I’ve been a fan of the Gothic series since they first appeared on the PC. They were some of the best action RPGs at the time, with really no limits to what you could do. I was really worried when I first heard that the Gothic series was going to make the jump to consoles, because I knew that there would have to be some sacrifices made – but were those sacrifices too much; or will the series stay strong with this entry, as it has in the past?
Story: Much like in prior Gothic games, the player character is an unnamed peasant, who lives in a happy little village with his fiance. Everyone there seems to be just happy with life – until the insane King Rhobar III orders his troops to wipe it out. Seeing everyone he knows wiped completely out, the player seeks out revenge on the crazy monarch.
And so the player sets out on a mildly bland story that has you doing a LOT of “Go retrieve x item for y person” quests. While the story in Gothic 4 isn’t “bad” per se, it’s also nothing truly original, and nothing truly memorable. It’s somewhat a shame, because it feels a step backwards from the previous games in the series.
Gameplay: The gameplay in Gothic 4 is fairly standard fare for hack ‘n slash, third person view games. It’s at it’s best when you’re out exploring the wonderfully detailed wilderness, and it’s at it’s worst when you’re running all over God’s creation trying to fetch something for another needy peasant. Even trudging through the dungeons isn’t all that bad when compared to helping whiny peasants. In previous Gothic games, when someone got on your nerves, you could just kill them; end their story right then and there, and damn did it used to feel good.
For some reason, the powers that be thought it a wise idea to remove that feature from Gothic 4, and for a new player to the series it may not be a big deal; but for someone well weathered it’s quite noticeable. Anyways, there are a few different avenues to master: melee combat, archery, and magic; however it’s really easy to fall into the “Mash X to attack” routine. Unfortunately there’s not enough skills to unlock to make you feel truly vested in your character’s development.
Graphics: The graphics are one of the areas in which Gothic 4 really stands out above the crowd. The environment is beautifully designed and detailed, and the art-style really helps to make you feel the fantasy world. The faces and character models are quite an improvement over not only prior Gothic titles, but also over other RPGs that have come out recently.
The graphics aren’t without their own sets of flaws however: some of the suits of armor seem drab and completely uninteresting. The foliage is way too over used. The trees look absolutely ridiculous with their movements. These problems are there yes, but they don’t detract from the overwhelming beauty of the game – just make you realize that it’s not perfect.
Sound: First and foremost, the voice acting is pretty bad. I had to just put that out there because there’s no hiding it. You WILL get irritated by the peasants. I tried and tried to accept them for who they are, but I really just wanted to stab them. Over and over again. The accents sound strained, and my left ear has begun bleeding just thinking about them.
On the other hand (as seems to be the theme with Gothic 4), the ambient sounds are spot on. The monsters sound unique, and the sounds of combat really sound good. If only a bit more budget were put into the voice actors, the sound could have been as good as the graphics.
Wishes: I wish you could kill peasants when they annoyed the shit out of you, and I really wish some of the “fetch” quests were thought out a bit better. One time about 75% through the game, someone asked me to do a truly banal task (that I can’t even remember now it was so boring). I’m a walking god of death, yet you want me to waste my precious time to go find some random thing for your sorry ass? I mean really?
I wish that a bit more time was taken to give Gothic 4 more polish as well. With another month or two of work, it could have easily been a AAA title that could have competed with all of the other RPGs that have recently been released.
Final Thoughts: Gothic 4 is NOT a bad game, but it’s also not a great game. It’s most certainly not the first three games in the series, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. This new direction could be good for the series, as long as they take some constructive criticism for Gothic 5. Unfortunately it may not have enough to make it stand out from the crowd this holiday season, and that could spell the end of a really good group of games.
Overall, I give Arcania: Gothic IV 3.5 Michelas out of 5.