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Arcania: Gothic 4 – Theatre of the Absurd

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Arcania: Gothic 4 – Theatre of the Absurd

Review - posted by DarkUnderlord on Sun 24 October 2010, 05:23:21

Tags: Gothic 4: Arcania; JoWood Productions; Spellbound

Darth Roxor tells us all how much he enjoyed Gothic: Arcanum IV - Spellbound's Magical Scrotum. In his review he talks about the game' deep sense of immersion:

That's right. The whole game is, basically, a linear progression through a handful of extremely small and hideously closed areas. Each time you want to advance from one section to another, you have to do all main quest-related tasks to remove the obstacles that block your path. These obstacles often feel half-arsed and could have been easily omitted, but alas. For instance, to travel from the city of Stewark to the Valley of Blood (bonus points for the very original name), you have to obtain permission from the duke. Okay, fine. But the whole checkpoint leading to the valley is just a shoddy wooden gate with a trapdoor and one guard. Why exactly can't I just knock the guard out and proceed anyway? Just because. There's no sense in asking yourself 'why?' while playing this game. In the magical, mystical lands of Argaan, things rarely make sense. And it wouldn't be so glaringly bad if it happened only once, but no, it's abused all the time. Also, there are so many artificial barriers blocking you from going further that it's ridiculous. Every section is surrounded by an impenetrable mountain range and some auxiliary roads leading out that are always blocked. Another funny thing is, you also never return to the sections you've previously unlocked. Just forget about them and move on, citizen.​

... improvements the game has made over Oblivion:

I know it often seems far-fetched to call something 'worse than Oblivion', but I think this game has done it.​

... the highly enjoyable role-playing aspects:

Thanks to the 'interface elements', you can make this game 100% idiot-friendly. Minimap? Check. Quest compass? Check. Flashing weapon telling you when to click? Check. Roleplay activities? Che... wait, what are roleplaying activities? These, gentle readers, are all sorts of things that you can use to LARP the night away, as they don't influence the game in any way.​

... and even the meaning behind the game's title itself, buried deep within the game's lore:

And I still have no idea as to why, exactly, it's called 'Arcania'...​

In the end he enjoyed it immensely and recommends you should all pick yourselves up a copy. 5 stars.

Review by Darth Roxor


This whole situation has, I must confess, all the tell-tale signs of another fine mess.

Aahhh, Gothic. Does this title even need introducing? I don't think so. I believe everyone is familiar with the series that featured, quite possibly, some of the best done open world exploration in computer roleplaying gaming, paired with an outstanding A-RPG combat system. Or at least up until Gothic 3, which was getting rather mixed feelings from fans and critics alike, which caused the publisher - JoWood - to take the rights to the series away from its original developer - Piranha Bytes - and hand it over to Spellbound Studios.

Was this a good move? After all, Spellbound had no previous experience with creating RPGs, but one might say, it's never too late to learn, eh? Perhaps they would deliver a proper Gothic game, with challenging combat and excellent exploration? That remained to be seen.

While playing Arcania, I was wondering if I could find a single word that would describe this game fully, and with which I could open this very review. In the end, I was stuck between three words and couldn't pick the one that would feel the most spot on.

These words were 'obnoxious', 'shameless' and 'insulting'.

Getting started

The great brain robbery.

Even barely after launching the game and accessing the options menu, we suddenly realise that something seems very, very wrong. Thanks to the 'interface elements', you can make this game 100% idiot-friendly. Minimap? Check. Quest compass? Check. Flashing weapon telling you when to click? Check. Roleplay activities? Che... wait, what are roleplaying activities? These, gentle readers, are all sorts of things that you can use to LARP the night away, as they don't influence the game in any way. Those are chairs, beds, anvils, water pipes, etc. 'Wait,' you ask yourself, 'beds and anvils don't influence the game in any way?' That's right. Forget about sleeping to heal or pass time. Forget about using anvils to forge weapons. They are all such redundant features, that they were all taken away. Just like that. Now you can just watch your character hit a piece of steel with a hammer for hours, if that's your thing.

Fortunately, the various little helpers can be all turned off as they aren't needed... that much, but I'll return to this. However, I must say that I really wonder, who the developers had in mind when they designed these things. Quest markers make everything quest-related (from NPCs, through monsters to collectable items) suddenly gain a giant exclamation mark hovering above it. Maps are also full of them. 'System messages' show everything that you pick up and all sorts of quest updates. They also take half the screen. Just how braindead one must be to need all of this?!

