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Developer:
Arkane Studios
Publisher: JoWooD Productions
Platform: PC
Release Date: November 2002

by Eric Arevalo




AN HOMAGE TO THE CLASSICS

One who plays in the world of Arx Fatalis will admire how it pays homage to classic RPG's such as Ultima Underworld. Presented in a first-person perspective, Arx Fatalis brings an interesting story, an intense interaction with the game world as well as other engaging features. Recently published by JoWooD Productions and developed by Arkane Studios, Arx Fatalis will please RPG gamers in many ways.


YOUR QUEST

In a quest to find your identity, you are thrust into the underground depths of the world. All the races that once dwelled upon the world have moved underground as the sun has died out which causes a bitter winter to now ravage the surface. You begin the game imprisoned within a jail cell, one you must eventually escape before your adventure begins. As if that were not enough, you must find and destroy Akbaa, lord of destruction, who plots to destroy all life in the underground lairs of the world. In a quest to find your true identity you must eventually become the hero that your world needs in these most perilous of times.


GAMEPLAY

When you first begin Arx Fatalis, you will need to distribute some available points among several skills such as stealth and intuition. You can have the game randomly generate these points or you can manually do it yourself. Using a first-person perspective, you can see all that lies before you and when in combat can see your character's hands attacking with any weapons that you may have equipped or magic that you have unleashed. You will come across many weapons and armor as you traverse the world. Once you begin the quest, you can only use a bone for attacking, the only weapon available at the start, and a grim reminder of those who have died and been sacrificed before you. You will eventually find many more powerful items such as daggers, swords, shields, as well as powerful rings that will aid you in your quest. Your items will eventually break after heavy use in combat unless you have them repaired. You will need to have the right weapon and armor as well as the right skills to go up against the many creatures that you will come across. You will fight and come across many different and diverse creatures such as trolls, rat-men, mummies, to powerful golems, giant worms and eventually even face a dragon.


INTERACTION WITH THE ENVIRONMENT

I must admit to having lots of fun as I escaped the jail cell and the adventure had begun. You can interact with almost any of the items you find in the world. Find some rope and a wooden rod along the way and you can combine these items together and make a fishing pole which you can use to fish in many areas. When you catch these fish, you must build a fire to heat the fish as you can't eat them raw. Other combinations of items will allow you to make potions that will replenish health or magic as well as make other unique items that you must discover for yourself. I find this such an intriguing feature in the game and I wish other games utilized such elements. You literally look at each item you find along the way and try to figure out what you can make with the newly acquired items. You will appreciate how the intense interaction with the environment will help you in finding many things to create or how some creatures can be killed without the use of a weapon but by posioning them instead. The interaction in this world is very intense and an RPG player will enjoy the excitement that it offers.


STORY/PUZZLES/MAGIC SYSTEM

Other features worth mentioning are the mural approach to story telling, the varied puzzles that are seen as well as the type of spell casting system implemented in the game. The first cutscene is memorable and well done as you are told the history of the world of Arx. Slowly, in this cutscene, you move across what seems like an ancient manuscript depicted with various important images of events that have led up to the current crisis. What an interesting way to tell a story and I applaud the designers with its use. You will also need to figure out some interesting puzzles as you progress through the game. Sometimes the answers may not be evident as you attempt to find certain hidden locations, a key to open a particular door or an item needed from a particular area. The player will find a world waiting to be explored to its fullest as you come across these puzzles within the game and attempt to figure them out. Magic is done differently than in other games as well. You will find magical runes along the way, each of which has a symbol upon it. Each spell has specific magical runes attached to them. In order for any spell to be cast, one must draw the correct pattern of magical runes on the screen for the spell to be cast. You will cast many diverse spells from basic ones that create fire and light torches to lightning and incineration spells that can deal heavy damage upon your enemies.


AN RPG WORTH CONSIDERING IF

Arx Fatalis is an RPG worth your time if you can overlook some of the problems. For one, the graphics engine used for the game while being able to display some interesting visuals is very dated when you compare it to recent RPG games. Yet, graphics are not always the most important factor one considers in these games, but certain areas are inexcusable and lack polish such as the quest logs which look horrible, as more care should have been taken to their organization and design. I do not like the spell system as well. I know that they wanted to try and introduce an interesting way to cast spells but it is tiresome to have to repeat specific patterns when it would have been so much easier to just cast a spell by clicking on it. You can often make this easier through memorizing spells in which you perform the desired motions and save them for later use, but continuing to repeat these specific patterns over and over is what I find frustrating and not to my liking at all. The novelty that this type of spell casting brings wears thin after awhile. There is light at the end of the tunnel though. I have to admire the fact that the developers of Arx Fatalis are trying to fix certain bugs and problems with the initial release and implement some additions to the game as requested by fans through patches, the current which is 1.15 and can be downloaded at the official site. If you can overlook these problems, you will find an RPG that while not being at the level and quality of other RPG's released this year will still enchant you. You will discover in Arx Fatalis an RPG that will welcome you with its story, intense interaction with the environment and many intriguing puzzles!



Official Arx Fatalis Website


Final Grade: B+ (85%)
Just RPG Suggested Game


System Requirements:

  • Pentium III Intel 500 MHz
  • Windows 98, Me, 2000, XP
  • 64 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM
  • 16 MB DirectX 8 capable video card
  • 750 MB free hard disk space
  • Keyboard and mouse
  • DirectX 8 compatible sound card
  • DirectX 8



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