Back in 2010, Arcania released as the fourth installment to the Gothic series. The name change was done to give a fresh start in hopes of having better success in North America. An expansion called The Fall of Setariff was released later. Up until now, there had not been a PS3 release. ArcaniA: The Complete Tale comes with the expansion scenario, but unfortunately the wait might not be worth it.
Arcania is a game that starts out with an intro cut-scene with a narrator explaining a little bit of the history of the land of Argaan. After this scene the game cuts to a nameless man who is a mere shepherd on an outlying island. It’s weird that the man is nameless, since he is also the main character and has his own dialogue. After some tutorial quests are introduced, the protagonist’s life is ruined when the mad king’s army destroys your village while he is away. Now the hero seeks revenge, and eventually has to save the land. Very typical plot but it does the job.
Gameplay is presented in a third-person perspective and combat is done in real-time action similar to other action RPG’s like Fable. You can attack, block, jump, and interact with objects with the face buttons. The d-pad allows you to use shortcut keys to use items without having to pause the game. The shoulder buttons can lock on to enemies, use magic spells, or the bow for ranged attacks. One thing to note though, the magic in this game is mostly useless. This is because your character can only use magic with magic scrolls, which are unfortunately rare and a bit expensive. This is despite having Mana Points. It only gets worse: Money is hard to earn at first, and enemies do not re-spawn, meaning there are no farming opportunities in this game. The melee combat is a bit clunky as well, with having the ability to do flurry attacks or heavy attacks, and even shield bash, all which use Stamina Points. Thankfully, stamina refills quickly. But most battles can be won just by mashing the Square button. If you want to perform flurries though, the game is supposed to make you glow orange to indicate when to attack again after a break in your combo. Needless to say, you never see this glow happen. This means just taking a brief delay in your combo is guesswork. When you level up your stats are automatically increased, and you get skill points to increase your aptitudes in various aspects like increased melee damage or defense. Speaking of defending, blocking is mostly worthless, and you’d be better off dodging out of the way which can be done while defending. Although you need to get the timing down just right, or you get hit. Lock on can also be finnicky. This game has very clunky controls over all.
Other issues in the game are its fast travel system. Since this game is very linear it’s almost not necessary. You wouldn’t really need it to travel backwards in the game to get lame loot or experience points. But the way the game does fast travel is through the magic transportation circles which you have to find and activate. This wouldn’t be so bad except the waypoints come in pairs and you need to find the ones that match. It would have been better to let you go just from anywhere on the map. Also, when you are in combat stance, your character moves sluggishly and there is no way to get out of it unless you equip your weapon to a shortcut key to put it away. There also seems to be an inconsistent framerate in the game. Nothing game breaking but it is noticeable. Enemies will also sometimes magically teleport to your location at times.
Outside of those issues, there are horrible texture issues where the game will glitch out during most cut-scenes. Character’s textures on their face and body seem to get re-rendered, or not rendered, after every camera shift happens. It’s kind of unnerving. Throw in some bland voice acting and dialogue and you have a mediocre game brought even lower because a severe lack of QA or refined programming. I cannot recommend the game.
Editor’s note: ArcaniA: The Complete Tale will be released in North America for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on July 30th 2013.