Gothic video game franchise is probably known to all players, especially to fans of RPG (role playing games) video games. Mainly the first two Gothic games are known for their high quality game play, stunning world living its own life and a bit unusual controls. Gothic 3 has been a disappointment for many fans. However, does Gothic 4 follow the trend of declining quality? Is the game with a bit strange name Arcania – Gothic 4 worth your money and time? Well, my answer is yes. Gothic 4 is surely a worthwhile investment of one’s gaming money and free time.
In general, Arcania – Gothic 4 makes a good impression and the whole experience brought up a lot of nostalgic memories from times when I first played Gothic. The initial confusion, path of getting used to how the in game environment of Arcania works and strong urge to stop playing and never return during the first hour or so – all of this was an exact copy of my first impression of the first Gothic game I played many years ago. So was the ‘Just one more quest before I go to sleep’ idea bugging me ever since I got used to the Arcania’s play and feel. But let’s analyze the gaming experience bit by bit before you decide to buy or doom Arcania – Gothic 4.
The look of Arcania – Gothic 4 is great. People’s faces looks almost real, items, environment and enemies look very well too. Graphics make it rather easy to get used to the world you will be living in for next few days (literally considering Arcania’s long play time) and feel at home. However, it would be foolish to expect perfect graphics. There are some imperfections that can be funny and even annoying at times. The usual problem with items sticking through other objects, people standing at the same place forming some kind of a creature with eight legs and strange blended heads and similar stuff known from so many games is still present in Arcania – Gothic 4. I have to mention though that such things do occur relatively scarcely. It is also possible to see right through people’s head during some dialogs.
However, all that is still common in many video games. What can be a bit annoying though is that way too many people you can talk with during approximately first 10 hours of game play appear to be emotionally unstable and of questionable characters. This is because characters in Arcania show emotions on their faces in such detail that you can easily distinguish them. However, their emotions rarely fit the situation. Sure, they act and sound happy when you tell them the good news. But their face shows hostility or even disgust before and again shortly afterwards.
The music is pleasant and does not start to bug you even after many hours of playing Arcania – Gothic 4. The same goes for other sounds. They are not unpleasant and usually fit the situation well. There is a little bug with bloodflies when you hear the sound of their wings even several seconds after you have killed them. However, I have not noticed any other problems of this sort.
Whole another story is the speech of characters, including the main hero. Most characters you meet during first 10 hours or so act irritated, aggressive even. It can be rather unpleasant to listen to negative voices so often. Also, the speech sounds quite unnatural at first. Characters often speak as if they were a recordings meant to teach the kids proper intonation in that particular type of sentence. There is just nobody who speaks like that in real life. Luckily, characters later into the story are much more believable and their actions start corresponding with emotions and overall feel you get about them during the dialog.
This is where Gothic 4 struggles at first, but feels great and intuitive a while later. It takes some time to get used to the way things work in Arcania. However, it is not very difficult. Controls do not differ from other similar games. However, the learning curve and pace at which the new stuff is thrown at you is a bit slower. Though, the good thing about this is that you will still discover new features after several hours of playing Arcania.
Main hero evolves throughout the game from naïve idiot into normally thinking and self-confident human being. The only thing spoiling this storyline feature is the fact that nobody seems to take advantage of your character’s naivety and apparent lack of any reasoning skills. Attempts to screw the player over or take advantage of him start showing only later on and the game usually guides you through those situations safely.
The plot does not offer anything truly surprising. After all, your main motivation is avenging the dead lover, your unborn child and rest of the village – hardly a previously unseen idea in fantasy games and literature. On the other hand, the world around you is interesting enough to keep you playing and hoping for some unforeseen twist in the main storyline.
The combat system in Arcania – Gothic 4 is quite intuitive and easy to master. You point in the right direction, sometimes press the corresponding movement key to attack in other direction or roll away/towards the enemy in that direction. The only problem is that opponents often hit you even despite the fact that you seem to be out of their reach.
Then there is one unpleasant feature that bugged me a lot – the anti-fall feature. You just cannot walk right off the rock into the abyss. Well, this feature would be a great thing if it did not kick in everywhere. It often turns running down the stairs into an art. The stairwells are usually quite narrow, but you cannot just jump onto them from the side – not even if the height of your jump would be just few centimeters. The only way is to walk onto them properly. Anti-fall can be overcome by jumping and pressing a movement key in respective direction.
Sadly, you will always jump too far. This usually results into hero landing elsewhere than you wanted – for example you jump over the staircase instead of jumping down into it. Even more extreme is the example when you are trying to jump about a meter down from a rock onto a piece of safe land (that looks to be at least 2 meters wide) under it, but jump over it and fall down the cliff instead. There seems to be no way to shorten the jump when overcoming the anti-fall feature.
Price and availability
Digital version of Arcania – Gothic 4 is readily available both on Amazon for twenty bucks (only available to customers with billing address in USA) and on Steam for 19.99 Euro. It might be possible to buy a copy of Gothic 4 for less than that in your local video game store though.
To conclude, Arcania – Gothic 4 is a must for fans of the Gothic franchise. Its good-looking graphics and overall pleasant in game experience will surely keep players new to the series interested for at least 20 – 30 hours too. The little bugs do not spoil the gaming experience too much, although they can be annoying at times. The only big problem seems to be in system requirements that are quite high. My computer can run Crysis on highest settings with 4x anti-aliasing smoothly without any visible lagging. However, I had to decrease my video settings in Arcania – Gothic 4 to medium to increase the frame rate to bearable level. It still wasn’t smooth, just playable though. So, all things taken into consideration, I give Arcania – Gothic 4 seven points out of ten. The points taken down are due to faulty anti-fall feature, quite a few little bugs, and very unnaturally sounding speech of most characters, narrow and rather uninteresting storyline and system requirements that are way too high compared to other games that look equally as good or better.
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