Arkane
Dreamcatcher
Action RPG
1
12.23.03

Arx Fatalis


The sun died out, and now humans, goblins, and trolls live in this underground world. The outside world is a frozen tundra. I never thought an underground environment could be so unique, and have such a great story to it. You don't really know your name, or how you got to this place. Some guy pretty much just gives you a name, Am Shegar. Dreamcatcher presents, Arx Fatalis, an action RPG that is nothing like I have ever played before.

For the casual gamer, this game will be complicated during the initial start of the game. As for the RPG fans, you will be enjoying it right from the beginning. Since I am not the avid RPG gamer, there is a slight learning curve, but the game was appealing enough to keep me interested. The fact that this game is a real-time action RPG is the main reason that it had kept my interest. After playing the game for hours, the opening movie sequence began to make sense.

Gameplay

Arx Fatalis is all about collecting items, roaming the underground world, meeting people, casting spells, and of course fighting off the enemy. Once I figured out the concept of the game, I really started to like it. I was surprised how good this game starts to get after playing for the first hour or so. There is a large grid that displays all the items you collected, and you can only carry so much. Some items take up more space than others, and you will have to drop items that you no longer need. Being that this is an RPG, you also have the ability to build up your character. You do this buy obtaining experience points by killing enemies and completing quests. The points can be used for either strength, mental, dexterity, or constitution. Those are the main ones, but there are about nine other things you can improve on, such as defense, close combat, stealth, etc. I thought it was somewhat innovative that you can repair your weapons (if you can find an anvil). You can also mine for gold, but you have to find the right tools to do it. This game had me stumped quite a few times, because I just had no idea how to find my way.

As I said before, you will meet with trolls and goblins, and if you're welcomed in their area at the time, they will let you through. They will still be hostile towards you, since they hate humans, but you can still explore their grounds. You usually need to get a signed note from someone in order to pass through. For the most part, if you have the correct "pass" you will not be attacked by any Trolls or Goblins allowing you to get deeper into the game. If you're feeling tough, you can attack anyone you want to at any time. The goblin lords will probably kill you with one or two blows, and the human guards will also come after you.

There is a stealth meter. It basically measures how loud you are when sneaking around the nasty enemies. The fighting system is a little rickety, but you'll get the hang of it. You can equip anything you find such as swords, clubs, bones, etc. You can also equip armor for your protection. The longer you hold down the attack button, the stronger the hit will be. If you need food, there's plenty of it scattered throughout the game, but you can also kill an animal if your desperate. Or if your feeling generous, you can feed a cute little puppy, and he'll follow you for more. If you can't stand the cute little pup, you can even kill it. The killing of an innocent animal doesn't feel too rewarding though.

Need to light up a dark area? Cast a spell with magic. Spells are easy to cast once you get the mechanics down. Once a spell is in memory, you can cast it anytime by pressing Y, the precast button. While walking around, you'll encounter quite a few merchants. Here, you can buy weapons, armor, food, etc. There is a map to help guide you through the game, and the unexplored areas will be shaded darker compared to the areas already covered. I found myself using this feature quite often, thus using the map is a must in Arx Fatalis. Some of the best games allow you to save anywhere at anytime, and Arx Fatalis is one of those games. No checkpoints or anything needed.

Graphics

The graphics are nice, but the frame rate is questionable at times. In this underground world, you encounter other human armies and many animals are walking around. The dogs, chickens, and pigs all look generally good. Rats and mice are constantly walking on your path. The Goblins and other beast-like creatures come across decent (definitely ugly though), as that's who you are usually fighting. The giant spiders are modeled well, but could have been improved on. The designers of this game really did a great job in making me feel like I am in an underground cave, and the environment is creepy. The lighting from the torches is portrayed nicely and natural. As I stated before, the frame rate, at times, can get very choppy and you may experience some minor slowdown. Level design is great because there are mini towns, and the human guards give you this feeling of an orderly little society. Little things that I would criticize would be the water effects because there really aren't any reflections coming from the water.

Sound

Arx Fatalis takes you through dark, underground corridors with hardly any music playing, and the only sounds you hear are your footsteps, and the occasional moan or grown of an enemy or someone yelling for help. You'll also meet other humans as you advance in your quest, and they each have their own unique voice. This game is quite creepy to play late at night. You'll be walking by yourself, and since the sound is great, you'll hear doors opening and other noise from a distance. You'll also hear the occasional sound of wind. There is usually music when you enter a new area. Primarily, the music consists of long drawn out creepy notes. All in all, there isn't much music to the game, but it sure does kick in at the right time.

Replay Value

The game is pretty straight forward, but by playing this game over you'll be able to figure out everything a little easier. You can interact with just about everything, and you can even cook. Arx Fatalis is a very deep RPG, and the playing time should last quite some time. Leveling up your character is another thing that brings up the replay value.

Bottom Line:

Just picture and underground world. There are bars to walk into and get a drink, and you can talk to anyone in there to find out new information. There's a lot to explore in this underground land, and you can easily get lost if you're not sure where to go. Since you're not the only one down there, meeting people just made me want to play this game to the end. Each time I played this game, I got the feeling of "large levels to explore," and I was very overwhelmed. Arx Fatalis has a really good story line too. Dreamcatcher did a nice job of bringing Xbox gamers such a unique game. An RPG that I actually enjoy is a lot to say coming from me. I'm glad that this game was released for Xbox, because if it wasn't then I would have never got a chance to play this remarkable RPG.

Related Links:

Official Arx Fatalis Website

-Steve Melanson




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