The options menu; With all quest helpers turned on.

Another pretty wacky thing that you might notice is in the graphics menu - there, you can adjust the colour palette to be either 'European' or 'American'. European colours are dark, gritty and mature, while American ones are addressed to dirty hippies who can't live without bloom.

American colours vs European colours

But whatever, these are just options, right? No need to get agitated about them when there's so much of the actual game ahead of us.

I wish I was given that advice before even starting the game.

After starting the actual game, we're presented with an intro cinematic. It turns out that the nameless hero of the previous Gothic games has become king of Myrtana, adopted the name of Rhobar III, got powerhungry and is now waging war against everyone he can find. It's also completely unobvious that there are dark powers at work and the hero is not quite fully in control of his own body.

This game in a nutshell.

After the intro, we take control of the king in a dream sequence where we kick serious undead and demon ass, but the demons keep returning and laugh in our faces. The dream ends abruptly and we're kicked into the (sad) reality.

Our character is commander Shepard a simple shepherd from the island of Feshyr. He begins his grand adventure by doing the trials of his romance interest's father to obtain his agreement for a wedding. Later on, the village is burned down by paladins of Rhobar III and everyone is slain without mercy. Everyone except our hero, who was too busy doing FedEx quests. The shepherd is now boiling with lust for vengeance upon Rhobar III, so he seeks help of his friend - the smuggler Diego (yes, the same Diego from the previous Gothic games) - to travel to the war-torn island of Argaan, where the King is trying to force the natives into submission.

Feshyr is the game's 'starter area', but, truth be told, once you've left it, you've pretty much seen all this game has to offer. And there's not really much this game has to offer. In fact, 'is this some kind of a joke?' and 'how does THAT make sense?' are questions that you will be asking yourself often. Very often.

Let us analyse Arcania by the three 'typical' aspects that one might expect from a roleplaying game.

Exploration and visuals

It seems the emperor's new clothes is such seasonable attire.

For a series that's famous mostly for its high quality exploration, it seems only fitting that we start by discussing these elements.

Remember those jolly good times you had when you arrived at the Old Camp and it felt like the whole world was at a hand's reach, waiting to be uncovered? You might want to forget about those times. Quite possibly, one of the stupidest design decisions in Arcania, was to scrap the open world and replace it with 'sections' that you unlock one after the other.

That's right. The whole game is, basically, a linear progression through a handful of extremely small and hideously closed areas. Each time you want to advance from one section to another, you have to do all main quest-related tasks to remove the obstacles that block your path. These obstacles often feel half-arsed and could have been easily omitted, but alas. For instance, to travel from the city of Stewark to the Valley of Blood (bonus points for the very original name), you have to obtain permission from the duke. Okay, fine. But the whole checkpoint leading to the valley is just a shoddy wooden gate with a trapdoor and one guard. Why exactly can't I just knock the guard out and proceed anyway? Just because. There's no sense in asking yourself 'why?' while playing this game. In the magical, mystical lands of Argaan, things rarely make sense. And it wouldn't be so glaringly bad if it happened only once, but no, it's abused all the time. Also, there are so many artificial barriers blocking you from going further that it's ridiculous. Every section is surrounded by an impenetrable mountain range and some auxiliary roads leading out that are always blocked. Another funny thing is, you also never return to the sections you've previously unlocked. Just forget about them and move on, citizen.

Okay then, but maybe there's some cool exploring to do in those sections? Nope, not really. That is mostly due to a couple of factors. Probably the most important ones are that this game doesn't allow swimming or climbing. Who thought this was a good idea, I don't know, but the fact is that trying to walk into water reaching higher than above your knees is impossible, and trying to jump into it results in an instant death because all water in the magical, mystical land of Argaan is radioactive, apparently. This cuts off a whole damn lot of opportunities for good sightseeing, as you no longer have these 'I wonder what's over there...' thoughts. 'Hey, that's a cool waterfall, I wonder if there are goodies inside'. Sorry, you are not allowed to go into water. 'Oooo, then how about this rock ledge? I could climb it and get a good overview of the gorge'. Nope, sorry chap, there's no climbing whatsoever, and trying to jump up there will most likely get you killed.

I wish I could go there...

