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This game has been out for a week now(Germany), and while english is not my native language, i like to add another review here on amazon.com.
I played the demo of Arcania, and the game itself, at least for 8 hours.
Let me tell you one thing upfront:
Arcania in it self has NOTHING to do with the Gothic series. Yes, Diego and a few other characters are in the game, and the story is supposed to play after the third (and also awful) installment of the series.
But the game content has little to do with the features, that made "Gothic" a great gaming experience. Another thing: Piranha Bytes, the makers of the first 2 games have NOTHING to do with Arcania. Spellbound, another german developer made it and it's their first RPG.
But back to the game.
You start with a very mediocre intro, that tells you a retarded story about the old nameless hero. After that, the first 15 minutes of the game is a dream sequence, where you clean out a dungeon. There are no explainations, no health bar and you can't be killed. You just kill 50 enemies, and that's it. This is explained later, but this is just horrible storytelling and a pretty stupid start.
You meet your fiance, and the first thing you will notice is, that the graphics are nice. Really they are, but unfortunately, thats one of the very few things good in Arcania.
The next things you will notice are the really bad dialogs and the asynchronous lip movements. I haven't seen THAT for a long time. The last time i saw that in a game was 2002..i think.
I won't go into the story much further, to avoid spoilers, so i will just tell you what the game is, and what it isn't.
- The dialogs are horrible. Most of them are one-liners which could have been written by a 6th grader. I addition, some of the voice actors are horrible too. The witch on the starting island for example(Don't worry, i played with english dialogs, so i know what i'm talking about) is horrific. After listening 1min of her awful speech, i had the feeling my ears will start bleeding any second now.
- The crafting system is not realistic. You practically craft in your trouser pocket. You can craft in the forest, at night, in the rain, yes even in combat. Meat will be roasted in your pocket (Bon apetite!) too. You don't need any tools like an anvil or an alchemical laboratory, you just open your inventory, combine the ingredience(if you have the neccessary recipes) and voila, your new sword is ready to swing.
- There are no consequences from stealing. You can rob a traders house while he is watching, and then sell the stuff back to him you just stole. Running around with a weapon in the castle or village has no effect. Most of the npcs are not even attackable.
- There are very few quests, and they are all the same. Kill this and bring me 10 of that. Oh and there are "archievement"-quests like "Collect 30 Innos-statues". Very entertaining. *yawn*
- This is not an open world game, like Gothic was. You can roam the countryside, but there are invisible barriers all over the place, which prevent you from exploring a good portion of the island.
- There is not much to explore anyway. From time to time there are a few ruins, but there is no lore about them, and the only things that can be found, are herbs and identically looking chests with random loot in it. The climax is the random dead person with some useless stuff on it.
- The game is very linear. You come into one area, do the available 2-3 story quests, maybe the 2 non-story quests too, and then move on. Until you solve the story quests, the entrance to the next area is blocked. Most of the time for very flimsy reasons. If you have done anything that can be done in an area, you don't have to come back. Ever. The area will not change, there will be no new dialog options, regardless of what you do.
- The combat system is very simplistic. It works, but its just hitting the left mouse button and dodge by rolling sideways or backwards until the stupid enemies are dead. The enemies have a "strong" attack, which is indicated by a green fog around them. But even on the harder difficulty settings, you will always have enough time (2-3 sec) to dodge these attacks.
- The skilltree is a joke. Diablo, anno 1997 had a better skilltree. There are a number of bars, and every level you can distribute 3 skillpoints among them. You don't have to find teachers like in the first Gothic games, you just put a point into fire magic, and wosh, suddenly you can cast fireballs. Oh and there are only 3 spells. Thats it. AND the magic is very weak in comparison to melee weapons or the bow.
- There is a teleporter system later in the game, but it's really not much help, because the teleporter platforms are never in places where they would be useful to you. And there are no mounts in the game. I know this feature has been announced, but they canceled mounts altogether.
- The game is very simple. You are always to strong, no matter the difficulty level. You don't feel weak at the beginning(even with laughable weapons and armor) and you don't feel significantly stronger at the end. There is no challenge in the game. The enemies are stupid, slow and seldom hit at all. The boring skilltree is no help either.
- The game is VERY short. In about 16 hours you will see the outro. You can reach 20 hours but only if you walk around an empty landscape with nothing to explore or do all the repetetive non-story quests. For an RPG, that is very short.
- The NPCs are often look the same. Most character models are recyled every few steps. That could have worked, if the clones were more randomly distributed, but there are locations in the game, where you can see two clones walking around at the same time.
Lets get to the good parts of the game. As i said before, the graphics are good.
If you buy this game, i recommend installing the first patch at least. Its a hotfix that makes the game playable in terms of FPS. The version you can buy is unpatched and unplayable most of the time. Even on very strong systems, because there are multicore-optimizations missing in the gold version. The first patch increases the performance significantly.
Another good thing is the music. Its not groundbreaking, but it works.
Before i come to an end, i like to inform you about a strange thing that happened on Amazon.de. It seems that a few employees of the austrian publisher(Jowood) of Arcania wrote fake reviews under false names, to increase the score of Arcania on Amazon. One of these obvious fake profiles has been deleted by amazon yesterday morning. So be careful. It's very possible that they try the same thing here, so a few of the first 5 star ratings maybe fake too.
Another warning goes to the potential buyers of the Special Edition: There are confirmed reports of missing maps in the Special Edition, and there is also a problem with the included book. The last 3 pages are missing(in ALL special edition packages), so you can't read the end of the story. When and IF that will be fixed is unknown.
To come to an end, i have to say that this game could not have disappointed me more. It lacks depth on every level. The story is weak, the quests are boring and repetetive, the enemies are not in the least challenging, there is nothing to explore or find, stealing has no consequences, the crafting is a joke, and so is the skilltree.
My recommendation: Avoid this game, and wait for Two Worlds 2 , Fallout: New Vegas, Fable III or The Witcher 2.