Massively Singleplayer Offline RPG
Cut to today, and while the PC and the 360 have had ArcaniA for a few years, the PS3 is just now getting its version (now courtesy of Nordic Games). To help make up for the delay, PS3 owners will be getting ArcaniA: The Complete Tale which includes not only the original game, but also its expansion pack The Fall of Settarif. So that is a lot of potential hours you could put into the world of Feshyr.
Unfortunately those probably wouldn’t be hours very well spent. It’s telling that I am hard pressed to lists anything I would consider a “strength” of ArcaniA. I suppose the story starts out with a bit of mystery but even that devolves into a bit of a mess as time goes on. It’s always worrisome when a game is delayed for YEARS on a particular system although you would think that after all that time you’d get a game that was at least technically sound. Not here, friends.
You’ll move through the world of ArcaniA in a linear manner as you snake up and down the world map, constantly hemmed in by mountain ranges or other impassible areas. There are a dozenish hubs as you move along and in each of those you’ll encounter a half-dozen sidequests and a mainline quest or two. Locals will task you with running to a nearby area and either gathering enough of something or killing a set amount of something. Imagine MMO grind quests only without other people around. That’s about the level of depth you get throughout the game. A early quest tree might start at the inn where the innkeeper needs you dispatch a half-dozen goblins before he’ll let you cross the bridge. Once you are done he remembers he needs a keg delivered to the blacksmith. The blacksmith won’t give you the proof you delivered the keg unless you get seven herbs for him. Once you do that and get the proof and return to the innkeeper, he still needs to you kill some more goblins before you cross the bridge. Once that is done you cross that bridge, fight some goblins, then talk to the guard who needs you to kills some bandits outside the town… and so on forever.
That might not be the worst thing if the combat was pretty good. Sadly what you’ve got here also isn’t much more complex than an MMO. A couple face buttons handle melee combat (and an extremely rudimentary combo system) while the triggers take care of your magic and ranged weapons. Magic is limited to three spells that you level up through the needlessly unclear skills screen where you also unlock a few more melee moves and some ranged combat bonuses. Everything is so decidedly dull its hard to imagine the designers were all that enthralled with making this game.
That same dreariness carries over into your enemies. All enemies in the game fall into one of three classes (melee, ranged, caster) and you’ll just endlessly battle the same three enemies reskinned as goblins, undead, bandits or some other generic fantasy trope and they all stay within their designated zones and don’t intermix. Once in a while a dog or dog derivative will join into the fight. These enemies aren’t just uninspired in their appearance, they’re also not all that into using tactics when they engage you and they’ll either rush you or plant in place and fire ranged weapons and spells. I guess there is some excitement in seeing what they are going to call the enemy in the next section.
I could go on listing little details, but it’s enough to say that this game just doesn’t feel inspired in any sense and it has the aura of an early MMO without all the other players. Topping all of that off, ArcaniA isn’t a technically sound game. Enemies would CONSTANTLY warp around in battle, often right when I was attacking them. The sound would break up and stutter on a regular basis. The graphics weren’t particularly clean and I’d see lots of instances of models disappearing.
You’d really have to a hard-core RPG and/or Gothic fan to want to put in the 30-40 hours it takes to run through the entire game and expansion. If you simply must play everything, this game is certainly serviceable even if you have to work awfully hard to find the enjoyable parts. For most of you out there though, this game simply isn’t going to be worth your time when much better games are out there vying to carve out some hours in your precious free time.