Another pretty funny thing is that the game doesn't want you to fall from heights and get hurt, so when you try to walk down from a ledge, even a rock that is not higher than 20cm above the ground, you can't. You HAVE to jump down. Couple this with the lack of climbing, and you get stuck on random rocks littering the paths constantly.

Right, so swimming and climbing is out, but you can also explore the land to find ruins, caves and goodies! What about those? Well, suffice to say that you won't find anything worthwhile on the ground level of the areas. You won't find any old castles, forts etc, and if you find any ruins (there are maybe... two or three in the whole game?) they immediately lead you underground. Going into every corner of the map also feels pretty pointless, as at best you will find some chest in a completely arbitrary location or a 'collectible item' thrown into some bush because that's usually where statues of Innos, relics of Beliar and ancient artifacts can be found. And to add insult to injury, all sorts of items on the ground have butterflies flying above them, indicating 'there's stuff out here'. We wouldn't want you to miss out on content, eh?

Watchtowers are the only derelict structures that you can find.

As for the actual dungeon design, it's lacklustre to say the least. To begin with, you won't even be able to enter some of the caves you find, as many are blocked by locked doors that need specific keys from specific questgivers. Some are even blocked by 'locked rubble' that you need to remove with macguffins from certain NPCs. But once you finally get in, most often they are just linear corridors of rooms with little to no branching, side passages etc, but even if they are there, those are mostly one or two rooms tops, filled with more generic loot and generic enemies. I haven't seen a single puzzle in the whole game. Any traps that you would have to work around? Forget it. Each and every single dungeon is nothing but a slashfest with no amount of additional flavour. I also couldn't help but laugh after I entered a derelict 'mine', and just had to wonder whether the person who designed it ever was inside an actual mine.

What comes to your mind when you think about 'mines'? An underground area filled with many shafts? It would appear Spellbound only got the 'underground' thing because the whole 'mine' is just one big corridor. Oh, sure, there are side passages... it's just that all of them are caved in and neatly boarded up. What a joke. Also, before entering this mine, you find a sign saying 'danger, goblins!', and indeed, there are goblins inside... all three of them in the very first room. After that, it's just molerats. It's as if someone made the first room and then revisited the area after a month with no memories of what was supposed to be there.

But such lack of consequence in area design is common. All crypts, ruins and dungeons look nearly identical. So do caves and mines. But what I think was the most hilarious, was the moment I entered the 'centuries old archives' beneath the castle of Silverlake. What did I find? A moderately big cellar. With two bookstands and two shelves. One of the stands was completely empty, the other had only one row of books. One of the shelves was collapsed, books littered the ground, while the other one was half-filled. Guess the folks of Argaan don't like reading and writing too much.

Also, later on you will stumble upon the mages' guild, built on a gigantic, ancient tree. There wouldn't be anything too strange about it, if not for the fact, that there are mages of all three gods there, living in perfect harmony. Excuse me, but weren't the worshippers of Innos and Beliar devout enemies that would never coexist with each other?

Some massive archives, alright; The Mages' Guild.

Remember the sense of danger in Gothics 1 and 2, when you were genuinely afraid to set foot outside the cities and go to all those lairs around them, fearing shadowbeasts and snappers might be there, ready to tear your level 1 head off with one chomp? This is another thing that is missing in Arcania. The sense of danger is NONE. In fact, each section might as well have a sign saying 'now entering goblin country' before it. There are, at best, three or four types of enemies you will encounter in all areas, and all these enemies will be right about enough for you to handle. No shadowbeasts lurking in the backs of those goblin-filled caves. No orc scouts spying around cities. Nothing. Oh yeah, and while on the subject of orcs - pretend the ones from the previous games never existed. The ones here are back to the role of savages running around in underwear and yelling 'club hit rock good'.

I think that would be all about the actual exploration, let's talk sightseeing. While there are some things that look pretty nice from afar, most of the time you'll spend trudging through hundreds of generic forests. Here's where I should mention the 'foliage disappearance' available in the options menu. Turning it on makes all sorts of bushes and trees just vanish the moment you walk into them. It looks incredibly silly, but the alternative is an absolute obstruction of view by all the damn flora.

There are some places that look pretty cool... But you'll be mostly looking at this, anyway.

For the bigger part of the game, I wanted to cite big city design as the graphic design's sole saving grace, as the castle of Silverlake and the city of Stewark look very medieval and realistic.

Silverlake from afar.

