First look at ArcaniA: A Gothic Tale

The fourth entry in the RPG series expands to a new audience

So far, so RPG. Unbelievers won’t care, and Gothic aficionados will be wary of the new developer, and particularly the “new audience” they speak of. A sizeable bulk of those newcomers will be enjoying the game for the first time on an Xbox 360 or PS3, but we’re assured that the game will remain loyal to its PC roots. We are shown both PC and console versions, with a key difference coming in the combat. Whereas console owners will be able to lock onto enemies, the mouse and keyboard brigade will be offered a more skill-based affair requiring precise timing.

Spellbound make a comparison with Modern Warfare 2, whereby the console controls in that game snap to the target and those of the PC require manual aiming. That’s probably the only time MW2 will be compared to ArcaniA, which looks to be, like its ancestors, a defiantly niche experience, albeit not overwhelmingly so. Despite the simultaneous 360 and PS3 releases, Spellbound are quick to dismiss any notions of their game being designed to appease a console audience.

“If you want it to be a challenge it definitely is a challenge,” says Beccu. “It’s got a completely PC only interface. If you want to be as ‘Gothic’ as possible, you simply disable all the help, choose the highest difficulty and it will be really hard. The difference with the previous titles is that it will still be pretty fair so it doesn’t expect you to know things from the first or second playthrough. You can beat it on the first one without dying 50 times in a row, but it will be extremely hard nonetheless.”

In Germany, Gothic is almost a byword for hardcore and Spellbound concede that the core values that make the series popular in its homeland are precisely those that make it unpopular elsewhere else. Nevertheless they’re remaining true to those values, and, in a nod to hardcore fans, will be including help-free quests where you’ll simply have to wander around aimlessly, talk to everyone you can, and presumably remember what they said. Furthermore, there will be some well-hidden items that you can only gain access to by solving puzzles, finding levers to open secret rooms, and generally being busy.

Even during our extensive first look at ArcaniA, we would appear to have only scratched the surface. The game’s true depth will be revealed later this year, but the franchise would appear to be in safe hands, mainly belonging to a bunch of blokes sat in windowless rooms punching ones and zeroes into a bank of computers. Hopefully they won’t make too many mistakes and turn it into a bug-riddled mess, something we jovially mentioned as an icebreaker. The deadpan Germanic response: “That is not something we are trying to emulate.”

Apr 20, 2010

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