Impressions- ArcaniA: Gothic 4

By Alec Meer on October 18th, 2010 at 10:34 pm.

Yeah.

Fantasy RPG Gothic 4 is out! I played it a bunch, hoping it would be another Risen. Is it? Well…

It says ‘Impressions’ at the top instead of ‘Wot I Think’ because I’m either a coward or a man of honour, depending on your particular take on the old time-to-valid-opinion formula. Of course, I do have superhuman critical prescience. Show me 10 minutes of your game, a screenshot, the box art – hell, even just the first letter of its title, and I’ll be able to instantly recount its probable Metacritic rating within 2 per cent.* I already know what I would score World of Warcraft 2, Half-Life 3 and Respawn Studios’ unannounced first project.** I’m just that damned good.***

But you lot don’t trust me, do you?
You think I have to play the entirety of any given game before I’m entitled to so much as start a sentence with ‘The thing is…’ Oh, after all we’ve been through! If I dare put ‘Wot I Think’ in the title of a post about an RPG I’ve played for a ‘mere’ 7.5 hours, you’d look at me with your lips pursed, your hands on your hip and your fingers somewhere around the F and U buttons of your keyboard. Okay, you’re quite right: some games, and especially some RPGs, do indeed improve exponentially after a few dreary opening hours. So, fine. I shall not be irresponsible, and will decline presenting a Full Judgement. ‘Impressions’ it is. But I’m damn well going to have some opinions anyway. You just try and stop me.

The thing is (aha! See?) there’s a reason I’ve only played 7.5 hours of Gothic 4, a low-ish fantasy RPG sequel to a series that was well-received by players and much-ignored by critics. In reality, it’s Gothic 5, or perhaps 3.5 – last year’s 50% fantastic, 50% tiresome Risen having been the ‘true’ follow-up from original devs Piranha Bytes, as publisher JoWood ran off with the name ‘Gothic’ in the two companies’ messy divorce. This has a different studio behind it (Spellbound, perhaps best known for the Desperados series), and it’s a very different breed of roleplayer to boot.

7.5 hours: halfway through the 15-hour campaign. I stopped there not because I’m lazy, not because I’m mendacious, not because I felt I’d seen it all – but because I couldn’t stand any more. I thought about playing for the same amount again, and I felt incredibly tired. I thought of all the other things I could do instead (most of which, admittedly, involve staring at the internet), and I felt deeply sad. Games shouldn’t do that.

That didn’t happen because the game is awful (it’s not; if you want so absolute a qualifier, tell me a suitable term that lies perfectly between ‘awful’ and ‘ tolerable,’ and that’ll do the trick nicely), but because I felt like I was wasting my time. To be mediocre, to inspire no emotion – that’s the worst crime of all, most especially for a roleplaying game, something that’s supposed to inspire a feeling of adventure in an unknown land, a sense of otherness, place and purpose. I felt nothing. No care for anyone or anything – even the salt-tingle compulsion of levelling up and looting barely activated the hungry lizard-portion of my brain. I didn’t feel hate, anger or even contempt. I felt nothing.

Here’s what Gothic 4 is: it’s an MMORPG without the MMO. It’s mindless, time-consuming fetch quests, running along roads and skipping past characterless dialogue from characterless characters until they give you your next, fetch-based objective. Without a sense of being in a living world, the emptiness of such pursuits is inescapable.

The zone design allows a small degree of openness and exploration, as long as you don’t mind instantly dying when you fall into water or encountering invisible walls on top of tiny obstacles you could clearly jump over, but it boils down to linear hack’n’slash. Your choices are confined to the skill tree – whether you specialise in blade, bow or magic, or a more-or-less effective combination of the three. That’s nominally fine, but when coupled with a slew of tiresomely chatty NPCs, which to a one sound like someone cleaning the toilets in Pizza Hut unexpectedly had a fantasy script and a microphone shoved in front of them, the hollowness is accentuated. Trying to force narrative meaningfulness onto you – regardless of how horribly-performed it is – is doomed when your own meaning is confined to running to the next objective marker and pummelling the left mouse button until everything’s dead.

In terms of systems, it’s all present and correct: streamlined and straightforward, devoid of the obliqueness of Risen’s inventory and skill tree. Combat is almost exciting, thanks to responsiveness and ease of controls, while early encounters with larger and new enemies tends to be suitably fearsome and startling – until you encounter one a couple of levels later, and beat it to death before it has time to blink. But mostly it’s a classic grind, about click-click-clearing the path in front of you rather than demanding strategy or inspiring thrill.

There’s nothing wrong with the action, in other words. But nothing being wrong isn’t the same as being right. It’s a brain-off forward surge, with the occasional time-passing wander around the margins of the large and very, very attractive zones. That’s fine, but without the cheer of, say, Torchlight, it rapidly feels empty. You’re there to level up and find new swords and get through to the next zone, but you’re supposed to take it entirely seriously while simultaneously listening to what’s probably the year’s worst game voice-acting. I still can’t work out where the actors are from. It sounds like aliens trying to speak in received pronunciation and occasionally lapsing into Australian by way of Italy.

It does look incredible, though: lush, large lands with minimal loading, only slightly brought down by ugly and repeated character models. When I look back at its screenshots, my brain jolts awake – what is that and how can I play it? Oh, wait, it’s just that grindy thing again.