But then, in the last part of the game, I entered the city of Thorniara and reconsidered. It's the biggest city in-game, but its design is so atrocious, that I kept wondering how the hell could anyone think it's a good idea to have it this way! There are maybe three main streets in the whole city, all joining at the castle of the king, and all three of them are tightly blocked from one another... by chest-high wooden fences. This means, that if you are at the end of street 1 and want to go to the end of street 2, you have to go all the way around (bonus points if you also need to go through at least two tunnels of sewers) and waste 15 minutes, even though both of these points are right next to each other. Just that they're blocked-off by those friggin' wooden fences.

Also, while the art design of the cities is okay, the cities themselves aren't. They feel horribly lifeless. NPCs don't have any form of activity cycles, they keep doing the same things over and over again or just stand in place doing nothing. Their conversations are on the level of 'I saw a mudcrab today'. And, the most important thing, they no longer care about you plundering their houses. Yes, you can just go to the smith, take everything that isn't nailed down right from under his very nose, and he'll keep doing business with you with the same smile and friendly manner as before. NPCs also no longer react to wild animals running next to them. You're chased by a pack of wolves and run back to the town guards for help? You're on your own, pal.

No wolves here, good sir.

Weather effects are also pretty pitiful. It changes as often as five minutes, and there's not really any other weather than storm and sunshine, and some other areas have inherent hues that make them 'special', like the whole swampy section has a green mist sort of thing around everything. Also, contrary to popular belief, there are no nights in the magical, mystical land of Argaan. There's just very cloudy weather in the evenings. Nights turn into days in a matter of seconds, forget about any form of sunrise, too.

Night time.

Talking about the day/night cycle, I can't skip one thing - you can't pass time in this game in any way. No sleeping, no loitering, no waiting, no time capsule, nothing. Hello developers, maybe I don't want to run around the wilderness during this game's pseudo-nights?

To conclude - is there anything an aspiring explorer might find nice in Arcania? Nope, not really. Landscapes are generic, exploration is non-existent and dungeon design shoddy. Let us move on to...

Combat and game mechanics

Head down Harvey and tail up Tom, in this man's army, there's no spoils to be won.

Let's just skip the introductions and say the important thing right away: the combat sucks. It sucks a lot. It's a travesty that someone gave the green light to something this horrible. Everything about the combat just boils down to clicking the enemy to death. No precise timing needed, nothing. Just click the left mouse button to win. At first, your hero can do a streak of four hits before having to pause for a second. Once you advance a little in the respective skill, he'll be able to do six hits. After some more advancing, he'll be able to keep attacking without stopping for a breath. It also gives near-godmode, since the stunlocks we all loved in Gothic 3 are back!

Sure, you can also unlock some 'special' attacks by investing into skills, but... why bother using them? They're completely useless. Mighty blow makes you charge a power attack that does barely any better damage, while leaving you exposed as hell. When using 'flurry', you don't even have to keep clicking to issue a combo - you just have to click once in the right moment after attacking once, like in The Witcher, for the character to do some pirouettes. But the bad news is, you can't control him while he does that, which often makes him hit once and then run into some nearby bushes, hacking at thin air.

Ranged combat is also as simple as it gets. Press LMB to draw an arrow, and keep it drawn for a little longer to do more damage. Headshots do additional damage. The bow is also, quite possibly, the most broken weapon in game, since it gives the ultimate IDDQD. You see, once you draw an arrow, you can move around, albeit a little slower, but when you keep shooting and going backwards, nothing can hit you because the dumb enemy AI stops to attack far enough for you to make a single step back and evade the hit. I've tried it on all kinds of enemies, on all kinds of difficulties - nothing could even touch me when I was using the bow. The only enemy that needed something more than just walking back was the troll, since he had a far reaching area-effect attack. But that was easily remedied by just rolling back instead...

Arrows - a stone golem's archnemesis.

With great shame I have to admit that I didn't test magic, but I expect it's not that different from using a bow. Also, all kinds of 'utility' spells, like meatbug transformation, telekinesis etc are gone. There are only offensive spells in the magical, mystical land of Argaan.

