|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Deck13 Interactive|
|Release: January 11, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Peter Eykemans
Venetica aims at a high-concept fantasy tale set in the intriguing world of seventeenth century Venice, Italy. It follows a young woman named Scarlett who learns she is Death's daughter. A group of evildoers are pursuing her to bring an end to the natural order of things. With the help of the mythical Moonblade that Death has hidden for her, she begins a quest to bring down the evildoers, learning more about her father and the Twilight World he inhabits along the way.
Before breaking into any specifics about the world and gameplay of Venetica, I must note that I had to restart the game three times before actually getting into the meat of the game, losing almost five hours of my time, and almost to no fault of my own.
First of all, the game does not autosave. So even if you dig two hours into the game, if you didn't manually save your game and you die, you'll have to start over. The game's manual even says that autosaving occurs at certain points throughout the game, but after hours in the game world I have not once had this happen.
The second occasion of a required restart will crack most players who aren't dead set on experiencing every aspect Venetica has to offer. There's a point somewhere between two to three hours into the game where a fisherman asked me if I wanted to travel to Venice or stay on the beach to take care of any other business. I left him on the beach and went to go train some new powers. Upon returning to the boat for a ride, I found that the fisherman had vanished. The character simply disappeared from the game entirely. I was stranded on the sandy beach, never to reach the shores of Venice where the majority of the game plays out. After much deliberation, I once again chose to begin a new game. But would you?
There are a few moments of absolute beauty throughout the game. But the awe-striking moments are the exception, and the majority of Venetica takes place in plain areas that don't hit hard on the visual appeal.
The majority of the graphics and animations chug along at a pace that feels dated and unappealing. When characters go up and down stairs, they bounce jaggedly from one elevation to the next. While swimming, reflections cast a pixellated, glowing swathe around your character that looks like a glitch. Characters clip through walls and body parts. The game also puts up invisible walls to contain your character in different areas of the game (such as a beach with a missing fisherman) that feel contrived and break any kind of immersion that the game may have been building up to that point.
The wall clipping is readily apparent in two major areas. After you loot a body, it sinks into the ground to disappear. But when I killed a guard in the upstairs of a Venice home and went downstairs to explore, the body literally sank through the floor and went downstairs rather than disappearing above. Secondly, you gain a power where a raven will fly towards your next checkpoint. If you're lost in the city streets, the raven is supposed to fly in the direction you need to travel. But unfortunately, the raven travels through walls, hills, and buildings while you struggle to keep up.
The game's story is its strongest element, though held back by its overall execution and voice acting. Taking control of a woman who finds out she's Death's daughter and must protect the man from an evil Necromancer is a high premise worthy of a good game. The Necromancer is part of an evil group of five villains that grow increasingly stronger as you reach them. One of the more inspired portions of the game is the fact that you fight every boss twice: once in the world of the living and once in their true form in the spirit world. The beasts grow increasingly awesome, and it's up to you to find their weak points. As you learn more about your fate, you gain more powers over Twilight, the world of the dead, and the world of the living. You can find hidden passages, learn from ghosts, and generally wreak havoc on the living with your powers. Leveling up comes quickly, and you can allocate points to your growth depending on your play style (strength versus mental power). As you get new weapons and armor, you truly become a warrior.