by Davneet Minhas
reviewed on PC
Anyway, compared to all those games, ArcaniA feels old and slow. Its world is divided into a few regions, which act as tiny open worlds you can explore. But to move on to the next region and progress through the game, you have to complete quests for people who can unblock the right pathway. The problem is that these quests arenít story-driven, theyíre simple favors for people who have some power. And worst of all, they always turn you into a gofer. For the second time, Iím not an errand boy.
Even if a quest does have some story attached to it, itís completely independent from your own and the looming threat of the crazed king. You are just passing through the world, from one region to the next, never making a connection and never leaving a mark.
I keep waiting for something to happen to pull me in. It could be an interesting character or an epic battle, doesnít matter. I just want to be excited and immersed. Please something happen.
No, that exciting moment hasnít happened yet. But, Iíve discovered my hero is a masochist. He hasnít slept in what seems like weeks. He doesnít eat, and worst of all, he jumps into every goblin-stuffed cave or orc-filled ruin he can find. Itís 3 A.M and he wonít stop. He constantly wants to reveal one more section of the map, jump into one more goblin-filled cave, kill one more skeleton archer, and collect one more insignificant piece of loot. He may not have to sleep, but I do.
Gothic 4 certainly delivers the most basic and addictive RPG mechanic: Kill stuff, collect loot, repeat. But really, what RPG doesnít?
Oh, and I was right about The Witcher Ė its combat is much deeper and more satisfying. Its combos are much more complex and varied, and it requires you to switch between different styles mid-battle to fight different opponents.
In ArcaniA, my combat style hasnít changed since I began. I shoot arrows at the creature until itís close, then paralyze it with a lightning bolt, and then wail on it with a sword or axe or whatever melee weapon Iím currently using. Iíve used this same tactic to effectively battle everything from furry wolves to massive stone golems. Thatís kind of silly. I mean, a creature made of rock shouldnít be as susceptible to wooden arrows and lightning bolts as a cuddly animal. Well, the wolves arenít that cuddly, but you understand.
Eight hours later, and that moment still hasnít happened. But I do feel a change. The gofer quests have stopped, for the most part. Now, Iím actually progressing through my own story.
Iím on a prolonged chase, moving from area to area trying to catch up with this thief. I feel a crescendo coming. Iím not an errand boy!
Itís over. I win. Iíve revealed every area of the map, crawled into every cave, and accepted every menial task Ė at least every one I could find. ArcaniA was interesting and a little exciting during the final hour or two, once the main quests became more story-driven and ancillary concerns disappeared. Still, I donít think sixteen hours of drudgery is worth two good hours.
Maybe drudgery is too harsh. What Spellbound did, it did with polish. It executed the RPG genreís most basic mechanics well. Every object in the game is meticulously detailed and all the interfaces are easy to use. Not once did the game crash, and I never encountered a broken quest or even an errant pixel.
But I also never encountered a memorable moment. I never experienced an epic battle or even felt challenged. I started out with the purpose of avenging my murdered family, and then I succeeded. Everything in between seems so inconsequential and forgettable.
Sadly, the most interesting thing about ArcaniA: Gothic 4 is its tone maps.
The landscapes are stunning.
Gameplay feels stale and dated.