Now, depending on which difficulty you choose, the combat will be either insane or an absolute breeze, and in all cases, it will be annoying and tedious. You see, enemies generally have two attacks - regular ones and power attacks. Regular attacks can be easily shrugged off or just disrupted by attacking the enemy. Power attacks, however, cause a lot of damage and can't be disrupted or blocked (which actually makes you wonder, why is blocking even present in the first place, since it's completely useless) - you can only roll away. When enemies use power attacks, they start flashing as if yelling 'QUICK, ROLL AWAY NOW!'. On every difficulty other than 'Gothic' (the hardest), enemies flash so long before attacking, that you can roll around them three times. However, on the Gothic difficulty, they do them almost instantly, they are often ridiculously far reaching, which means you can't roll back, and enemies often have 'lock-ons' which means you can't roll aside either. I'm extremely sorry, dear developers, but being absolutely unable to evade attacks done by my enemies is not exactly my definition of 'fun' or 'challenge'. This makes pretty much all fights on the Gothic difficulty either completely luck-based (start praying that the enemy you meet has a short attack range or no lock on) or nigh-impossible in melee (have fun when you're surrounded by five enemies), which means you have to resolve everything with the IDDQD given by archery. Not exactly my definition of 'challenging'. But once you turn off Gothic difficulty, everything becomes so horribly easy, that there's practically no difficulty at all because the maximum difficulty also pumps up enemy health, armour and damage to the stratosphere. Fine balancing out there, Spellbound.

Come one, come all to our travelling circus.

I also mentioned that the fights are all tedious. That's because there's pretty much no character progression in this game. That is, you start with a leather armour and a weapon doing 10 damage. You keep fighting boars that need 5 minutes of whacking to die. Rejoice, you find a new set of armour and a weapon that does 15 damage. You encounter black boars that take 5 minutes of whacking to die. Splendid, you find a new set of armour and a weapon doing 25 damage. Now the boars are named 'rippers' and take 5 minutes of whacking... see where I'm going here? You're literally doing the same bloody things through the whole goddamn game. You keep trudging through the very same combat encounters, with the very same enemies just with different names - bloodflies become muck wasps and bone stingers (or something like that) and some other thing. Goblins come from different tribes, lurkers become prowlers, scavengers become wild and primeval. The level of enemy recycling here is just atrocious. And it was the same old song through the whole game - each time I met a new opponent, I was switching between all difficulty levels to see if anything changed. Nope, forget it.

Enemy AI is also pretty dumb. Archers/mages shooting you? Hide behind an obstacle. They won't leave their current position to have a clear shot. They will just keep shooting at the obstacle.

That rock needs to die, shoot it!

Another element of the Gothic series that got mercilessly castrated, was the character development. In Arcania, you no longer need to visit those pesky trainers after leveling up. You just hit 'k' to access the skill tree and assign skill points to horribly MMOmified abilities that don't give anything other than +1% mana/health/melee/ranged/magic damage. Sneaking has been made completely useless, since it's only used now to make the monsters not attack you when you are a mile away, and lockpicking has been replaced by one of the stupidest minigames I've ever seen.

Skill tree.

When using a locked chest, you're presented with a close-up of the lock. There are up to four layers that slide up, and you have to click the moment each one is in the centre of the screen. You can repeat how many times you want, your lockpick is unbreakable. How does that make sense? In the magical, mystical lands of Argaan it probably does.


To craft things you no longer need any sort of forge, alchemical table or even a frying pan to cook meat. Nope. You just access the crafting menu and do everything on the spot if you have the right recipe and ingredients. You grill meat in your backpack. You forge swords with your bare hands. Must be magic.

Crafting interface.

And thus we move on to the inventory and items. I hate the inventory and the items don't make sense, but those are the most common features of this game. Hate and nonsense. The inventory is sorted by item type, but there is no 'view all' tab. Also, items in each tab are not sorted in any way. They just fill empty places as you pick them up. So, you find 8 swords, have fun finding them in that giant turmoil of your backpack and compare their statistics. And they could have been just sorted by their attack value or something... It can also be always accessed, and bringing it up activates a pause, so you can gulp down 10 potions at once if necessary.

The inventory.

Weapon statistics are also a hilarious matter, really. Weapons and spells only have 'damage'. No damage type, nothing. Suits of armour only have 'armour'. No protection against arrows/magic/slashing/bashing, nothing. This leads to some pretty interesting things, like bow and arrows being just as effective against solid stone golems as a huge warhammer. However, you also need to note that in the magical, mystical land of Argaan, almost all items are also magical and mystical. Because if they aren't, perhaps you could tell me how does it make sense for an arrow crafted from feathers and stingers to steal an enemy's life? Or why does a bow give +health regeneration? Or why does a heavy suit of armour give +stamina?

