The open-world on rails

note: added a couple more paragraphs on June 12, denoted by asterisks

I’ve mentioned a couple times already that I bought into the THQ Nordic Playstation Humble Bundle some time ago. Once I finished playing Destroy All Humans! again (which was the entire purpose of buying the bundle), I decided that I ought to give another one of the included games a go. You know, since I had them and all.

First up on the list (because it’s sorted alphabetically) was ArcaniA: The Complete Tale. I had no idea whatsoever what it was, but I went ahead and installed it anyway. Over the course of my journeys, I discovered that it’s the fourth game in the Gothic series, which I had never heard of previous to this. That’s probably because it’s a painfully generic PC RPG series.

Anyway, it seems that Arcania (I’m not capitalizing the last A any more) is the first of the series to land on consoles, which means it’s the only one I’ll ever play. Oh, and that’s also because man is Arcania ever generic. It feels exactly like what Fable would be if it had absolutely zero charm and personality. And I think Fable is really the best comparison gameplay-wise as well. Arcania has less to do and no good/evil gimmick, but the combat is janky, and the game has a very linear “open world” that you can only progress through as you hit all the proper plot triggers.

**As a quick aside, Arcania technically does have a lot to do, because there are ten thousand random objects that you can interact with in the world. But not a one of them does anything. Not the cook pot, not the alchemy table, not the smithing anvil. Nothing. Lying in a bed doesn’t even restore HP or pass time. In fact, the “role-play elements” are so pointless that there is an option to turn them off completely. So I can’t help but be completely baffled as to why they’re even there in the first place. Why? WHY??**

That’s not to say that Arcania is bad, per se. It’s just not at all living up to its potential. There’s still fun in exploring and combat. Though I have to admit that the game’s bugginess does try its best to get in the way of any fun you’re having. Enemies will vanish and reappear behind you. Your hitbox is absolutely massive, which makes successful dodges a bit of a coin toss. If you step off the beaten path, you character will begin to slide around uncontrollably, which may end up dumping you out of bounds and into the waiting arms of death.

Actually, I think that the only reason I’m enjoying it is because I’m playing on the Super Very Hard Mode. Every battle is for all the beans in the can, and enemies in groups of more than one can decimate you in the blink of an eye. It’s fun to gauge every encounter and try to figure out the best strategy for handling them. Usually the best strategy is to backpedal while firing off arrows, but I try to save that for when I’ve been killed a half dozen times by the same monster gang and need to move on. If combat were easy, I think that I would have been bored out of my mind before the intro chapter was over.

I think that the thing I dislike most about the game is actually the main character. He’s a nameless tough guy who is an absolute dick to everyone at all times. Okay, sure, he’s an amnesiac whose village was burned to the ground (along with his fiancée and unborn child) by the Evil Empire, but that doesn’t mean he has to be a complete jackoff to everyone. And what’s the deal with his lack of a name? You can’t edit this character in any way, so it’s not like you’re really role-playing here. He’s always gonna be the same gruff bro in everyone’s game. It’s just the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae of Arcania’s questionable design decisions.

**Speaking of which, did I mention how weird the teleportation system is? There’s no fast-travel, and teleporters come in pairs that only warp to each other. Most of these warp pads are close enough together that it’s literally just as fast to walk the distance as it would be to wait for the game to go through the teleporting animation and load you over to the destination pad. The system is so pointless that you can see where even the developer realized this, as the warp pads just stop appearing three-fifths of the way through the game.**

Anyway, I’m going to keep at it. I’m at least 25 hours deep at this point with what looks like the end of the main quest in sight. I mean, I’ve run out of map and the game hasn’t ever asked me to backtrack to this point, so that’s got to be it. I don’t really want to play the included DLC campaign, but it looks like I’ll have to if I want to wrangle up the easy platinum trophy. Then I can finally move on to the next C-tier game from that bundle at some point. Probably Destroy All Humans! 2.

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