Arcania: Gothic 4

Thirty years have passed since the Nameless One liberated the land of Myrtana and drove the orcs into submission. King Rhobar has solidified his hold on the continent and has begun waging war to reconquer the Southern Isles. One morning, you waken from a strange dream, where once again you saw yourself as the king, fighting the demons in his own mind. As the day starts and you go about your business, folks begin to take notice of a Myrtanan warship on the horizon. However, your fellow villagers have other plans, for you are soon to marry your life long love, Ivy. While performing the tasks her father wants completed before giving his approval, you emerge from a cave to find your entire village has been burned to the ground. Ivy and everyone else lie dead at your feet. Vengeance shall be yours upon Rhobar for this treachery!

(Look Dwip, I used a jump!)

While still tied in to the basic lore of the Gothic universe, Arcania is a self contained story with no ties in to the previous games. You still have the basic deity system with Innos, Beliar, and Adanos, however they do not play any significant role here. You play the game through as another nameless hero, but are not tied to the original from Gothic 1-3. Old friends from the previous games will make appearances as you progress, but your character only knows one of them: Diego, the thief/brigand/mercenary you first meet in the opening portion of Gothic 1 and who you encounter on a regular basis in every game since then.

Arcania takes place initially in the fishing village of Feshyr, which is your home. After it's destruction by the Myrtanan armies, the action shifts to the nearby larger island of Argaan. Argaan is part of the even larger island chain known as the Southern Isles, last hinted at during the events of Gothic 2. Upon your arrival on Argaan, your main goal is to locate an ancient temple where a powerful weapon can be forged which will then enable you to take your revenge for the slaughter of your people. Along the way you will undertake a number of important quests, and plenty of not so important quests. Not all of the side quests have importance to your progress in the main story, and several have more than one solution. Most of them are at least interesting, though there are also quite a few that barely qualify as FedEx quests.

Locations throughout the game vary widely and are all well thought out and detailed. Everything from the small inn pictured with this post, The Cleaved Maiden, to the large outcropping where the ancient monastery is located. There are lush farmlands, forests, swamps, jungles, gorges made from black obsidian, and even grand cities built overlooking the sea. There are plenty of mines, caves, lairs, and other underground wonders to see as well, though the underground is far more limited in scope than the surface. For good measure, there are also lots of ancient ruins from a mysterious and long dead society to plunder.

Someone learned their lessons well from my previous experiences with the combat system. Engaging your foes is a much smoother and far less irritating thing to do now. Melee attacks are well executed, and even archery is easy to get the hang of. However, as with other games in the series, action inevitably boils down to how good you are with magic, and one big flaw I see with Arcania is that somewhere around the halfway point you'll find yourself using magic almost exclusively. Perhaps they went a bit too far and made things too easy? Who knows, but at least you won't be spending time cursing the game at every turn with as much stuff as there is to fight. And there's plenty.

All of the same basic creatures are back. Scavengers, lurkers, swamp sharks, those annoying fly things, wolves, boars, goblins (so many goblins), orcs, and of course hostile humanoids too. Some new ones make an appearance as well, mostly in the form of demons and golems. Though in the end there's not going to be much you haven't seen before if you've played other games. Do mind the trolls and shadowbeasts though, they pack a serious punch.

Inventory management is easy to get the hang of. You have several categories of "stuff" - melee weapons, ranged weapons, armor, quest items, ingredients, and scrolls. There's no end to the variety of things you can find, but there are some things you will only find once. The main reason for the unique items is because you can use them in the crafting system. Along the way, you'll find scrolls which teach crafting. With these crafting plans, and enough ingredients to assemble them, you can create everything from simple potions to elaborate weapons requiring multiple parts. It's a pretty nifty thing, but in the end serves as little more than a way to drain off item slots. Gold will be of limited value past the first 1/3 of the game since you'll end up spending more and more time underground with no opportunity to actually spend it. You'll make so much selling your looted goods by that point that it ends up being a status symbol and nothing more. Which I suppose is typical of most RPGs.

Skill management is relatively simple. You have basic melee, archery, stealth, and magic skills to assign points to. As you progress in experience points, you get to assign 3 points at each level up to whichever skills you want. You would do well to note that trying to become a jack-of-all-trades does not work. You must specialize in something. For me, my play style started off melee heavy, but as explained above, I quickly realized magic was the way to go. With three different types, a quick bit of experimentation showed fire magic to be the most effective so I poured most of my advancement points into that. Perhaps those who prefer archery could do something with that. One thing you should not bother with though is stealth. You'll see why when it comes to AI.