Cool helmet, bro.

Let us ask ourselves - shall a player only seeking challenging and well-done combat and other mechanics enjoy anything Arcania has to offer? Nope. He would probably prefer to hit the wall with his head than to mindlessly whack enemies all the time. Moving on...

Story and quests

Great blow for a day job.

While the Gothic series has never really had any spectacularly powerful writing or narrative, it was at least serviceable, and there were some pretty interesting ideas, like choosing factions, which would affect the gameplay tremendously. How does Arcania hold up? Hint: it doesn't. Dialogues are idiotic, story is for the most part non-existent, and then shoved in your face in the last two hours or so, quests don't go beyond 'go there', 'bring me five rat tails', 'kill some monsters'.

Here's a summary of the story. I don't know how much you care about spoilers, but if you do, you might want to omit the next paragraph:

After your village is burned down, Diego tells you that there's some superpowered anvil in the mountains of Argaan, that could let you forge superweapons that you could use against Rhobar III. When you come to Argaan, there is absolutely no pushing of the plot for at least 10 hours. You just keep doing fetch quests to unlock new areas to clear a way to the mountains. When you find the anvil, it turns out that you're, of course, the chosen one destined to defeat the Ancient Evil TM and bring balance to the force. King Rhobar is possessed by 'the amulet of the Sleeper'. You have to fetch it and bring it to some monastery to banish the demon from the king. This is presented to you by Xardas ex machina, who jumps around with an astral projection of himself and gives you hints. Turns out your village was burned down by a rogue group of paladins, who are in league with the Ancient Evil TM because a prophecy said that only an inhabitant of Feshyr can slay the Ancient Evil TM. Fortunately, they were too dumb to scout the whole island for survivors, and a single burned down village was enough for them. You take the amulet to the monastery, kill the Ancient Evil TM, restore balance to the force and banish the demon from King Rhobar. The End. All this is revealed in the last two hours of the game.

As you can see, the story probably couldn't be more cliché and doesn't make a lot of sense. But it's not the worst part of the narrative structure, oh no. Throughout the whole game I really haven't seen any quest that wouldn't be a FedEx quest. Even the main quests are like this. Forget about non-linearity, there were maybe two or three instances of quests with two outcomes, and they always end in the same way. For instance, there's the whole string of quests in Stewark. It's a 'political' affair. The duke of Stewark sends you off to find and eliminate rebels conspiring with Rhobar III. But his brother - the leader of the rebels - tells you that it's the duke who is the traitor. Whatever you do, there's a series of 'go there, fetch documents, kill stuff' quests that end in much rejoicing and you can move on. And what was, I think, the most insulting, was how after abolishing the duke, someone told me that I doomed the people of Stewark by doing so because Rhobar's paladins will crush them. Yeah, sure. A real damn shame that you never return to Stewark, nobody ever mentions Stewark again, and there are no paladins crushing anyone from Stewark.

There are some quests that are just downright idiotic, too. In the first section of Argaan, you have to get rid of bandits blocking a bridge to Stewark. You're told that some fighter guy has a plan. You go to an old watchtower in which he stays to ask about it. He tells you, that if they were 'just' bandits, he'd just kill them all. But he has friends among them because some fishermen decided to join the bandits. Why? Because the owner of a nearby tavern sold their boats. Why? Because they went to war and 'someone told her' that they all died. So the fishermen stole her dead husband's wooden leg in retaliation, and now everyone is very angry. So you're supposed to persuade one of the fishermen to give you the leg so you can 'sell' it to the tavernkeeper to get money to buy new boats. The fishermen will stop being bandits, and you'll only have to kill the 'proper' bandits. Makes absolute sense, right?

And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. All dialogues are voiced atrociously, they are shoddy at best, and completely stupid at worst. Quests which are either utterly uninteresting or make no sense are popping up constantly. Forget about joining any factions. The whole game can be finished easily in barely 15 hours, with the completion of most side quests. I'll give you one more example of an insulting stupid main quest before moving on.

In the city of Thorniara, you have to drop a magic barrier protecting a certain macguffin. There are three archmages, and all three have different plans of shattering it. One says you should go and touch three magic runes, the second says you should kill 5 demons and bring him their hearts, and the third says you should bring him 7 pieces of meteoric ore. I have no further questions, your honour.

Arcania: Hipster Emo Simulator.

