Arx Fatalis is a game thats targetted at an area of Xbox gaming that is a bit short on titles, and that is the world of RPGs'. With the lack of quality titles in this genre for the Xbox, it should be easy for a game to stand out. Unfortunately Arx Fatalis doesn't.
OK so this review has started out a touch negative, i accept that, but Arx Fatalis is a game that is big on dissapointment.
Arx Fatalis casts you as the hero who has forgotten his name and his past (a bit too much of a cliche for my liking), in the land of Arx. Man has long since left the surface of the planet and lives in caves and dungeons underground along with other races such as goblins, ratmen the undead, etc. You are trying to remember your past but in the process you get embroiled in a plot of demon worshipping intrigue and YAWN. Yes, thats right YAWN. The plot is thinner than Jordans underwear. you don't get a choice in real plot decisions at all and you seem to agree to help everyone who you meet. There is no real character development (from a story point of view).
The box for the game boasts a unique magic system, a range of weapons and enemies, but most importantly of all it gives the impression that the game is an open ended non linear game, like games such as Morrowind or Deus Ex. Well that is simply not true. The game is remarkably linear. Early on the game hints at something quite grand. One of the first characters you meet hints that you might be from the travellers guild, moving from city to city under the harshest conditions. Also a troll asks for pictures of the outside world, indicating that you might get out there at some point. Well, that ain't the case, you only get to spend time in the city of Arx and the surrounding chambers. The game is remarkably small, i would say the game covers only 0.1% of the area that Morrowind covers. The game stretches this out by constantly having you walk from one side of the map to the other, and quite simple tasks take a lot longer than they should. Also quests can be quite vague. Most quests can be done in one of two ways, solving clues and finding hidden objects or killing everything in your sight. Either way you must complete a quest to move to the next area. This quickly becomes boring. In short having a liner open ended game is on par with using a chocolate fire-guard, glass hammer or lead parachute. With regards to the unique magic system, its unique for a reason, no-one in their right mind would incorporate this into a game. Basically you must go into casting mode then push a number of directions that correspond to the runes that make up the games various spells. You then can either cast the spell or precast it. You can precast up to five spells, which means when you go into combat you can use those five spells then you have to cast any further spells manually. This is a system that does not work. It takes 5-25 seconds to cast a spell. which is long enough to be slaughtered by many of the games opponents. Another problem is the durability of your weapons. Over time your weapons become weaker and eventually break. When this happens you must select a new weapon from your inventory. This is difficult. When you enter your inventory screen the game doesn't pause so you'll get slaughtered. If you use your inventory ring, which is supposed to give quick access to your items, again you'll die, because it takes an age to scroll through your items. Combat itself differs little to games like morrowind. You have a weapon and you swing it. No combo's, no special moves nothing.
As with most RPGs' your character gains levels and becomes more powerful. With each level gained you may increase one of your key attributes and raise a number of skills. This will affect your chances of sucess in different activities such as casting spells dosging physical attacks or detecting enemies. This does seem like a pointless task
Graphically the game isn't too bad. Nice textures, fairly smooth animation, though as the game is limited to very few locations, everything looks the same.
On a plus point the sound is excellent, it is very atmospheric and has obviously received a lot of attention. In places the game has some of the best sound use i have heard on an X-Box game.
I find it very difficult to reccomend this game. Some gamers may enjoy it, though it is more of a PC game than a console game. Some hardcore players may enjoy parts of it. I did enjoy some of the puzzles though these were few and far between. There are also parts of the game that make you feel that things are going to getbetter, but i found myself sorely dissapointed. If the developer choose to make another RPG then they will have to learn from their mistakes, and as they have made some criticla errors with the execution of this title they have a lot to learn.
Being released over 12 months after the far superior Morrowind makes this title look remarkably poor. And with Morrowind Game of the Year Edition very near on the horizon Arx Fatalis looks like a title guaranteed to fail.