ArcaniA: Gothic 4
Although the franchise has always been plagued by gruesome bugs and severe control issues, Gothic managed to make a place for itself in the hearts of RPG lovers, thanks to the unique story, a fascinating world and the freedom of choice you had at every step. While the first two entries are considered masterpieces of the genre, the third was a bit more poorly received, due to the fact that it was very badly optimized and it sort of dumbed down many things.
Yet another Gothic tale
ArcaniA: Gothic 4 is the latest installment in the Gothic series, although it is developed by Spellbound instead and there are many changes to take into account, especially when it comes to the gameplay itself. To begin with, the new studio somehow managed to dumb things down even more and applied the same formula to almost every part of the game, including the combat, the character development system and even the dialogue.
However, to start things off, it is worth noting that the story itself is different this time as well and the main character has changed in the meantime. The change is only symbolic, on the other hand, since the new hero is still nameless and about as charismatic as a doormat. Although he's a mere shepherd about to get married when everything starts, a few battles with powerful paladins turn him into quite the legendary hero, ready to rid the world of evil and find the secrets of a powerful artifact.
A very different combat system
Those who are familiar with the old franchise might be aware that the combat system was never the strong point of the series and it certainly didn't get any better by the third installment. However, it somehow functioned, even if you had to get acquainted with it for a few long hours and the mechanics went against your every instinct. ArcaniA, on the other hand, adds the “roll & dodge” gimmick to the mix, which basically turns the fights into hilarious circus displays with very little actual sword swinging involved. Moreover, the actual system was barely refined at all, since the attacks are still very linear and slow, which makes it very difficult to hit small targets or fast-moving enemies.
In the end, the world itself can be quite mesmerizing at times, but not a lot of work went into the graphics engine improvements either. Although the game itself looks well and the textures are pretty nice, the level design is nowhere near as detailed as it was in Gothic III. Thankfully, the armors and the weapons look pretty decent and you can be proud of yourself after you stumble into a new toy, because it is certainly a pleasure to equip new gear.
A forced attempt with bad results
In essence, ArcaniA: Gothic 4 is not a bad game by itself, but the developers also slapped a pretty big title onto the game's box, one that they were not really capable of reproducing accurately. Hence, while it is true that the Gothic franchise is inherently full of bugs and annoyances, the previous episodes at least had the courtesy to treat the players with respect when it came to story, characters and level design.