quests and also view your inventory. The inventory screen lets you view what you have in use and also everything else you have picked up and with no limit to what you can carry it gets very messy very quickly. This is not helped by the awful layout and item swap system in place, making it hard to see the differences in items and also having no organisation to it, it’s all just thrown together into loose categories.

With all of the items you collect along the way you are able to use the craft system as long as you have the right recipes, creating mana boosts, health elixirs, potions to gain strength and also new weapons, though you rarely need to use it as the items you find along the way tend to keep you good for the majority of the game, stealing from people’s homes or locked chests, but don’t worry about any repercussions of stealing as no one seems to be bothered. There is an element of levelling up but it’s quite light when compared to other RPGS, allowing for better vitality, longer weapon combos or slightly more powerful magic.

Arcania is the sort of game we would have been playing eight or so years ago but a lot has changed since then, what with the Morrowind titles, to which you can tell Arcania has really tried to "borrow" from, only then not doing anything with it. Surprisingly through all of this, there was still part of me that wanted to play through this game, the occasional beautiful vista or huge dungeon crawl battling ogres somehow lured me into this messy but still fun world. Added to this game is also the Fall of Setarrif content, adding even more time to your stay on the Southern Isles. Like I said earlier, if there are no other RPGS out there for you to try and you must play another, this will keep you entertained.

Words by Ash Buchanan.
(Version Tested: PS3)


+ Reasonable voice cast
+ The actual action is enjoyable


- The story is very quickly forgotten
- Plagued with graphic and music problems

Edited On 30 May, 2013

( 4 )
Loli-Nox-Tan's avatar
Loli-Nox-Tan 4 years ago
It is an ok game but it pales in comparison to previous Gothic titles
troublemaker's avatar
troublemaker 4 years ago
Not really my thing anyways, but review convinces me to give it a wide berth. Cheers, Ash
Hymeleon's avatar
Hymeleon 4 years ago
So, is it really a "complete tale" (Gothics 1-4) or just Gothic 4 revamped?
Loli-Nox-Tan's avatar
Loli-Nox-Tan 4 years ago
It's just Gothic 4: Arcania with the DLC

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