GAME NAME: Arcania: The Complete Tale
DEVELOPER(S): Spellbound Entertainment
PUBLISHER(S): JoWooD Entertainment
PLATFORM(S): PS3, Xbox 360
GENRE(S): Action, RPG
RELEASE DATE(S): May 31st, 2013
Every now and then, a game comes along that pushes the limits of my patience. Not because it has amazingly complex puzzles or because the story is too slow and moves along at a stately crawl. No. It’s when a game makes me question the time I take to play it, and the time I have to take to write about it. Sometimes, a simple “hahaha….no” feels sufficient as a review. Of course, you want to hear more about it than just that, or at least we believe you read these weird word-like objects that come before the score at the bottom of the post. You are reading this… right?
Welcome to Arcania: the Complete Tale. You may recognise this land; it originally came out for PC in 2010. Back then, the game didn’t do too marvellously, with fans of the franchise being unhappy with the direction Gothic had taken, from hardcore RPG into a dull, shallow hack-n-slash adventure title.
So the game was not the shining example of the RPG that people wanted, saved only by its visuals. Sadly, three years later, this saving grace does not have the same impact. This is further diminished when you are sitting with a terrible port that suffers from several performance issues. Texture pop-ins happen at an alarming rate. How often? Almost every time the camera changes during a conversation. The game also suffers from a loss of frame rate near waterfalls and in some other areas. This is really unacceptable in the release of a title, especially one that is a few years old.
Worry not though, The Complete Tale also comes with Arcania’s expansion, Fall of Setariff. In the expansion, you continue your adventure. You can also opt to start a brand new adventure as one of three preset archetypes (melee, ranged or mage), with an inventory full of good loot, in case your character doesn’t seem powerful enough. Your purpose? To pursue a demon who is ravaging the land, almost assuredly destroying things and causing almost everything to be hostile towards you, either by choice or through demonic possession. So now, instead of fighting wolves, goblins and bandits, you get to fight demon wolves, possessed goblins and possessed bandits. Most of these creatures use the exact same models, the same attacks, the same everything. The only difference is that they have more health and do more damage. The quests follow a similar trend as well: your character is led around by his nose for petty fetch quests and excuses to kill the wildlife. While this is pretty normal in an RPG, most games at least make the task interesting through clever writing and dialogue, or dangle sufficient reward in front of the players. This is not the case here.
At one point, your quest from the one character is merely to walk across a courtyard to talk to someone else. I would paraphrase but the conversation pretty much goes along these lines, “I didn’t know you would be here,” you say, addressing an old friend. He replies, “Of course I am here, I am saving the world!” To which you reply, quite creatively in fact, “How are you doing that?” And here’s the kicker, he replies, “By opening this door, of course! Damn, I can’t get it open, please go tell Mr Robes I can’t open the door because I need to stay here and try to open this door.” The person you are told to go see is barely a stone’s throw away and well within earshot, should the lazy NPC have chosen to shout. This really borders in the completely implausible.
And yes, I know, many games start off with petty quests because you are too weak in the beginning to do anything really cool yet. Most MMORPGs start you off with inane quests, like fetching bits of lumber or killing rats. At higher levels however, you expect the quests to at least start being about saving the world, or foiling plots and conspiracies, not clearing mines of possessed creepy crawlies that look just like the creepy crawlies you killed in a mine you were clearing 20 levels ago.
The expansion seems to suffer from less texture pop-in, but it’s still there, more often than it should be. While this shows progress, I wonder how no one noticed or reported these graphical, or the game loading without enemy character models, during testing. Or maybe they did and chose to ignore it.
Somehow, though, I found myself gritting my teeth through the wooden voice acting and cliché story to grind lots and lots of monsters, playing the game more as a mindless hack-n-slash. Which, to be fair, is fun. The issue, really, is that it is not a lot of fun, and it is weighed down by all the other rubbish.