Also, another thing that annoyed me tremendously was connected with the quest compass. In theory, you don't need it for any quests because all NPCs tell you, more or less, where to go. But the problem starts once you complete the quest, as quest givers have a wacky habit of teleporting into completely arbitrary places once you finish a quest. Have fun looking for them without the compass turned on. They never tell you where to look for them once you're done.

And one last thing - this game is full of characters that probably supposed to be the new Diegos, Gorns and Miltens, but they're presented in such an awkward way, that you only wonder 'why the hell are those people following me?' each time you see them. For instance, that fighter from the quest with the bandits? You'll keep seeing him till the end of the game. Some completely random person you've met on the road? Same. And there are at least two more such people.

Well then, exploration and combat are down, but will anyone appreciate the excellent quest design and narrative Arcania has to offer? Unless we're talking about people who are mentally handicapped, I doubt it. Which means we can sum this splendid game up, but before we do, we need to talk about...

The technical stuff

They cover their stupidity by calling it "stupology".

Let us start with the sounds. Or more exactly music because there's nothing to write about sounds. Typical RPG samples that you've probably heard dozens of times before, etc. It is, unfortunately, pretty telling that there's no Kai Rosenkranz present here. Soundtrack is generic 'epic' stuff that you hear in every single new game nowadays. But the soundtrack's biggest problem is that... it's practically non-existent. That's because it's silent as hell, and to hear anything, you have to make all other sounds almost non-audible, which isn't exactly a good deal either.

If you played The Witcher and got sick of all the recycled character models, avoid this game like the plague. I swear there aren't more than 5 models in the whole game, and they're so shamelessly recycled, that even three people connected to the same quest can look the same. Also, in typical Gothic fashion, female characters look just... alien.

Romance interest from Feshyr; With that mug, everyone would be afraid.

But anyway, let's talk about bugs. Oh boy, there are many of those here, and most are hilarious. While, admittedly, I haven't encountered any gamebreaking ones, there was one annoying as hell, and many, many wacky ones. The annoying one tends to happen when you jump on various rocks. Your character will get stuck in a neverending 'sliding', that will most often result in him breaking his neck. As for the others - there are various instances of physics going wonky, enemies get stuck on a regular basis. After rescuing some slave woodcutters, I could still hear the sounds of trees being chopped even after they left. You sometimes meet enemies that are bound by some sort of a hivemind, since they have plural names, like 'oxen' or 'field raiders'. Monsters sometimes charge into completely random places, instead of at you. When you run from monsters long enough for them to lose interest and run back to their original location, they become immortal, and you can't hurt them until they stop running.

Floating scavenger corpse & Oxen.

However, the best one was probably when my character model disappeared, and I was a walking set of weaponry. This became even more hilarious when I engaged in dialogue and my character's head popped out of nowhere. It also remained completely static.

You most certainly aren't...

As for optimalization... Personally, I didn't have any problems with performance, and those who reported having extreme lagging, said it was fixed right after a patch came out, and it came out fairly quickly, so I guess performance is this game's only redeeming factor. Along with the fact that it shuts down fairly quickly.

Final thoughts

I just couldn't make this stuff up.

This game is just insanely bad. Really. I know it often seems far-fetched to call something 'worse than Oblivion', but I think this game has done it. It managed to set a new low. There is nothing good about it. Absolutely nothing. Non-existent exploration, mindless combat and dumb story and quests are nothing that anyone in his right mind would ever consider 'good'. At least Oblivion had some pretty sightseeing, some sort of non-combat gameplay and character customization and you couldn't just steal everything in sight without repercussions. And this? This game wouldn't be worth your money even if it shipped with booze and hookers. Yes, it's that bad.

And honestly, I wonder who I should blame more for this travesty. Should Spellbound get all the blame? I mean, after all it was them who managed to deliver this anti-masterpiece to us. But then again, it was JoWood who gave them the rights, and who couldn't foresee that telling a company doing small-scale Commandos clones to suddenly deliver a complex and big RPG with a pretty demanding fanbase wasn't quite the best idea. Regardless, I guess it's just safe to say that both sides managed to screw things up badly, and I sincerely hope this is the last game that ships with a 'JoWood' logo on its box. It's high-time to go belly up, kameraden.

And I still have no idea as to why, exactly, it's called 'Arcania'...

There are 70 comments on Arcania: Gothic 4 – Theatre of the Absurd

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