I’m frustrated by how hard it is state that element x doesn’t work because of x, or feature y is all over the place. Outside of the acting, when broken down to its component parts Gothic 4 is fine – a less characterful but better-looking Fable is probably the easier description. Plenty of people will play it through because of that, and I’m not at all annoyed at them for it. Sometimes, hitting stuff with a sword and collecting experience points is enough in and of itself.

The trouble here, for me, is those parts don’t fit together neatly; it’s like someone’s written a list of what should be in a roleplaying game and they’ve then been methodically coded regardless of whether they’re needed and especially whether they integrate with anything else. For instance, it’s possible to ‘use’ cauldrons and alchemists’ benches, if you turn on the bizarre ‘roleplaying items’ option in the menu – but all you get is a canned, often infinitely-looped animation. If you want to cook or brew potions, hit C, bring up a texty list and click to craft: WoW-style, essentially. Why do these two features – animating crafting and activating crafting – co-exist but not integrate? It’s insane. Even if the devs didn’t want to chain crafting to specific environmental features so that players didn’t get frustrated trying to find the nearest, say, cookpot, couldn’t they at least make it so interacting with those features pops up the craft menu anyway? There are these token efforts at offering roleplaying and world-building on top of the goblin and fly-bashing, but they’re utterly meaningless.

It started well, too: a prologue playing as a mad king, fervently slaying skeletons as cacophonous voices mutter in his mind and the screen fogs with a muted psychedelia that affectingly evokes insanity. Following that, playing as the lead character proper, a whiny, love-lorn shepherd. You start by his flock, and of course the first thing you do is try hitting them. For the next half hour, the (still hideously-voiced) NPCs comment on your being covered with sheep blood and how your tendency towards eweicide is messing up the village economy. That playfulness and awareness fades fast, the rest of the NPCs I encountered speaking only of where you had to go next. A shame. For about an hour, I thought something wonderful awaited me.

Gothic 4 (the first 7.5 hours of it, at least) is numbing: stiff, cold and mechanical, a RPG wish-list of parts missing whatever divine glue would assemble them into something compelling and magical. I’ve only dabbled in the Gothic games, but that this could be even slightly related to Risen, which I played extensively, is a laughable idea. That was, until its third-act decline into straightforwardness, a game of survival and subterfuge. This is a game of endurance: of pressing on through its humdrum mire for as long as the soft hum of looting and levelling compulsion remains. At least, that’s true of its first 7.5 hours. I can’t tell you what I think of the second 7.5 hours, only the impressions I got from what I played before my brain whispered “No more. Please, no more” into my inner ear. Maybe that second half changes and opens up utterly, grants the player purpose and place, and makes the run to the end a mesmerising joy. Boy, will I be embarrassed if it does.

* I couldn’t really.
** 12 Murlocs out of D, 31.2 cakes and Grey out of Brown.
*** I’m really not.

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109 Comments »

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  1. UncleLou says:

    Being huge fan of Gothic 1 +2 (two of the best RPGs ever, imo), and, to a much lesser extent, Risen, I picked this up, more out of morbid curiosity than anything else – and you’re spot on. There’s not much blatantly bad about it, but it lacks any passion or charm. The game feels cynical, an obviously purely commercial product, like it was developed by a machine that has been fed a list of bullet points, sharing only a few cosmetic similarities with its namesakes. Steer clear, is my advice.

    For the record, I’ve played it for maybe 10 hours.

    • Metalfish says:

      For the record, UncleLou has only ever spoken liquid truth on the EG forums, so I trust his agreement utterly. How’s the voice acting in the German version?

    • enVy says:

      I quote myself ;)

      “I play the game with german voices and its horrible, they sound like knuckleheads without any emotions.”

    • BAReFOOt says:

      About the article and about your comment: Now you know, how I feel about every single RPG out there. Maybe it’s that nearly all of them are fantasy – what I personally call “sci-fi” for dumb people, because it relieves the designer from the heavy burden of making sense. Or fantasy disguised as sci-fi (like Dune, the book), which is even worse, as I at least expected something.
      Maybe it’s because I think, RPGs should not feature any kind of ”levelling” – as in: go there, grab that, kill 10 rats, kill 20 bats, yawn 30 deaths – at all. It should just be adventure. With every quest being an awesome little story of great beauty, and the large story giving you a really cool revelation now and then and a great purpose that you can relate to.

      I just… well this little sentence describes it best: RPGs don’t resonate with me at all.
      And there’s no lack of me trying to give them another chance. …at least every time I feel it may make some sense… in a non-fantasy way that still is not placed somewhere between 10 years from now and 100 years ago in this world.

      But the important thing is, that that’s my inner model… my personality… that it does not resonate it. And I am really not your average guy. So the question is always: Does the game resonate with anyone at all? Because if it does, it is still an awesome game for those people. And my p.o.v. could not mean less.
      I think of all people in the world, it must at least absolutely resonate with the people that created the game. Maybe they too were of a very different breed than all of us. And this game maybe was something very special to them.

      But the ultimate question is: Was it?
      Because that question really scientifically means the difference between it being a work of art, made with love. No matter if we find it mind-boggingly dull.
      Or was it something just made for the money. As a job. As a product.

