Written by  :  ShadowShrike (309)
Written on  :  Aug 31, 2005
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.14 Stars3.14 Stars3.14 Stars3.14 Stars3.14 Stars

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The Good

Arx Fatalis is an obvious homage to the Ultima Underworld series, with a similar core concept and gameplay lifted right from the pages of the Underworld manuals.

The core idea of the game it that it's an RPG with freeform character dynamics but a linear plot. It succeeds in as far as making building your character an entertaining process and simulating freedom of gameplay.

What keeps the game so fresh is that despite being locked to the game's straightforward plot at all times, there are plenty of unique things to do along the way. All sorts of items can be combined to make more useful ones, and the world can be interacted with in unique ways. For example, fish can be cooked over a fire, bread can be baked and potions can be distilled.

Arx has an innovative magic system in which you collect runes and draw their shapes in the air to form combinations which cast spells. It's clumsy on a technical level, but there's an inherent coolness in drawing runes in the air that makes up for that.

Apart from these innovations, the game is pretty standard RPG fare: Talk to someone, get a quest, kill a creature, get better items, level up, increase your statistics, rinse & repeat. There's nothing to complain about as Arx succeeds in keeping this formula quite entertaining for the duration of its game.

Also of note are the game's sound, which is above average, and its visuals, which, while not particularly striking in terms of special effects, evoke the atmosphere of dank, oppressive underground catacombs quite well. (Whether this is a good thing or not is clearly a matter of opinion.)

The Bad

Unfortunately, Arx trips over its own feet on the way to RPG greatness. It's horrifically unbalanced. Any poor sod trying to play as an archer will soon find that all their points spent in ranged weapon skill are completely useless, as ranged weapons are barely useful against the very weakest of the game's sorted enemies. Similarly, some spells are useless while others are the miracle cure as soon as they're acquired.

Another major failing is the plot. For an entirely plot-driven game, Arx really doesn't have a lot of it. It clearly attempts to be a fantasy epic, but there's nothing here that one wouldn't expect to find in a paperback Forgotten Realms 'novel': Strange prophecy, ancient evil, foretold savior, Ring/Sword/Teddy Bear of World-Saving, et cetera.

Arx's voice acting is subpar, but since it's a translated game that is to be expected.

Finally, one of the biggest problems with Arx is that it's incredibly short. A veteran RPG player will probably be able to churn through it in under fifteen hours, possibly less. The only RPG I've ever played shorter than Arx is Fable.

The Bottom Line

I've learned to judge game's plots by much lower standards than books or movies, so I was able to forgive Arx's lack of originality and enjoy the unique, innovative RPG game dynamics and the rich environment. For RPG players who can forgive a terribly unbalanced game, I recommend Arx; it really is quite fun... for the short time it lasts.