Arkane’s 2002 dungeonering game Arx Fatalis passed me by at the time – arriving, perhaps, in an age where I felt positively spoilt for choice in terms of RPGs. In this new age of endless manshoots and a contemporary legion of platformers, I have no such surfeit. The time is right, then, to look backwards.
This is an occasional diary series, to be updated as and when I dip in and out of the game. I should warn you now that it’s more than possible this won’t run until the game finishes. Consider it selected extracts rather than the full, unabridged story.
I awake, as I have so often awoken, in a jail cell. For a change, though, I’m naked. Well, I’m wearing a belt over my nipples and some furry pants, but I’d get at least as many funny looks as I would if I were naked.
It is clear, as it is always clear, that I have somehow been wronged. Well, obviously. Otherwise I’d probably spend the rest of the game sat here ruminating upon the crime I’d committed, which wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun. Some indie developer will make a prisoner simulator sooner or later though, you mark my words. We’ve had Dinner Date and Desert Bus, so why not Life Sentence?
I look sort of like George Clooney, if George Clooney had subsisted on a sole diet of crystal meth for every year of his life and now worked in a bondage parlour. Frankly, I’d lock me up too. Still, something about not looking like a textbook hero makes me a little more fond of this role I’m playing.
I suppose I’d better break out of this jail, then. Fortunately there’s a wobbly bar, which is the sort of thing you’d have thought jailers would check for regularly. Then again, the jailers are goblins, and everyone knows goblins are stupid. Racial stereotyping’s fine when the race is fabricated, huh?
Egged on by a frail-looking friendly stranger in the adjacent cell, I use a curious system of pulling and wobbling to manually remove the bar, then sneak outside and clobber the guarding gobbo around the back of the head. Or at least that’s the plan. In fact, I’ve specced my character as a magic specialist, leaving him as psyhsically weak as an asthmatic kitten. A spell right now would be great. But no.
Instead, I end up in a desperate dance, slapping away at the furious gobbo with a bit of thigh bone I found at the floor. He has a club, and muscles. This isn’t going well. Somehow, I survive, purely by dint of repeatedly running away. The combat is a curious stop-start affair, stilted as if it’s turn-based but allowing me the chance to dive out the way of the gobbo’s ripostes in between every frenzied lunge I make myself.
Right, looting time. Raw fish (inedible, apparently), some potions, the gobbo’s club. This is more like it! I’m still dressed like emaciated S&M He-Man, unfortunately, but no-one else seems bothered. My hobbling chum from the next cell over mutters some sort of exposition and maybe something about a prophecy, which I ignore. Actually, that’s a lie. In curiosity, I thump him with my new club. He dies instantly. I stare at his crumpled corpse. I feel terrible. Then I try to loot his body.
Wait, no, that wasn’t what happened. I just remembered it wrong. Look, the image above proves that I definitely did not kill him. And I definitely didn’t reload a savegame to pretend that I hadn’t killed him. So chummo’s completely fine, and I need to head down, deeper and down. I don’t get the sense I’m likely to see daylight anytime soon.
More dungeons, more goblins. The fights don’t get any easier, but at least I didn’t die. I definitely did not repeatedly die and reload the game, no sir.
A few corridors later, I’ve even worked out how to pick things up rather than immediately consume or lob them. Not the most intuitive interface, this. Wait, what’s an interface? Sorry, all that time in prison for whatever that crime I didn’t commit was must have sent me a bit loopy.
Next: spiders! Spells! String!