      I think that’s the ultimate question that I want a game test to answer.
      Because knowing if it resonates with the tester, is a nice addition… but only if my personality also resonates with the tester’s one. And as I’m still working on that whole trust network think that could answer that for us, the question if it is… let’s call it “done with love” because that sounds so beautiful… is the only stable point that’s useful as an orientation.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      ~ $ cat errara.sed # Sorry, I’m not yet fully awake. Gotta start working now.
      s/that it does not resonate it./that it does not resonate wit./
      s/Or was it something/Or it being something/
      s/that whole trust network think/that whole trust network thing/
      s/done with love/made with love/

    • BAReFOOt says:

      Allrigh, allright, I’ll write a preview function in Greasemonkey for this site as soon as I have the time.
      Of course I meant “with”, not “wit”.
      Now if this comes out wrong too, I officially stopped caring. ;)

    • MadeOfWaaagggghhh says:

      @Barefoot

      Play Planescape?

    • Senethro says:

      Should get this dude to have a conversation with wulf

    • DAdvocate says:

      @Barefoot I believe what you are describing is more aptly described as an inability to empathise with others, aka a narcissist. This isn’t meant as an insult, it is a fairly common trait which is actively promoted in the financial district.

      As for the motivation in producing this game, it was exclusively financial. The publishers gave the game to a mediocre studio who had no experience (read interest) in the genre.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Senethro: awesome.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      @BAReFOOt: Sorry, you said “fantasy is sci–fi for dumb people” and I stopped listening to you forever.

    • Ozzie says:

      Yeah, like sci-fi makes always sense! And like fantasy is supposed, too…

    • Ozzie says:

      “supposed to” I meant, of course!

  2. Joe Maley says:

    You forgot to mention that it the game gives a headache due to the screen tearing, stuttering shadows, and lack of anti-aliasing.

    • sassy says:

      That’s not even the games biggest crime. THEY REMOVED STEALING!!! I loved being a thief in earlier gothics, especially gothic 3 where if you stole too much in one town then they would start to blame it on you, eventually leading to many characters coming up and randomly attacking you. In this new Gothic, npc’s will happily watch you take everything they own and then happily talk to you.

    • CreepingDeath says:

      Oh god yea! The headaches this game has caused me have been horrible. I can honestly say I’ve never had this problem before (Even after 12 hour lan sessions).

      Which is a shame, because I actually enjoy the game. It’s not the best RPG I’ve ever played, but I’m having fun with it.

  3. Matt says:

    Sadness.

    Not unexpected sadness, but disappointment all the same. Gothic 1 and 2 still make my heart sing.

  4. Javier-de-Ass says:

    the game is pretty awful.

    I love all gothic games, most of all gothic3 (seriously), risen. I love the desperados games, even helldorado. robin hood legend of sherwood.

    but this game is terrible. it reeks of the jowood that released gothic 3 forsaken gods, painkiller resurrection, guild 2 venice, guild 2 renaissance and no doubt spellforce 2 faith in destiny. in other words, they’re just cashing in on the franchises.

    I can forgive spellbound for just doing their job this time, but they better deliver again with their next game.

  5. Brer says:

    It doesn’t get better. In fact, it gets worse. To compound the sins of linear, gated “arenas” that funnel you along with no chance for exploration…there are actually multiple “point of no return” gates that close behind you. You know, just to screw you in case you missed one of those 100 or so statuettes, relics, rune shards, or graves scattered around the world, or decided to leave a side-quest until later.

    I wanted to like Arcania. The visual fidelity and lack of Pirahna Bytes’ endemic buggy, glitchy coding gave me some grounds for optimism when I played the demo, and I told myself that the tutorial area was sure to be more linear than the game proper, and that it would open up and become the sprawling non-linear faction-driven RPG experience that made the Gothic games cult hits over here.

    But no, it’s every bit the bland, flavorless, linear slog you described from beginning to end. Easily my most disappointing retail purchase in five years.

  6. Shadram says:

    Ah well, never mind. Still, at least there’s Fallout: New Vegas to look forward to this week for open-world RPG fun. Any early word on how good that’s looking? I take it there’s an embargo on reviews?

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      What I heard is that it is Fallout 3.5, but the time not spent creating new systems was spent filling the world with LOADS of stuff. Also that the embargo lifts tomorrow.

    • Matt says:

      I pre-ordered FO3:NV and now am feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse. By the end of FO3 the combat and leveling system had worn out their welcome. They weren’t terrible, but Bethesda is so scared of making any part of the game unwelcoming to low level characters that they got rid of all sense of character advancement. After the first few levels, it seemed like my character plateaued out and combat became very repetitive and unchallenging. Leveling up was unexciting since it brought nothing new to the game. I loved the setting and the quests, but they should either drop the RPG leveling system and make a straight action game in an open world or commit to making your level and character build matter, even if that means that some areas/quests are too hard until you build up your characters skills and equipment.

      That makes me think of STALKER actually. Although there is no RPG leveling mechanics, you can still build your character by acquiring better guns/armor/equipment. If you decide to to take on the harder missions with crappy equipment, the game will kill you. It makes acquiring new stuff feel better since you know that its going to help keep you alive and allow you to advance.

    • Thants says:

      I actually felt like that about the first 2 Fallout games as well. Yhey could’ve made the levelling system more important. In those game it felt like the equipment you had was much more important than your character skills.

    • Shadram says:

      I’ve always been a bit “meh” about Bethesda’s RPG systems. Oblivion’s was just plain broken, with you either becoming an unstoppable powerhouse if you game the system, or getting one-shot by a bear at level 10 if you just play the game with no knowledge of how you should be levelling. Fallout 3’s system worked better, but was pretty uninspired, as you say. Combat, too, isn’t a strong point of either game. It’s also pretty easy to knock the script, voice work and NPC interaction (especially in Oblivion).

