You turn the corner in a dark hallway. The room down the hall is filled with creepy little goblins. They might not look like much, but in groups they can be deadly. You crouch down and sneak down the dark, damp hallway. Once you can get a good view off all the baddies in the room you unleash a fireball that hits right in the middle of the goblin’s lair. The room erupts in flames, and the goblins burn quickly to death. The fire burns for a minute once they are all dead, and the flames cast a flickering light though the smoke and it reflects off the damp floor around you. A beautiful sight. This is just one awesome moment from Arcania: Gothic 4.
The story is pretty bland. Most of the characters are forgettable. The writing is mediocre, usually, but there are a few moments that shine as examples of a good story. You have one very interesting, and intelligent conversation with a fellow by the name of Gerick about the gods, which is strangely intellectually stimulating (yes, those are big words, get a dictionary if you can’t handle it). The mythology of the Gothic games is unintentionally the center point of the story. Sure, there are other things going on, but they are your typical “This dude has a demon, and you need to kill it” kind of things.
For a moment it seems like the dialog are things that people would really say, but the illusion is broken once your asked to go find five boars’ hearts, or monkey heads, or deliver another message. The game feels very open most of the time, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is an open world. The game is very linear and you progress from point A to B the whole time. You won’t be backtracking very much, and once you do the handful of quests in an area, the story will push you forward to the next town or dungeon. There are few quests that let you decide how to achieve the goal, but it’s pretty much just based on which class you have built. For example, you’ll be given three options, and it’s made clear that option A is for a mage and option B is for a warrior. These choices really don’t matter that much since I played a mage and was able to take the warrior path and still beat the quest.
The ending (don’t worry I won’t spoil anything) is unsatisfying, and involves a city that was designed by drunken monkeys. It’s almost impossible to find your way around, and it’s built like a maze. I played the game on the hardest difficulty setting (Gothic) and found it only moderately challenging at best usually, but the end boss is one tough nut to crack. I would spend ten to twenty minutes knocking down her health only to be dealt a blow that killed me instantly. I cranked it down to very easy, and it still took me two tries to get the thing right.
Visually the game is at times stunning, and at other times it looks like it borrowed textures from the Unreal Engine in 2003. The weather effects are great, but they are completely random and it can go from sunny, to rainy, and back to sunny in a matter of moments. The frame rate varies between the low 20s and hitting 60 at times with no logical reason. You can be outside with hundreds of polygons and have it run fine, but be in a cave with limited geometry the it can bottom out and start to lag.
Invisible walls will prevent you from running all over the place, which adds to the games constrained level design and makes you feel boxed in even more. The lip movements don’t have much to do with what people are saying, and one characters lips didn’t even move at all. The animations are repetitious as is represented by how all the women stand around with one hand on their hips.
More beating on the next page!