Arcania Bugs. Elemental Expansion.


Ground textures, I think your grid seams are showing.


Oh, I see it’s a feature then huh?

I recently picked up two different PC games, and there were some pretty big news stories about both of them. One of them gives me hope for the buggy game I own, while the other just kind of depresses me.

The first game I picked up was Arcania: Gothic 4. Anyone who has been following this blog for almost a year knows that I’ve been excited about this game since the demo was first released. You might ask why I hadn’t picked it up till now, and the answer is simple: I’m a poor college student. I can rarely afford ‘new’ games, so I tend to gravitate toward Steam sales. Well, while walking through Target last week I saw a copy of Arcania on sale for $20. Needless to say I scooped it right up, ran home and installed it.

I’ll go into a bigger review once I’ve finished the game, but so far it’s a little lackluster. The graphics are alright, though nothing to write home about. The voice acting is terrible, though a step up from Gothic 3 and a major step down from Risen. What really made me happy is the combat. The combat is Gothic 3 was TERRIBLE with nothing redeeming about it. The combat in Risen was extremely hard and, while fun at times, more annoying than anything. Arcania really stepped it up here and made the combat something I enjoy doing, so that’s great.

Sadly JoWood decided to carry over a lot of the things that made Gothic 3 nearly unplayable, including terrible optimization and more bugs than a Starship Troopers sequel. Sadly many of these bugs are pretty bad, including the bug that turns most of the games textures black if I leave the textures on high. Instead I have to play with low texture resolution for the entirety of the game if I don’t want to have the landscape a blank black screen.


My landscape and object textures now look far worse than MORROWIND and it runs at a solid 20 FPS. Sweet.

So maybe JoWood will release a patch that will fix it so I can play on high texture detail again? Or maybe optimize it a bit better? Well according to The Escapist and other video game news sources, JoWood has declared bankruptcy. After the failure of Gothic 3 and it’s expansion pack, and finally the poor launch of Arcania I’m not too surprised. Still, this means I have to complete the entire game with it looking worse than Morrowind. Hell I could mod Morrowind and have it look a LOT better than this game, and at least I wouldn’t have to deal with the voice acting.

The second game I picked up on my “buy glitchy, broken games” kick was Elemental: War of Magic. I tried playing through the ‘story mode’, but it was pretty terrible and I ran to the forums to see if there was something I was missing. It turns out the story mode is total broken shit and I SHOULD have been playing in the sandbox mode, where the game is more like Civilization. I haven’t given it a shot in sandbox mode yet, but I AM excited to. I love Civilization and I think I could really enjoy a fantasy themed version.

The big news announced about Elemental is actually a good thing. Stardock announced that it would be releasing an expansion for the game entitled Fallen Enchantress. This in itself is only mildly interesting news, what with me not really playing the game much yet or knowing if I will enjoy it. What made the announcement MUCH more interesting was that the Stardock CEO Brad Wardell predicted that Elemental will end up costing the company money. He said that when the game launched they made the money back they had spent on the development of the game by day one. It has continued to sell, even though it is broken and near unplayable, though it has gotten better in the months since it’s release.

Why is this a good thing? Well, Wardell went on to explain that, while most companies would wipe their hands and be thankful they made us gamers part with our cash, Stardock is going to end up putting ALL of that money AND more back into the game. They don’t expect the game to make them money from this point out but to cost them money. So why do it? Because he feels the Stardock name, and it’s association with quality and support, is more important in the long run than making a quick buck. I can’t think of a single company that has done something like this in a very long time. While Rock Paper Shotgun was less than impressed with Wardell’s honesty, there is nothing that makes me happier than hearing this.

So my faith in Stardock is restored, and my hopes that Arcania will be fixed have been dashed against the rocks. Good thing I’ve got Rift coming up.

Risen Goes Down


So sad, he must have played a Piranha Bytes game.

When I first played Risen it was a demo right after the game launched. I hadn’t played any of the Gothic games at the time, and had just finished my second playthrough of Oblivion. initially I thought it was just far too frustrating, letting a couple lowbie mobs like moths kill me over and over while I tried to complete a simple quest was so angering that I ended up rage quitting the demo and deciding not to buy it.