      But somehow… both games enthralled me. I’ve clocked up about 250 hours in Oblivion and over 100 in FO3. I got addicted to the worlds they’d created, soaked up the atmosphere like some kind of atmosphere-soaking sponge. The quests, despite the poor script, were interesting and I always wanted to do more of them. Wandering into random ruins and exploring their depths never got tiresome. So the idea of filling a Fallout 3 style world with countless hours of stuff to do… I’m so there. Strap on Chris Avellone and the rest of the Obsidian team, and it could well be, in my expectantly hopeful opinion, the best game of the year. Although Mass Effect 2 is going to take some beating.

  7. UncleLou says:

    Curses, my first line misses an “a” (huge fan). :)

    Oh, I’ll say one positive thing about it: the lighting can be absolutely incredible sometimes – one time it was raining, with huge black clouds hanging over me, but the sun was setting over the ocean, and was below the clouds, so to speak. The path before me was wet, and glistening in the sun, and that magical light you only get in real life when there’s such an extreme contrast between the dark sky and the sun was captured perfectly. Also, the lighting effect of the spells and some of the monsters are pretty impressive.

    @metalfish: thanks for the kind words! German voice.acting is oscillating between “terrible” and “tolerable, but even some of the better voice actors have problems with the silly dialogues. Gothic 1-3 were pretty good in German – with short dialogues that felt very “real”, and a few excellent voice talents (some of which are in G4 as well, admittedly), but it’s just not nearly as good here.

    • Heynes says:

      Yes, the lighting is probably some of the most beautiful I’ve seen in recent times. As you mentioned, the sunset is absolute gorgeous, and I just love how realistically the rays vignettes through the foliage and leaves. If only the game itself was as expressive…

  8. jsdn says:

    I read this for one minute. I stopped not because I’m lazy, not because I’m mendacious, not because I felt I’d seen it all – but because I couldn’t stand any more. I thought about reading for the same amount again (this being a 2-minute article), and I felt incredibly tired. I thought of all the other things I could do instead (most of which involve starting[sic] at the internet), and I felt deeply sad. Readers shouldn’t do that.

    • ynamite says:

      Full disagreement! This is why I’ve come to love RPS. Great article!

    • Thants says:

      jsdn: I read your comment for ten seconds. I stopped not because I’m lazy, not because I’m mendacious, not because I felt I’d seen it all – but because I couldn’t stand any more…

    • jsdn says:

      @Thants I read your comment for three milliseconds…

      Anyway, I actually read the whole thing. I think Alec did a great job, but my comment was reflecting the fact that about halfway, I got tired. There’s only so many ways you can say ‘mediocre’ before it feels like what you’re reading is a waste of time. So, I suppose, Alec captured the true essence of Gothic 4 in his review/impression/wotithink.

  9. enVy says:

    Sadly, but i have to agree. Its like you said you have the feeling that you waste your time. I play the game with german voices and its horrible, they sound like knuckleheads without any emotions. Every second face looks like the guy next to him. The running animation looks a little bit static and not really realistic, but the evade animations are cool.

    The overall environments are ok and the weather effects are a cool plus. no matter that i think they appear a little bit to often. I didn’t completed it yet but the quests are really often simple “Collect 3 items of this and bring it to me”…

    All in all i have to say. Gothic 4 has its nice parts but its by far miles away from RPGs like Dragon Age, Risen, Witcher or Divinity.

  10. Danarchist says:

    Ya know I have read about 8 reviews on this game today in my webwanderings and the one thing I keep seeing just blows my mind, everyone seems to LOVE Risen. Seriously? I know tastes differ, but I consider myself a RPG aficionado starting all the way back at the gold box D&D games. And Risen was the most boring rpg I have ever played. Out of pure stubborness it is still installed on my gaming rig at home. I read tons of reviews that painted it with a masters brush, but it was easily the most frustrating thing I have ever tried. It boiled down to “Hold right mouse button, back enemy against wall, attack 4 times, repeat”. What am I missing here? I am not one that normally needs hand holding through a game but i found myself having to keep a walk-through open on my laptop just to grit my teeth through each mission.

    Having enjoyed many similar games I wonder what I wasn’t doing right?

    • Jesus says:

      You obviously aren’t a Gothic fan :)

    • ynamite says:

      You too, eh?

      If I had tried any harder to love Risen, I think Pyranha Bytes would have sued me for misusing their product (or something like that … ). I still have it installed on my machine too and it hasn’t been 3 weeks whence I, inspired by a couple of overly positive user reviews startet a new game again, for the fourth time I believe.

      Not three hours later I had enough, again. The story and characters are bland, the fighting is ridiculous (what Danarchist said), the graphics are ugly, the animations utter shit, the RP system very shallow and boring and I simply don’t have a wild boars clue why, for what insane reason, I should carry on playing this game when everything is such a hassle (and I am also pretty used to playing unforgiving games), ugly and simply not motivating. There’s no incentive to do so, at least I can’t see it from where I’m standing.

      So, by the heavens, can anybody explain HOW this thing can be of joy? What is there to look forward to? What/where is this great freedom the player supposedly has? What is there to achieve or do except cooking meat … ?

      I can’t see it.