The game breaks down badly when it comes to NPCs. Most of them adhere to very loose AI schedules. Nearly all of the non-plot related ones won't even speak to you if you try. Some barely even manage generic one-offs. They perform only the most basic routines. During the day, they hang around inns and taverns, at night they sleep. That's about the extent of it. To be fair, this is really no different than past Gothic games, but given that this is now 2010 and we judge NPCs by a higher standard, these guys could do much MUCH better. Even the plot related NPCs do nothing more than a minimalistic routine and once any quests they have are over, you can't tell them apart from the average bozos.

Things break down even further on the AI front when you consider that every container is lootable and there are no penalties for openly stealing from them. Considering all past games in this series imposed harsh penalties if caught, this is a real disappointment. It effectively hands you tons and tons of stuff, most of which you won't really end up using, and treats the entire world as though it doesn't matter. Once more, this is 2010, we expect better. Of particular note, you can't even attack an NPC that isn't already hostile to you.

Graphics are somewhat dated, as you can probably see in the accompanying image. NPCs don't look especially great, though they do have a much wider variety than expected. Landscape and terrain is definitely showing its age though. Almost as though the company took a step backward in terms of quality. However, on balance, the game does look quite good over all. They have LOD handling down cold. No bright line between "this is far away" and "this is up close", rather they have a progressive level of detail that gets better the closer you are to something. All locations in the game are visible from extreme distance, when the opportunity arises it's quite a sight. They could have done better on plants and trees, a lot of them look worse off than games made in 2005. Most of them will fade from view entirely if you get too close. Lighting is top notch, you don't get bleeding through walls or have shadows that fall on the underside of the floor. The sun fades from sight when you're indoors, and when there's bad weather about, it stays outside where it belongs too. The best part of the system is, there are no loading screens during normal wandering, ever. Not even when going underground. Everything is seamless. Bethesda, are you paying attention?

There's a pretty nasty collision detection system in use. One that's bad enough you can get stuck on it easily if you're climbing around. Be careful near cliffs as a result. I had one rather frustrating incident where I got stuck, the game started moving me along automatically, only to realize it bugged. I popped off the side of the cliff, over the ocean, and fell to my untimely death - before I even hit the water. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, you can't swim in the water at all.

Sound and music quality are nothing short of excellent. The game's soundtrack blends in nicely and helps with the atmosphere of every location you're in. Audio effects fit well, and there were no noticeable issues. Everything sounded nice and crips and clean. Speech volume seemed a bit low at times, but over all was loud enough and clear enough to be able to sideline the subtitles. There were some repetative voiceovers, but nowhere near the ridiculousness of some other games. You can go quite some time before wondering if you've heard the same guy speak before.

There's been some talk around in various places about how there's been a butcher job done on previous lore. I may not be as familiar with it as a lot of people, but in playing the game I didn't notice anything glaringly out of place. All of the fundamentals were sound. I dno't expect there to be a clear association with the events on the mainland since this is an isolated area of the game world which is expected to have its own culture. It doesn't bother me in the least that you're not the same guy from the previous set of games. If you were, there'd be some HUGE explaining to be done to justify that. I don't think there's any real issue here. Unless of course folks were referring to the ending - I'll say only that it left me scratching my head wondering what it was all about.

Over all, I think most people who are into RPGs will enjoy Arcania. It has a lot to offer, and although it is somewhat shorter than other games, it was very enjoyable. I also smell a sequel, or at least some DLC, in the future.
.........................
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

       
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Posted on Nov 22, 2010 11:05 pm by Samson in: | 30 comment(s) [Closed]
Comments
Look Dwip, he used a jump!

I may be the only one that has never heard of this game. 1,2,3 or 4. It looks interesting though. It sounds kind of Fable-ish, or maybe Fable sounds kind of Gothic-ish. I guess there's only one recipe for games of this genre.

       
:lol: I've seen Samson use jumps on lots of his blog posts, I'm not sure why this one should be so shocking, but...

Nope, Hanaisse, I don't believe I've heard of this one before either, which in itself is pretty remarkable given that this is the fourth in it's series, but it does sound pretty good to me too.

       
You guys should go read my review of the first 3 then. The reason you likely haven't heard of any of this is because the first 2 are ancient, and the 3rd one was a bit of a sleeper game. Sleeper as in unknown btw, not boring. So I'd have to say Fable probably copied Gothic or they both copied something generic. Funny thing is I've heard of Fable but never had any compelling reason to want to play them.

       
I don't think there is any compelling reason to play the latest Fable game, considering how terrible the combat system is.