I decided recently to give the full game a shot, mostly because of Zeitgeist Game Review and his love of the game. One thing you might not know about me is that I LOVE video reviews. I’ve watched video reviews for thousands of games, from dozens of reviewers and I can’t get enough, even of video reviews for games I already own. So after watching  the Zeitgeist guy rave about Risen I figured I might as well give it another go. I’m glad I did.

At first the game felt completely fresh, as I made my way in from the beach where I was shipwrecked and met a woman in need of an escort I had an Age of Conan flashback, but it was still feeling like a new game to me. That feeling didn’t last long. By the time I made it to my first quest hub, a bandit camp in the swamp, I had a funny feeling that things weren’t exactly new. By the time I left the bandit camp I was sure of one thing: Someone, somewhere, actually sat the guys at Piranha Bytes down and forced them to play Gothic 3 themselves. After they stopped vomiting uncontrollably from the horror of that game, this person then told them they couldn’t possibly make Gothic 3 a playable game. Well thankfully they’ve proven that person wrong, as Risen IS Gothic 3 with most of the terrible parts removed.

You might feel that I’m being too hard on them, but let’s take a look at some of the similarities:

The first thing you’ll probably notice is the graphics. Sure you could say that it’s the same company so it’s most likely going to be the same graphic style, but I don’t buy it. Other companies, good companies, can and do change up the graphic style of their games to suit the new project. Now Risen takes place on an island, so if it’s supposed to be in the same world as the Gothic series, then I can accept that the games look a lot alike. I just wish it didn’t look like everything, including the clothing, was made out of really thick stone.

I soon discovered, after arriving at the Don’s camp, that I had to do quests for his henchmen in order to gain the trust of the group so that I would be allowed into the inner sanctum where the Don was. Anyone who’s played Gothic 3 knows what I’m talking about here. In Gothic 3 you had to do this dozens of times. Thankfull in Gothic 3.5 Risen you only have to do this three times.

You also have an indigenous population (the Don’s men/humans) hiding in swamps because 0f the invading, occupying force (the Inquisition/Orcs) who are exploring ancient ruins (both games) to find relics (both games). You start out as a melee/bow fighter, and you raise your wisdom (the thing that lets you learn/cast spells) by reading from stone tablets you find, or books on bookstands (both games). If you decide to become a mage you will learn that the mages revere the Sacred Flame (both games).

It may actually be easier to figure out the ways in which Risen is different from Gothic 3. For starters the overall story in Risen is much better than in Gothic 3. The voice acting is also infinitely better in Risen. In Gothic 3 I wanted to punch myself in the face whenever anyone spoke, mostly due to the game not being English in origin. In Risen you get a nicely accented main character whose voice actor is pretty good, and most of the voice acting in the game is very enjoyable, if sometimes monotone when you consider what’s going on at that moment in the world.

One of the things I hated about Risen was that you don’t get much in the way of armor. You have two armor slots, helmet and armor. You won’t be finding armor on mobs or in chests either, instead you’ll get a new armor once every chapter or so, and there being only 4 chapters in the game it’s lacking on armor types. One of the best parts of playing RPGs for me is usually finding new and unique armor that makes my character look amazing, and in Risen you’ll look like a boat crash survivor for about five hours, then like a pauper for another five. Finally you might get a robe or some leather armor for the third act, and you’ll be shoehorned into the default “end game” armor for the last chapter no matter what kind of character you build.

The next paragraph will contain final boss spoilers, so just FYI. The final boss was an exciting battle for me, but it felt more like a Mario boss battle than anything I had experienced in Risen up to that point. My character was a mage, but the only way to beat the final boss is to wear plate armor and carry a massive mace and shield that are specially made to defeat the final boss. You then fight him, not like you’ve been fighting humanoids this entire time, but by jumping around a platform that pieces keep falling out of, using your shield to reflect the things he shoots at you, which will stun him, then running up and hitting him with the hammer. You’ll do that seven or eight times, and several reloads due to falling deaths, and you’ll have beaten the game. It was a fun and epic boss battle, and I wish they would have included more fights like that in the game. Sadly though it did feel out of place, and took everything I had worked so hard to do for my character and made it useless.