      PS. I didn’t like Gothic 1 + 2 or Risen for that matter. Maybe I’m just going to have to live with the fact that no matter what I do, I will never like it/them because I’m simply psychologically unable to … But oh how I despise it when I have to miss out on something others enjoy. I’m jealous like that.

    • Tei says:

      Re: Loving Risen

      Risen is a flawed game, but is perfect as a introduction to Gothic. It has harsh combat, exploriation deep and freedom, and other Gothic quircks, like the mentioned stealing a quest reward from the NPC pockets. On top of that, It was linear like hell. But It mostly worked for people that has never enjoyed a Gothic game. After playing Risen, I have moved to Gothic.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Risen wasn’t particularly linear. It has two entirely different first halves depending on which direction you walking in the opening part.

    • Danarchist says:

      “But oh how I despise it when I have to miss out on something others enjoy. I’m jealous like that.”

      That’s my main problem with it too. I have a very few reviewers who’s tastes seem to be close enough to mine that they have led me wrong on very few occasions. And every single one of them loves the game, so after multiple attempts just to stand the damn thing I start to wonder what I am missing. So I reread reviews, I read message boards, I glance over the walkthroughs searching for what the hell it is that people find so enjoyable about it. Seriously, I just cant get how others are not bored to tears within minutes of starting the game like I am, there must be some endorphin mine somewhere in this game I am missing! I look under every leaf and slaughter every fly (seriously, how does a giant fly block a sword?) and still walk away with the same feeling I have after plugging a couple spreadsheets into access.
      It’s the thought that I’m just missing something that gets to me.

  11. bob_d says:

    Honestly, if you can’t get an accurate sense of a game after an hour or two, something is wrong anyways.

    • bob_d says:

      Wrong with the game, that is.

    • DrGonzo says:

      No. I’m about 10-15 hours into Planescape, I still don’t really have a ‘sense’ of what the game is. And I’m loving the game by the way.

  12. Amasius says:

    Sounds like another modern RPG done by people who don’t like RPGs.

  13. DeepSleeper says:

    “your hands on your hip and your fingers somewhere around the F and U buttons of your keyboard.”

    I can’t do that. I just sat here and tried. My fingers don’t reach.

    • LukeE says:

      It’s easier if you’re sitting on your keyboard.

    • Tacroy says:

      I think it’s a roundabout joke implying that we all talk (type) out our asses.

  14. Ed says:

    I wrote this for thirty seconds. I stopped not because I’m lazy, not because I’m mendacious, not because I felt I’d written it all – but because I couldn’t stand any more. I thought about w

  15. Kits says:

    Played through the whole thing, but by about halfway through I was very much just hoping it’d be over already. Such a shame. I loved the Gothic’s so much, but this feels more like a linear hack and slash, most of the time.
    I had to go and reinstall Call of Pripyat afterwards, to get the feeling of open exploration I’d been expecting..

  16. Cvnk says:

    Luckily I was prepared for the disappointment. None of the early videos I saw gave me any hope that this game was going to be a worthy successor to the original Gothics. Luckily we have Risen (and hopefully Risen 2, 3… etc) to carry that mantle.

    I played the demo and was immediately turned off.

  17. Dances to Podcasts says:

    “tell me a suitable term that lies perfectly between ‘awful’ and ‘ tolerable,’”

    Serviceable.

  18. Wipa says:

    DIRTY SECUROM GAME.

  19. Daversan says:

    Alec, you made a wise choice stopping the game when you did. I made the wrong choice and carried on. There was a point in the game where things started to get more interesting, but the ending was bewildering and left me with that “wait…what?” feeling in my skull. I felt punished by JoWood for having completed it.
    I have a headache just thinking about it.

    • Grot Punter says:

      So yeah, did you know who those 3 guys in the ending cinematic were? I don’t ever remember running into them once during the entirety of the game. Stupid game what felt like a tacked on sequel to the franchise.

  20. AtlasAbe says:

    Who cares about this? why isn’t there any new news on the mechwarrior reboot? Otherwise the dream I had about this site becoming Robot Pickaxe Shotgun will never happen :( Go poke the hivemind

  21. Alaric says:

    I played the demo and didn’t even get all the way to the end for all the reasons that you are describing. The game seems to be just not … interesting, although quite beautiful.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    The thing is . . . there’s a reason I’ve only seen the head of Alec Meer, a RPS columnist that was well-received by many players and much-ignored by people who feel games need at least 173% more TITS. In reality, he’s probably got a body as well but from the comedy mustache, cigar and dodgy hat I can’t help but fear that seeing the rest of Alec would just unveil some horrendous chaps or something of that ilk.

    Could be wrong though!

  23. Kevin says:

    Is the voice acting nearly as bad as Brother Jauffre from Oblivon Alec?

    • Premium User Badge

      JB says:

      Install the demo and play until you get to the witch’s quest. You’ll see how awful the voice acting is. *shudder*

    • Schmitzkater says:

      I repeatedly yelled SHUT UP at my monitor, until I remembered to just turn down the volume during my encounter with the witch.

    • Latro says:

      Thats not fair.

      I mean, the voice acting is very bad, but the witch is incredibly atrocius, so it is not representative.

      Its just maybe the worst voice-acting performance in the last decade :-P

  24. Jack says:

    Sounds tolebrawful.

  25. Soobe says:

    I’m also around 7 hours in and by far the biggest problem I have so far is the zones aspect of the game. Why? This is an RPG for christsake….

    Fucking consoles.

