Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 12/23/03 | Genre: RPG
Arx Fatalis puts a different spin on the two very popular genres, Role Playing and First Person Games. I think pictures will say it best, the game takes you through a Dungeon and Dragon type world through the eyes of the adventurer. You wake up with no sense of who you are and are propelled into events that take you against the Cult of Akbaa. You must prevent Akbaa's return to the physical world. You will quickly find there is much more to the story than that though.
The first and only major drawback to the game is the bugs. The game was crashing ridiculously too often without the first patch. Although I like to think that everyone out there automatically downloads the patch right away, I know many that never think to do so. For them, Arx Fatalis will be a frustrating experience. It seems to me that the game was launched too early, and thus missed several stages of the playtest stage. I tend to look at patches as apologies, and not expected stages of game development. Games should ship generally bug free, but this is certainly not a problem linked to any one company.
With that being said, Arx Fatalis is extremely environment driven and tips its hat to such great games as Ultima Underworld. This is a good RPG that abandons the typical RPG 2d overhead controls. The sounds of the game are very consuming. You will start to feel the depression that seems to loom over the character just from the audio effects. It was well done enough that you can hear your enemies chattering or moving up the hallway from your position. The graphics are very crisp and well defined. There is nothing quite like dueling a huge troll deep within the earth from a first person perspective. It creates a great atmosphere for the player.
There seems to be less options for character interaction that most modern RPGs. After accepting the quest, the character seems to be pulled along in the story, which is more reminiscent of a FPS like Quake, then an RPG like Baldur's Gate. In an RPG, it is nice to have the illusion of choices before you. The plot is well scripted though, and the story is very engrossing. The theme is definitely more mature. I hesitate to let a younger person play as the story can get very dark. This is clearer once you start to get into the story and learn the more sinister nature of your foe.
The game play is very unique and does take some getting used to. It is definitely easier to start as a warrior or similar "hack-in-slash" character because critical parts like combat will be easier for a new player. Magic can be very effective but magical execution can be difficult at times. For example, if a player wants to caste a rune spell. You must have it memorized, and be ready to draw the rune before you on the screen when you want to let the fireball fly. It does tremendous damage, but takes some practice to be useful. Sword play is fun. You can wield the weapon before you, while controlling the movement of your character. This allows for smart fighting such as hit and run tactics.
While there is room for improvement, Arkane Studios delivers a very entertaining game. It took more time than usual to get used to the player interface. All of the elements of a good RPG are there. You have a driving plot, variety of characters, interesting puzzles and a unique environment all in a nice first person package. This would have been a cool game to release cooperative game play with. I do feel bad for players who do not know of the patch and are stuck with a buggy program (go straight for patch v1.14 patch).