It may sound, from what you’ve read so far, like I don’t like Risen and didn’t have any fun with it. That’s simply not true. After I played Gothic 3 I promised myself that I would never play another Piranha Bytes game again. Thankfully I didn’t know that PB had developed this game because it turned out to be very fun. It was everything Gothic 3 should have been, and felt more like an apology to the fans than a truly original IP.


Final verdict? If you enjoyed Gothic 3 then you will definitely want to play this game. If you thought Gothic 3 had potential but had too many problems, you want to get this game. If you never played the Gothic games, or played Gothic 4 only, then check out the demo because Risen can be brutally hard. If you like open world RPG’s in the style of Oblivion, but with less to do outside of the main story and a smaller world, then give Risen a go. If you can find it for under $10 I would pick it up if you like these kind of games. Any more and I’m not sure I could recommend it unless you liked Gothic 3 a lot.

Risen gave me 30 hours for the first playthrough, as opposed to Gothic 3’s 50 hours, but I enjoyed the hours I put into Risen so much more I would recommend it over Gothic 3 even if Risen was only a five hour game.

ArcaniA: Gothic 4

I recently purchased Gothic 3 and it’s expansion pack and I’m about 24 hours into the main game. While I enjoy many aspects of Gothic 3, and I even like the world they’ve created better than The Elder Scrolls universe, there are some serious problems with the game. Even with all the official patches and the fan made community patches the game is buggy. It also runs poorly on my machine, stuttering often and just providing that sense of “not quite finished” throughout the entirety.

The two worst parts of the game are the animations, which are just terrible. The swing of your sword is a simple back and forth motion that is aweful the first time you see it, and it gets worse as the hours progress. The second and worst offender is the voice acting. While the voice actors themselves aren’t all bad the majority of them are, and the dialog is C-Movie quality. I’m sure this is because the developers are German and it was localized into English.

Arcania Gothic 4 - 2010-04-15 14

What does all of this have to do with ArcaniA? The first thing is that I wish I hadn’t played the demo. An hour later and now I’m not sure I can go back for the 30+ hours of Gothic 3 I have left. ArcaniA gets so many things right that I went from not caring, to possible game of the year (for me).

The action takes place in third person with a wonderfully fluid control. This is the one thing I have always been angry about in regards to the Elder Scrolls. They include a third person view but it’s clunky and a nightmare to try and play the game in. Third person really makes a game more enjoyable for me. At least in RPGs.

I can’t speak for the quest flow of the game as I’ve only played the tightly controlled demo area, which was really enjoyable but perhaps not a good example of the actual game. I enjoyed the fact that it’s a new unnamed hero and not a continuation of the Gothic 1-3 characters, especially since the dialog in Gothic 3 made me dislike each and every one of them.

The level up system is much more intelligent and easy to manage this time around. You don’t have to find trainers to upgrade the odd abilities like “hunting” anymore. You get a skill panel where you can update your abilities each time you level up, moving the game more in line with contemporary RPGs. The combat, even the ranged combat, is much more entertaining that Gothic 3 or even Oblivions combat. You must actively block, dodge, and parry. They even included an idea from The Witcher and at the end of your swing your weapon will glow a faint yellow. If you click attack again while it is glowing you will do a flurry of attacks.

The game is still buggy, but it’s simply a demo. A demo that came out before the release of the game and it may not represent the final quality. If it does I might wait for a patch or two as the textures of clothes, even in close up conversation, often defaulted to a VERY low res texture that looked hideous. Add to that the “seams” of the terrain would show and the dialog isn’t much better than in Gothic 3.

Even with these faults I can’t wait for ArcaniA. There is just one thing I think they REALLY screwed up on. Calling it ArcaniA. I know the final capital A is for effect and that is fine, but when you are referencing your world and IN PARAGRAPH you say something like “explore the vast lanscape of ArcaniA and find adventure and excitement. Really? Ugh.