    Anyway, yes Risen was better, but at the same time, Gothic 3 was better than Risen. I do not approve of this trend.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      let’s pray together that piranha bytes only used risen1 to get back their footing again, to build up a new tech/codebase again and to fill their coffers. and that they were just biding their time waiting and plotting to unleash a proper sequel to gothic3 in risen2. a vast and incredible rpg world to explore for weeks and weeks

  26. Jakkar says:

    My thanks for the review. It sounds utterly soulless, and you communicated that well, but with an honest effort to be fair and a struggle to find something you could recommend.

    Sometimes, there isn’t.

    Strangely, obviously bad games can sometimes have that ‘soul’ and leave you smiling. I recently discovered ‘Area 51′ from 2005 to fit this mold, a game freely available courtesy of the US Air Force. It feels like Halo ripped off via Half-Life without any real content, but the story is so consistently involved in the heavily scripted gameplay, with excellent voice-acting and a slew of nicely made pictures/videos/textual entries you can unlock by finding secrets in the game, to discover the backstory.

    I recommend a retrospective on this silly little forgotten game, in all its simplicity. It does a number of things very right.

    • 357SIG says:

      I loved Area 51, delightful game. The sequel, Blacksite : Area 51 though an OK shooter didn’t really catch the soul of the first. Maybe it was just David Duchovny that did it for me.

  27. MadTinkerer says:

    You know what this sounds like? It sounds like the developers decided to make an RPG with deliberately run-of-the-mill RPG mechanics not because they wanted to or didn’t want to, but because they had no idea they didn’t necessarily have to do it that way.

    It’s a Fantasy Heartbreaker, but in PC game form instead of pen & paper rpg.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      I just think they were on a tight schedule and leash courtesy of jowood. they did what they could in the time they had

  28. Javier-de-Ass says:

    just check out the expansion to gothic3 if you haven’t. and see, well if you’ve put any time into gothic3, how much piranha bytes did right and did overall despite all that game’s problems. it’s a different dev team on that expansion and you can feel it instantly, they really didn’t ‘get’ what the game was about, it really is incredible what a failure it is

  29. jalf says:

    If you just changed the title, and added some more bloom to the screenshots, I’d think it was about Oblivion.

    • TheTingler says:

      Dude, that is EXACTLY what I was about to say. I was going to quote a few things, but then I kept reading and literally everything Alec said could have had ‘Gothic 4′ replaced with ‘Oblivion’ and I would’ve been nodding in agreement. Apart from the bit about the whiny shepherd.

  30. Urthman says:

    Any of you Gothic fans tried Nehrim? Rossignol never got back to us on that one.

  31. noobnob says:

    You make it sound like people would have more fun playing MMORPGs as single-player games.

  32. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    31.2 cakes, Meer? THIRTY ONE POINT TWO CAKES???

    You’re a joke. It’s at least 31.7.

    FIRE ALEC MEER

  33. OldRat says:

    “tell me a suitable term that lies perfectly between ‘awful’ and ‘ tolerable,’ and that’ll do the trick nicely”

    Would “passable” do here?

  34. Kdansky says:

    I have begun to honestly hate combat in computer RPGs. It distracts from what I care about (story, characters, the world), if is rarely anything but incredibly grindy and in addition, it is immersion-breaking: Why should my character kill seven thousand opponents in a few hours? I rarely want to play a mass-murderer! Can’t we have RPGs that are not exclusively about killing, and that do not have long corridors with a hundred monsters in them between two locations? I can easily go from here to the main station without killing a single person!

    RPGs should be about interactions of characters, and have a bit of killing sprinkled in there for distraction, not the other way around.

    • MD says:

      I agree.

    • Gundrea says:

      I’ve worked on a “realistic” RPG where outside the town you had nothing but forest filled with animals and the very occasional bandit near a camp. It felt empty and boring. Monsters are the default fill for an RPG.

    • Athariel says:

      that’s why Gothic 1 & 2 were great, you could finish most of the game without fighting anyone tbh, avoiding most opponents and using spell scrolls to defeat stronger storyline enemies like dragons. Only time it didn’t worked was the final chapter (G1 & G2) where you have to just kick ass of all the enemies.

      But no, oblivion kids complained about there being too much running and talking and less “pwning rats”

  35. Oozo says:

    So, seems like we have a perfect example of the “games lacking soul”-argument Leigh put up in that piece linked in the Sunday Papers, right?

  36. Danny says:

    I completely agree with these impressions. I reviewed it for a small website and managed to get 15 hours in. It’s incredibly boring and repetative. How it managed to get scores of 75 in some publications I don’t know.

  37. Lazarus says:

    How?
    Two words:

    Bribery.

  38. mpk says:

    That dude looks like Sean Connery in Highlander.

  39. Dhatz says:

    you recognise shit by the smell, it cannot unshit itself inside, so you are basically correct.

  40. Archonsod says:

    I found the rest of the Gothic series bland too so no difference there. What about the bugs though? I often found Gothic II and particularly III was saved Boiling Point style by ludicrously funny events caused by either awry scripts or just plain lack of foresight in the design.

  41. Coolstyle says:

    I’m a german speaking player and i also LOVED Gothic 1+2 (imo one the best RPGs i played so far), Risen was very good aswell, also liked Gothic 3 only didn’t like the simplistic combat system, but liked the enourmous world you could explore. I can understand that Gothic was always for a certain playerbase, feeded a special taste and is probably not very popular or know in other countries out of europe, i know that it’s very popular in Russia, but can’t say if americans know or like this game.