Also, does anyone else get reminded of the Beaches of Cyrodil UL by the screen shot?

       
Edited by prettyfly on Nov 23, 2010 12:17 pm
Samson said:


(Look Dwip, I used a jump!)


*claps*

@prettyfly - Looks like NWN2 to me, to be honest.

       
:shrug: My wife and I enjoyed Fable and Fable 2, more recently we'd been playing Torchlight though when we get the urge to play the Fable series.

       
I took a look at some stuff about the Fable series, it doesn't look like anything I'd be interested in based on the descriptions. It appears as though the developers got themselves hung up too much on the marriage, children, and sexuality aspects of the game rather than developing something interesting and fun to play. I don't tolerate stupid political issues being forced into movies I watch, I'm certainly not going to tolerate it in a $50 game.

       
I don't think we're talking about the same Fable series.. but perhaps the Fate series would work better for you, it was also a really good game and Torchlight's more like Fate than Fable anyway.

       
You're talking about this one, right? Fable 1, 2 & 3?

       
Yeah, that's the one, but your cited attributes from the game threw me because, while the game does allow you to woo NPCs, I don't recall any actual sexuality in it and they never actually put having children into it at all. As for marriage itself, I don't recall whether or not you could actually culminate the wooing with marriage anymore as it's really been awhile since I played it last and that was never a facet that I particularly exploited in the game. :shrug:
From the wiki review you linked:
In addition to undertaking quests to learn what happened to the Hero's family, players can engage in optional quests and pursuits such as trading, romance, boxing, pub gaming, betting and theft.

One of the features that were not included in the game's release was the Hero's ability to have children despite the fact that Molyneux had previously mentioned that the Hero's own children would be significant in the game. Molyneux reacted to these complaints by means of a public apology posted on the official Lionhead forums, on which he said, "If I have mentioned any feature in the past [that], for whatever reason, didn't make it as I described into Fable, I apologise."

As you can see from those quotes, the romance options were not a big part of the game, just one more option you could choose to pursue and there was nothing about having children at all. Overall, it was much more about deciding whether you wanted to make choices that would lead to being good or being evil while otherwise basically being fairly typical, overall, of most other CRPGs. In any event, my wife and I enjoyed the game, and I surmise from her comments above that Hanaisse did as well, but you may or may not and if you don't think that you would, I certainly wouldn't blow $50 just to find out. It's not like there's anything resembling a shortage of games on the market to choose from these days.

       
Anonymous [Anon] said:
Comment #11 Dec 4, 2010 3:24 pm
[Sat Dec 4 10:07:48 2010] Cratylus@Dead_Souls_Dev: zenn's thread made me look at some old threads he was in
[Sat Dec 4 10:07:54 2010] Cratylus@Dead_Souls_Dev: lol the drama
[Sat Dec 4 10:08:44 2010] Cratylus@Dead_Souls_Dev: things are so much quieter and nicer now that samson is out and davion has better things to do than wear a samson suit


Fucktard is at it again. dont he get that he's the problem?

       
Aside from how incredibly off-topic this is, I saw his response to Zenn on MB in the RSS feed and had to just shake my head at how rudely he handled it, I can't honestly say that he surprises me anymore though. To answer your direct question, no, I really don't believe that he does.

       
Cratylus said:

It's easy to forget how much better things are now until you see how nasty it used used to be.


Sorry, had to chuckle when I dug up the post (god, that front page is hideous!)

It got quiet because all the people he pissed off are gone now because they didn't feel like sticking around to deal with it after him and his band of jackals from I3 swarmed in and took over.

Maybe Davion finally got sick of being harassed too and just gave up? Who knows, but if so, I'm happy for him. It means he finally realized what most of us realized 2-3 years ago.

Looks to me like the place is a virtual ghost town now anyway so I guess a lot more people have finally realized the true cause of all the issues there. At least our anonymous informant kept it somewhat on topic since it's game related :P

       
I still watch the RSS feed from it scroll by and the place definitely goes through cycles, some days they've got very little traffic and some days they've got posts happening almost faster than RSS can keep up, but they're definitely not a ghost town yet.

I have to agree though, Crat's just so self-consumed he can't imagine that it's gotten quieter because all the folks who he pissed off finally left and it's basically his fault that even Davion's all but given up on MB.

I suppose you could look at it that way, then it doesn't seem as off-topic, but it's hardly related to Arcania. :lol:

       
Conner said:

I still watch the RSS feed from it scroll by and the place definitely goes through cycles, some days they've got very little traffic and some days they've got posts happening almost faster than RSS can keep up, but they're definitely not a ghost town yet.


