Venetica Review for Xbox 360 (X360)

Venetica Review for Xbox 360 (X360)

Fear This Reaper

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.

Venetica Screenshot

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?

Venetica Screenshot

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.

Venetica Screenshot

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.

You have a single attack button, which, when timed correctly, can unleash powerful combos. You unlock the ability to block as you add points to your skill tree, and overall I didn’t have much trouble fighting off the hoards of enemies in the game. But the main combat training in the game presents a confusing split. Everything you learn from teachers in the game tells you how to deal with a single opponent, from blocking to hitting them with a barrage of attacks. But almost every battle in the game will throw at least three different enemies at you, coming from all angles. If you ever get surrounded, you’ll almost surely die. Luckily with the power of Twilight you can come back from death, sneak around your attackers and surprise them, but even that power wears out after one or two uses. The most effective combat tactic to survive some of the more difficult battles is to lure enemies into a hallway so they could be defeated in a single file line.

You have a detailed quest log that marks locations on your map to help propel you forward. Unfortunately, this map is one of the most frustrating elements in the game. You have a mini-map, but your markers are often left off it or hidden behind other icons. When you enter the large map, you have no cursor and must scroll through locations using the D-pad in order to set a marker. When you must sort through dozens of screens, this becomes an absolute headache. Compounded by the fact that your raven guide will often fly directly through walls, it’s easy to get lost in the game.

Venetica Screenshot

While a few haunting tunes set the mood for the experience, most of the audio was marred by technical problems. The voice acting was poor and repetitive. Some recordings even hissed as though they were recorded at too high of a level. And in cutscenes, the audio was shot specific, so you’d jump from the silent ambiance of a character talking in front of a wall to a startlingly loud character talking in front of a stream with a ton of background noise, as though these characters standing two feet apart couldn’t hear the same thing.

Venetica was an exercise in frustration for me. I was compelled forward by some of the mid-game events, but overall nothing presented a huge challenge. Almost every breakable pot had coins in it, so I was never poor. Single opponents were almost helpless to my strings of combos. The biggest struggle became trying to read the mini-map. With all of its flaws and its dearth of enjoyable sequences, I can recommend Venetica to the most patient and dedicated of action-RPG fans. The majority of gamers will grow frustrated and even angry with this trial of a title in its early stages.

Some beautiful areas of the game truly shine, but the majority of the experience looks dated, jagged, and unpolished. 3.5 Control
The combat is all mapped to a single button that can be extremely powerful (and easy) once you learn combo timing in the game. It would help if there were more available slots to map magic spells to, but overall controlling your character in the game world feels pretty smooth. 2.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice acting really gets on one’s nerves as the experience progresses, and the hiss of blown out recordings is jarring. Some of the characters sound absolutely terrible in their recording quality and the music rarely reaches a compelling note. 2.0 Play Value
Once I had committed a few hours to the game and was deep inside Venice leveling up and completing quests, I was indeed drawn into the game. But the sordid path it took to get me there and the unnecessary complications of the map were beyond frustrating and would turn away most gamers. 2.0 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • A visually stunning cinematic RPG with a truly unique atmosphere.
  • Conquer a host of nightmare creatures in action-packed battles.
  • Master the use of the “Twilight World” and the ultimate powers of death.
  • 3D map architecture that allows for multi-dimensional gameplay – from dungeons, streets, interiors, rooftops, and water canals to the world of the dead.
  • Dynamic night and day cycles that influence artificial life activities. Venice is a very different place after dark.
  • Clear, easy to pick up rule system and intuitive gameplay.

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