    I also bought Arcania out of curiosity what Jowood will give us with this, officially admitted, casual massmarketgame. Well, this special gothic feeling you know from Gothic 1+2 is almost gone and i fully agree with the reviewer that this game has no soul, no charm, it’s just hack&slay with mmo quests and some features, like the roleplaying elements, the crafting and conversations are very half-hearted. There are also many shortcomings which nag on the true gothic athmosphere, like open world, invisible barriers, lots of obvious characterclones (hello Gromarclones!). Also there are no funny quests, or special events, like a riot or something. It’s bland, it’s lifeless.. it just strings boring quests and fights after another and i must say i also had a motivation low in the middle of the game, because it was just so repetetive and i almost lost interest. Also there is little you can explore in this game, Gothic series always had nice hiding places for treasures, but in Arcania most of the caves you find are relevant for quests and the only thing you can hunt are 90 artifacts which are tied to 3 boring quests, MMO style, “find 30 x” “find 30 y” “find 30 z” how exciting… NOT!

    The only positive thing i can say about this game is, that the world is beautifully designed, with love to detail and the music and sounds are very good aswell, also the combat is quite challenging on “Gothic” difficulty (and if you don’t use the easy mode healthpotions during combat, which are also Gothic untypical btw) but the rest feels like, as you’ve stated spot on, an MMORPG without the multiplayercomponent, the same dull sheme, over and over and over..
    There is no variety in quests, it’s just “collect x” or “kill x” and this really persists until the end and i’m not lying here.

    To remember Jowood officially admitted that this game is not the “classic” Gothic, but a product which caters to the massmarket. Why they did that is quite obvious, to expend the range of people who would possibly buy the game, and not only the hardcore gothic fans. It’s a commercial product, it’s casual, it’s dull, it’s a brain off and go game (if you turn on all the helpfunctions, which are MMO style just like the quests)

    I played with the thought to run through the game once more as mage or pure rangefighter, but to be honest i don’t have the motivation to do this, because i know what kind of emptyness and repetiveness awaits me and with the way the world is designed, there is little i can explore in my second playthrough, because there is almost nothing you can overlook, but these 90 artifacts you can hunt down, if you have too much time to waste.

    I don’t want to discourage you Alec, or anyone who plans to buy Arcania, please play through it until the end and make your own picture. As Gothic fan it was my duty to play through it and see if it can compete with Gothic 1+2, Risen, but it can’t, only on the surface the rest is bland and boring.

    That’s enough, peace out..

    • Latro says:

      Exactly. The Gothic have been always mediocre games in all respect EXCEPT that they had… dont know, an attitude, a way of play, something that was different. You endured the bugs, the unresponsivenes, the cliche and the bad voices cause it was a different game, one where, in the beginning, you were given a big place to explore that felt living, but WITH VERY HIGH RISK. And slowly, and with difficulty and choices, you were, bit by bit, conquering your place in it.

      This Gothic 4 is stripped of all that. It is a bit more polish in places (the controls are responsive, which may be a Gothic first :-P), the same in others (story, cliches, voices, graphics), but it has removed ANY trace of that Gothic flavor for a generic, railroaded experience.

      Which makes the whole exercise futile; without that “survivalist” vibe you get all the sub-par parts of Gothic and then some new ones, and nothing to really make you endure them.

  42. Dhatz says:

    this is the textbook case of game that didn’t take its make-each-part-of-the-game-fun medicine.

  43. Richard Moss says:

    As a standalone game, it was fine-ish (as stated, the voice acting is diabolical). As a successor to the Gothic series it was utterly dreadful. Where is the living world, the huge exploration facilities, the RPG elements… this is just cheap junk.

    I put in 28 hours on this game, enjoyed it for the most part, but I hated it for the first hour until I made the mental shift that “this is not Gothic, they just stole all the character names”. I cheered up when I first saw Xardas’ tower looming but found the latter half of the game and it’s numerous linear dungeons to be tedious. And Xardas’ tower sucked when I finally got to it.

    Incredibly disappointing…

    Now I’m trying to find my original Gothic CD so I can play what it should have been. And cursing Steam who won’t sell Risen in the UK it seems, and I’d never heard of this game before.

  44. Kinsley says:

    “what I personally call “sci-fi” for dumb people, because it relieves the designer from the heavy burden of making sense.”

    Oooh, we’ve got a right one here. I think you could equally argue that science fiction is fantasy for deluded nutters who think it’s all real. For the record, it’s just fiction. In real life:

    * Faster than light travel is not possible.

    * There’s no such thing as an energy shield.

    * People exposed to radiation don’t get awesome super-powers, just cancer.

    * Real, actual advanced technology doesn’t have blue lightning bolts radiating off it.

    * Playing around with people’s genetic code doesn’t instantly morph them into cool half-human half-lizard monsters.

    * Whether or not there is alien life out in space is a moot point, because with the distances involved, we’re never likely to meet any of it.

    * There’s no such thing as a wormhole big enough to drive a spaceship through.

    * Computer networks don’t become self-aware just because they pass a certain threshold of size.

    * The singularity gets called the rapture of the nerds, because its every bit as implausible and ridiculous as religious-nutter brand rapture.

    * You can’t create a viable closed ecosystem on a space ship simply by having a garden deck with a couple of pot plants.

