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.

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.