Arcania: Gothic 4 - Demo Impressions
Gothic 4 (Arcania now, I guess) has a lot to live up to. The Gothic series has been, to date, the best open world action RPG series that I've ever played. And yes, I've played them all. Gothic 1 and 2 set the bar very high for free form exploration, hard as hell combat, and "play it your way" mechanics. When you can attack anyone in the game, even allies, just because you want their 30 gold, you know you are playing a true "sandbox" game.
So when the demo for Arcania popped up on Steam the other day, I was (very) cautiously optimistic. After the unpolished mess that was Gothic 3 (unpolished as it was, it was still better than Oblivion), Piranha Bytes was left without a publisher and without the Gothic IP. PB went on to develop Risen, a game on my top 10 list, and Spellbound was assigned to handle the next Gothic game. Did this developer "get" what Gothic is all about?
The first two and a half minutes seemed so promising!
Obviously, a demo can't give you the full picture but as of right now, I'm significantly less excited to play this game than I was before. It has only the barest, superficial trappings of what made Gothic great, and lacks all of the soul. The demo was entirely on rails, leading you by the hand from one objective to the next (even going so far as to incorporate a minimap and waypoints...sigh, they really just don't get it). Gothic was never one to offer expanded dialogue choices and massive choice options, but there were always some choices involved. I made not one choice in the entire demo. It was an interactive movie, ala Mafia 2. That is major strike number 1.
Major strike number 2 comes in the form of the world itself. The Gothic series, whatever it's shortcomings, has always had the best "living world" in gaming. You walk into someone's house, they are shocked/angry/suspicious, as anyone in real life would be in that circumstance. In Arcania, no one bats an eyelash when you invade every house in the village. Moreover, I was able to swipe every item in every house, something that would have gotten me beaten down and run out of town on a rail in previous entries. There is no longer any "life" in the Gothic world.
Ok, they've got Diego sounding like he did in Gothic 1. Credit where credit is due.
The combat is fine, I suppose. It's nothing amazing but it gets the job done. I can't imagine how it's going to get much more complex as the game goes on (as previous Gothics did), but I won't pass final judgement on that yet.
At this point, I can only hope that the demo was only the "intro" where they establish the story, and that once that prologue is over, you are unleashed on a truly living, unforgiving world. But if the demo is representative of the whole game (as a good demo should be), I'll be extremely disappointed. Now where is my Risen disc?
Well at least they kept roasting meat by a fire in the ga...oh you have got to be kidding me! Roasting meat is now relegated to some crappy, bland crafting menu? For shame!