You mean it's like...here? :wink:

Since when did we start worrying about being on topic? :rofl:

       
We certainly have our days here where we'll crank out some crazy numbers of posts particularly considering how few folks we have here to make them, but MB has far more members posting so their slow days are usually about double or triple our post count, but, yeah, same idea just a slightly larger scale. ;)

Oh, I'm as guilty as anyone here of topic drift in general, but I do at least try to get us back on-topic on the more serious discussions, this one's just such an old issue already (Cratylus/MB/IMC in general) especially when our anonymous friend starts quoting IMC to us.. :shrug:

       
Crat's probably bored and hasn't realized MB's traffic stats are down 30% since I left. Yes, despite getting booted from my own creation, I still keep an eye on things like that out of morbid curiosity. They've gone from 65+ users a day to just over 40. Hardly surprising really though when you're dealing with a gaming community that has at most 10,000 people world wide, according to stats posted by someone at TopMudSites.com. They're all spread so thin I doubt any one site anymore has more than about 50 active users a day. I remember when most of our individual games could boast that many players a day.

The Oblivion community has that many easy just on one website, and we've got dozens of sites floating around out there, plus major general gaming sites where we all hang out. You can find OB mods on practically any gaming mod site that hosts user mods. TES Nexus alone has ~20,000 active users, with just shy of 2 million registered accounts (though a huge chunk of those are banned).

So yeah. Chalk it up to boredom, and an anon who probably thought it would stoke some drama for Crat. Might even have been him for all we know.

       
What's MUD? :confused:

Of course, you have to take into consideration that most Oblivion users are active on more than one site, no wait, I said that wrong. :thinking:
Most Oblivion players arent on any sites. Most Oblivion players that like to talk about it are registered on as many as will have them. (Except the ones that get banned-they tend to be banned everywhere.)

       
True, but the same is true of MUD players.... uh.... wait.... nope. All the MUD sites I've ever been to are nothing but developers. The equivalent of modders hanging out on Bethesda's forum most of the time.

The problem is, with an estimated 10K users worldwide, the sites that have developers hanging out on them barely crack 50 users a day. Spend more than a week at any one, and you'll realize they're all the same people on all 4 of the major sites.

Your chances of running into the same batch of Oblivion modders on the same sites over and over again is actually fairly low. There's whole segments of that community that never talk to each other at all. Entire sites that don't even know places like Nexus exist. Or that Bethesda even still runs an official forum for the game.

Though I'm loathe to use Wikipedia as a source, I'd prefer to spare you the vitriol you'll find on most MUD sites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MUD

       
What's MUD? :confused:

Of course, you have to take into consideration that most Oblivion users are active on more than one site, no wait, I said that wrong.
Most Oblivion players arent on any sites. Most Oblivion players that like to talk about it are registered on as many as will have them. (Except the ones that get banned-they tend to be banned everywhere.)


I think its quite true to say that most Oblivion users aren't actively posting on any sites. For instance, the last UL mod to be released is being used by 14000+ people (i just added up some figures from the snowdale page and the comp OMOD page), yet the thread on Bethsoft forums most days doesn't see any activity. And like Samson said, most of the people on that forum are the actual modders.

Personally though, I'm only active on Bethsoft forums and Tesnexus, though I may not be the standard for someone who's an active poster.

       
What's a MUD? Basically the all text version of your modern MMO that existed before the idea of adding graphics to the mix existed. In a nutshell anyway. ;)

Well, let's face it, other than an occasional player who posts a "can someone recommend a mud like this for me?" what real reason would a player have to want to participate in any of the major mud related forums? None of the discussions at any of them are really ever interesting from a player perspective anyway. Most players who would even consider being active on a mud related forum won't bother beyond the local forum for the mud they most actively play. :shrug:

       
TES Nexus alone has ~20,000 active users, with just shy of 2 million registered accounts (though a huge chunk of those are banned).


Why have such a large portion of the accounts gotten themselves banned?

       
They were troll accounts or users who got themselves banned later on. The banned user group there is pretty big. Plus they're also counting all the spambots they've banned over the years as well. Inflated numbers.

(Also, WTF server, why no emails all day?)

       
Edited by Samson on Dec 8, 2010 3:43 am
While I can easily appreciate counting banned members/spambots for the sake of inflated numbers, depending on how their software is setup (look at QSFP for example) it may be that they can't really keep them banned if they delete the account and the software just counts all accounts...

       
Yes, but if I were to say that SmaugMuds.org has 6700 members, one might expect that there be 6700 actual members, right? Not 60 members and 6630 banned and/or bot accounts.

       
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