Is Less More With Four?
It’s a misleading title. Arcania: Gothic 4 should be entitled, Arcania: Gothic: A New Beginning. Sure I know “A New Beginning” is trite, but this is not a true continuation of the series; it’s a tangent. The storyline progresses, building on the foundation laid by the past three games, but the gameplay has been altered to accommodate a more mainstream audience. It’s a good news/bad news scenario, and it all depends on what side of the RPG fence you drool.
The good news is Gothic 4 is accessible to all gamers. The bad news is Gothic 4 is accessible to all gamers. Players new to the genre will enjoy a relatively easy, fast-paced game packed with loot, action, adventure, and real-time combat. It’s an RPG without the fuss; join and party and leave the micromanagement to us. On the other hand, hardcore classic RPG-lovers will scream bloody murder at what has been done to their beloved series.
Everybody calm down. I feel for you all, and I also feel for the developers. These people need to make a living, and frankly, the Gothic series has done moderately well, but it’s not what you would call a blockbuster. Approach this version with an open mind. If you’re not willing to accept a dumbed-down version of an RPG, then don’t waste your time. This is not a challenging game, but you can definitely have some fun. With new graphics, a new engine, and a new approach, the developers might just have something here, but it’s going to take a few more tries before this series finds its identity. It’s just too predictable, redundant and simplistic at this juncture. It’s like it’s set on a permanent cheat code.
It’s a revenge-fueled plot. The people of your kingdom have been massacred by forces unknown. A series of quests, undertaken to seek vengeance, will take you on a journey through enchanted lands rife with dungeons, demons, and treasures. The gameplay, like the storyline, is linear but not uber-obvious. It keeps the pace flowing with short quests. You know where you are and where you’re going, and there’s virtually no backtracking. As you progress, your character will continue to grow in the areas of strength and skills. Leveling up is done automatically, but you do have control to distribute your experience points and spend your gold where you see fit.
Mage, Ranger, and Warrior are the three main classes. Specializing in any particular attribute early in the game is not recommended. All classes will need a variety of skills for ranged and melee fighting. Regardless of your chosen discipline, there are instances when you’ll have to whip out a sword and mix it up with some hack-and-slash combat. Along with the sword for melee combat, the bow and arrow is your weapon of choice for ranged combat, but you’ll also be able to throw fireballs and other magical attacks. Using the two-button mouse scheme, along with the standard hotkey selections, you can strike, block, roll, and pause the action to access your inventory so you can change items such as weapons or armor, in addition to replenishing your health and casting spells.
Spells are limited to three main attacks including fire, ice, and lightning. These spells will increase in strength throughout the game. Some will even turn into powerful screen-clearing attacks. No matter what obstacles or dangers you face, there is always something lying around that will help you out. The dungeons are filled with potions, weapons, and gold. The gold will allow you to purchase upgrades. Search a little harder in any environment, and you’ll find all kinds of resources, such as plants and minerals you can use for crafting. Simply call up the appropriate recipe from the menu window and, like magic, the CPU will reward you with another treasured acquisition. You can even walk right into shops and literally steal whatever you want. With no consequences. It’s a forgone conclusion that your moral compass will have no bearing on the outcome.
You can literally and figuratively get away with murder in Gothic 4. There’s no one to judge you, and no CPU to police your actions. It’s a free for all. It’s virtually impossible to get killed. The worst that will happen is that you’ll be delayed until you figure out what you need to get past the situation. All locks will open for you one way or another. There are no factions to fight or align with. There’s no need for rest or food as recovery is instantaneous with the proper potions. Items don’t need to be maintained. Your inventory is unlimited. See what I mean about the permanent cheat code?
If your PC can handle the new graphics engine, the Vision Engine 7, you’re in for a visual treat. My PC is just a tad underpowered so I have to run it at a lower res, but it still looks great. Incredible draw distances with spacious environments are certain to send agoraphobics into a seizure. The villages are well rendered with great architectural detail. The NPCs are bland, functional but not very distinctive. The developers’ talents clearly lie with environments.
The Gothic series has always been somewhat lackluster in the production department, so it’s nice to see the new engine generating such amazing scenes. Perhaps the audio can be overhauled next time. The sound effects, particularly the environmental ambient sounds, are great. They are accompanied by a rich orchestral soundtrack that evokes the appropriate mood for the scene. But it’s the voiceacting that kills me. There’s the odd character that sounds believable, but most of them are atrocious. It’s as though the actors just learned how to read. And with such awful dialogue that is also poorly translated, it’s inappropriately comical. This is one time I wouldn’t mind going back to the classic text-based RPG.
You make your own decisions in life. You don’t really have to make a lot of decisions in Gothic 4, but at least you can make the decision to buy it or pass on it.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.4 Graphics
Stunning spacious environments contrast bland-looking characters. 4.0 Control
Oversimplified control scheme will appeal to newbies. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music and sound effects can’t compensate for the awful voiceovers. 3.0 Play Value
Linear, simplistic gameplay with no multiplayer component limits replay value. 3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.