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Review – Arcania: Gothic 4 | Level Up News

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Review – Arcania: Gothic 4


Publisher: DreamCatcher Interactive, JoWooD Entertainment
Developer: Spellbound Entertainment
Xbox 360, PC, Playstation 3 (2011)
Genre: RPG
Purchase from:
Amazon, GameStop

The Scoop: The fourth installment in the Gothic fantasy RPG franchise features a new hero, a new problem, a new platform, and a new developer.

The Setup: Ten years have passed since the events in Gothic 3 and its expansion Gothic 3: Forsaken Gods. The self-appointed King has turned tyrant, and has started a civil war in the Southern Islands. After a simple shepherd’s hometown pillaged and destroyed, he vows revenge. But what awaits the nameless hero is an adventure more complicated and an evil much worse than he originally thought.

Please note: While Arcania: Gothic 4 is currently available for the Xbox and PC, this review is based off the PC version.

What’s Hot: Arcania: Gothic 4 is a mix between a traditional RPG and action elements. You’re able to switch between melee, ranged, and magic combat, depending on the enemy you’re facing and your own personal preference. Melee combat is simple to use, however with further levels you can add specialized attacks such as flurry attacks or strong swipes. Ranged combats will allow you to use bows and arrows to attack enemies from a far. The longer you hold your shot, the more power and damage it can do against your enemy. Finally there are magical attacks. You have three basic magical attacks: fire, ice, and lightning. The more you level up the magic ability, the more you can charge your magical attacks to deal more damage.

Arcania: Gothic 4 is also a gorgeous game. The valley hillsides, the mountains, even characters and creatures are all rendered beautifully; it looks more like a painting than a video game. A truly nice detail is the different particle effects that can occur from either magic spells or when you execute special attacks. The details are even more apparent when in the rain; as characters’ clothing will not only appear wet but will visually appear soaked as the water will run off the clothes.

What’s Not: I’ve never played a game in the Gothic franchise before, and I found the story to be confusing. I felt like I’d jumped right into the middle of a novel, and all I knew was I was a shepherd in a medieval fantasy setting who daydreamed about a king. There was a lot of Googling in order to figure out what the mythos of the franchise was, and eventually I gave up. If stories in games aren’t your concern, or you’ve played every Gothic game that’s come before this, then this won’t bother you. Hack and slash bad guys, get the girl, save the day.

Plot aside, there were some performance issues, too. Right off the bat, it took two hours to install the game. Not because of the sheer volume of content, but because the install program kept crashing. It was hung up on a voice pack, tried ever-so-hard to install the file, but would give up on life, crash, and take my desktop with it. Not good.

This isn’t a choose-your-own-adventure RPG game, like Dragon Age: Origins, but rather a straight-forward, skill-based combat RPG. Level your character up, do some more powerful tricks, beat up some more bad guys. While there is selectable dialogue to push the plot forward, it’s kinda annoying, especially when the main character repeats word-for-word what you’ve just read yourself and clicked on. I think I’ve been spoiled by Mass Effect’s dialogue system.

Once I finally got the game installed, the performance issues continued. As I said before, Arcania: Gothic 4 is gorgeous, and it truly is. However, your processor is going to pay for it. Several times the frame rate would significantly drop, making Arcania: Gothic 4 ridiculously, annoyingly slow. I’ve got a damn good graphics card and plenty of memory, but even bumping down the game to lowest graphical settings would not solve the problem. This only happened in certain times, like if there were too many NPC’s in the area, or too many visual effects. After that, the game would speed back up, and life would be fine. (So if you avoid towns, enemies, and magic spells, you’re good to go.) Speaking of graphics, it was also rather amusing to walk up to a plant, only to watch all the details seemingly disintegrate the closer I got, turning the beautifully-rendered tree into a stick. At first I thought I was Death Incarnate, but eventually found the correct graphics setting so that wouldn’t happen anymore.

The other problem faced with this game is a lack of lock-on system. In other action games, like Fable or Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, a lock-on system is provided for melee combat where the direction of the character is facing. This way, the camera is focused on the enemy whose face you’re trying to slice off. Arcania: Gothic 4 has no lock-on system. While that might not be bad for console players, it proves difficult for PC players due to a lack of controller support. That, and other reasons mentioned below, meant I stuck more with ranged and magic attacks during my play. Ranged and magic combats have a quasi-targeting system telling you where your attack will land. But for melee combat, whatever direction your character is facing is where he’ll attack. If the camera is pointing north and your character south, your character will swing the sword south while enemies attack from behind.

And this brings up my last problem: wonky camera angles. I talked about this in my Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper review, too, but some games give me a headache, others out-right motion sickness. I’m not sure if my mouse settings were throwing it off (I have a Logitech G5 laser mouse, and believe me, I tried every setting it has) but the camera seemed uber-sensitive, swirling around too fast in one direction, over-shooting in another, and making me very dizzy in the process, making melee combat next to impossible. I tried switching to keyboard controls, and it didn’t help very much, either. Just to make sure it wasn’t me, I had a friend play the game. He, too, complained of the same troubles—except he didn’t get a migraine.

Now, granted, all these PC-related issues probably won’t affect game play on a console. I doubt it’ll take the game two hours to load the game on the Xbox, and there most likely won’t be lag issues or disappearing trees. But that still doesn’t solve the lack of a targeting system, wonky camera, or confusing plots if you’re not already familiar with the mythos. However, from what I’ve read, the PC version of Arcania: Gothic 4 is far better than the console port, which has me worried considering all the troubles I had.

Final Verdict: Arcania: Gothic 4 is an okay fantasy RPG. It’s not the greatest fantasy RPG of all time, but it certainly isn’t the worst. It’s simply rough around the edges, and a little clunky in places. If you’ve played games the Gothic franchise before, you’ll probably enjoy seeing what this installment brings to the overall story—provided you can get the game installed. But if you’re new to the franchise, there’s a lot of catch-up learning to do. The trouble is, with other good fantasy RPGs already out there, it’s hard to say Arcania: Gothic 4 is anything other than okay. While it was fun to play, I’d still stick with Oblivion or Dragon Age: Origins.

Review - Arcania: Gothic 4, 4.8 out of 5 based on 4 ratings

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About the author

Ever since her father introduced her to arcades at age four, Jennifer has been a gamer. Known around the office as the walking Star Wars encyclopedia, her favorite games include Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Metal Gear Solid, and Mass Effect. Follow her on Twitter! @jennifervolpe



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