ArcaniA: Gothic 4 is finally arriving to PS3 this week, nearly three years after the PC and 360 version were released. It includes the stand-alone add-on pack, "Fall of Setarrif" too, but the experience is altogether marred by technical issues and lackluster gameplay design, making this version one you should skip.
Back in 2010, I reviewed ArcaniA on the Xbox 360 and was generally positive about it. Part of that excitement was my own lack of experience with the genre, but I had an overall good time with the game back then. Revisiting it now on the PS3 in this Complete Tale version was something I was looking forward to, as I always hold the belief or hope that re-releases are a chance for the developer to put their best, most complete version of their game forward. Unfortunately, the opposite is true here and the PS3 version of ArcaniA should be avoided.
Things start promisingly enough, from the exciting still image seen in the XMB before you launch the game onward into the opening moments of actual gameplay where you lead your nameless, generic character on a few of many fetch quests so that he may have permission to marry the village leader's daughter. Technical problems and glitches are readily apparent, and the game looks surprisingly dated, as though it were released in 2007 as opposed to late 2010. Textures and objects sort of pop in and out of view, as you approach them for example, and it's a nuisance that quickly gets harder and harder to tolerate. I came to cringe at dialogue sequences or cutscenes because they're so "stiff" and poorly executed, both in terms of voice-acting as well as the graphics.
I'd be the first to tell you, though, as a fan of old school games and what not, that graphics and sounds aren't everything -- presentation is trumped by gameplay and fun factor. Some of my favorite games have what many would consider a pretty terrible presentation, and were that ArcaniA: The Complete Tale's only fault, it would be a much more tolerable experience. Since playing the game back in October of 2010, I have played a few games of higher quality in the same genre and seeing ArcaniA again released anew, it's much harder for me to appreciate the meager quests that you'll find yourself undertaking day in and day out. Expect fetch quests galore, and they often overlap such that you're trying to appease multiple NPCs.
What I kept hoping would be a massively explorable world just never really panned out either, although there are plenty of generic, tried-and-true fantasy locales that you go to and they're pretty cool nonetheless. Within these locations are a few diversions that can lead to a chest or some other stash of loot, and you'll most certainly encounter some of the genre-stalwart enemies, including lots of goblins. Combat is rather clunky and not terribly satisfying. Players can block, roll, sneak (once learned) and use melee, ranged, and magic attacks. Enemies can attack similarly. Oh, when you jump, be it in combat or just whenever, your player floats for like two seconds, almost like he's in slow motion; it's weird, and just another head-shaking sign of a lack of polish and effort.
It may be worth pointing out that you can start up the Fall of Setarrif expansion at your leisure. I think it's a more rewarding experience finishing the main campaign first so that you can import your character into Fall of Setarrif, but the option is yours. The same significant problems with the main game remain in Fall however, so no matter which way you slice it, you're looking at a vanilla open world RPG at best, and a technically shoddy and boring one at worst. That said, as I mentioned in my review from 2010, ArcaniA: Gothic 4 isn't a terrible way to start getting into the genre. It's a comparatively easy and much shorter game than your typical AAA open world fantasy RPG, and the gameplay is kept basic and thus accessible in every regard.
With that, let's get to the summary...