    * Traveling in space is not like sailing on the ocean. Therefore, a real life space fleet would not resemble an early 20th century navy. It would not have space admirals, space battleships, space torpedoes, space life-boats, space scurvy, space pirates, and space land-lubbers.

    * You can’t breathe the air on Mars. And “terraforming stations” that look a bit like mutant oil refineries are not going to change that.

    * The large hadron colider is not going to open up a portal to hell and flood the world with escaped demons.

    * Even if there were aliens that somehow got close enough to invade the earth or a nearby space colony, a lone space marine with a shotgun is not going to single handedly repel the invasion fleet. Not even if it’s a super shotgun.

    * There are no “mysterious energies” unknown to science. If they existed, we would have discovered them long since.

    * Likewise, there are no mysterious elements unknown to science. Any element that exists fits somewhere on the periodic table, therefore it is known, and its properties are predictable.

    * Telepathy and telekenesis are not real.

    * Teleporters are not likely to be a viable technology any time soon, if ever.

    * You do not have a flying car and you never will, because people are bad enough drivers in two dimensions, let alone three.

    * Gravity is closely related to mass. There is no such thing as artificial gravity. So the “artificial gravity generator” on every space ship in ninety percent of all the science fiction films and games ever made are pure fantasy devices.

    * Quite a lot of the “technology” introduced into science fiction would, in real life, be revolutionary (e.g. replicators, transporters, anti-aging drugs, robot servants). A society of the future that contained such things would be radically transformed, completely alien and unrecognizable to us. So the ruling SF paradigm of America’s Army in space is nonsensical.

  45. qqq says:

    Kinsley, I understand what you say, but I think you failed to understand BAReFOOt’s point.

    ‘Hard’ science fiction is almost gone today and what we mostly see these days is a very simple, very close to fantasy type of science fiction. This type of SF is based on a variety of magic-like technologies like the ones that you describe, which serve mostly to make things easier for the author. E.g. he doesn’t have to think how people move from point A to point B if he has teleportation, he doesn’t have to think about a functional space-base shape since it magical gravity is available at request… And so on and so forth.

    I do believe that actual science fiction is significantly harder to do than fantasy or lazy science fiction, which is why there’s so little of it around. I also think that realism is even harder, but that’s a different topic :).

    • Phasma Felis says:

      What? There’s loads of good hard sci-fi being published still. Check your local library. Just thinking of what I’ve read in the past month, Chris Moriarty’s Spin State is a good one.

      Nonetheless, claiming that hard sci-fi is “better” in some way is ridiculous. Good writing is hard to do regardless of whether you’re writing sci-fi, fantasy, or modern drama. Integrating hard science into it is certainly an additional challenge, and I really appreciate an author who can do it well, but it’s worthless without skill at characterization, dialog, plotting, and so forth–and a book that has those will be good regardless of the genre.

      If solidly researched science was as important as you’re implying, I’d ditch fiction entirely and just read science textbooks.

  46. UK_John says:

    I buy every cRPG on PC great or average (there is no bad cRPG as far as I am concerned as we get so few and they are so complicated to make that I forgive any publisher that makes one, so they make more!) I do however put a ‘price’ score against each cRPG. So whereas Two Worlds II has a price score of £30 for me at the moment, the Witcher 2 the same, so a buy on release is likely. The original Two Worlds I price reviewed at £20 and bought it for just under that and had a great time with it. Gothic IV gets a £15 review from me, and I can expect to pay that or less for it before Xmas.

    cRPG’s get treated just like every other genre, when cRPG’s are 1,000 times harder to put together and more expensive too! We should give them a bit of a break or we will see the end of yet one more PC genre, with cRPG’s being of the Jade Empire, Alpha Protocol and Borderlands variety only in the future!

  47. Silv says:

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2010-10-20-arcania-gothic-4-review

    4/10 from eurogamer:P

    Let me get this straight. I’m wearing more metal than a commercial airliner, there’s fire dripping from my fingertips and I’m brandishing a polearm the size of a tree. I’m a walking war-god on a quest to save the world, and you’re asking me to find… your lost hat?

    How about I pull your head off? Then you won’t need your hat.

  48. Sugram says:

    i think i’m close to end, i met XARDAS, i half to say 1 thing gothic 2 & 3 was better, even gothic 1 was better then gothic 4, i like gothic 2 most of the gothic series, gothic creators focused 2mush on graphics & less on game play & this is pig mistake cos game whit high graphics & poor gameplay is not so good but medium graphics & high gameplay game is good, gothic 4 gameplay is the worst of all gothic series, other are good, graphics is not the most important in game, but gameplay is the most important in game !!!!!, i wold like gothic 4 better even if it wold have gothic 1 graphics if it wold have better gameplay like gothic 1-3, but i like gothic 2 & 3 graphics ferry well, so why to bush further? no point of bushing graphics further, but i like gothic 2 graphics more cos gothic 3 graphics was a bit glitch’y, ho have play’d gothic 3 will understand what i mean, why gothic 2 was better u may ask, as example in gothic 2 paladins had rune magic & it was better then in gothic 3, paladins magic was weak VS normal mobs or some did 0 Damage but VS evil mobs their magic was strong & a lot cooler & mages had a lot of cool spells & map was bigger, at least the the free run land part or shod i say wilderness, u know what i mean, also u was able to rest & swim, even risen is better then gothic 4, it is my opinion of the game