Arx Fatalis

aka: Arx Fatalis: Return to the Underground
Moby ID: 7189
Windows Specs

Description official descriptions

Arx was a once a prosperous place. However, after one night the sun of the world of Exosta never rose again, and the blistering cold forced their inhabitants into the dwarf mines. There, a new city was built, and humans, trolls, goblins, dwarves, and other races lived along peacefully, until the scarce resources proved to be too few for everyone. The animosity started to build up, and conflict between races ensued. The protagonist starts the game dazed out, being dragged into a cell by a goblin. Where is he? Why did he end up there? Who is he? With only that in mind, the adventure starts...

Inspired by the Ultima Underworld series, Arx Fatalis is a first-person role-playing game taking place in a vast underground world. All the locations and interconnected by passages, tunnels, and stairs, with eight levels altogether. Despite their dungeon-like appearance, locations also include populated settlements such as the city of Arx, where the player character can buy and store supplies, as well as other non-hostile areas. The player, however, is free to attack and possibly kill any non-player character encountered. While several main quests must be completed in a specific order to unlock a new area, the player can access and explore certain locations freely at some points in the game. There are no dialogue options, but some missions can be completed in different ways, and there are also a few side quests.

The player generates and builds up the main character by customizing his main attributes (strength, intelligence, dexterity, and constitution) as well as various skills, which include close or ranged combat proficiencies, technical skill for lockpicking and disarming traps, and others. Vanquishing enemies and completing quests yields experience points, which are converted to attribute and skill points when the protagonists levels up and can be allocated manually. Much of the combat in the game can be avoided, and the player may opt to develop a stealthy character, a spellcaster, a ranged attacker, as well as the traditional physical type.

Combat in the game is action-based. The player can press down the attack key to build up force in order to strike more efficiently. It is also possible to execute several types of melee attacks by combining them with directional arrows. One of the unique aspects of the game is the spell-casting system, where the player uses the mouse (or the directional pad in the Xbox version) to draw the runes constituting a particular spell. The most complex spells can be performed by combining runes. Spells can also be readied and cast simply by pressing a corresponding key. Casting spells depletes the protagonist's magic points.

As some places lack light sources, players can take advantage of the darkness to stealthily move in the shadows, or use torches to lighten up a room to search for some object or find their way in a path. The game's world offers interactivity by allowing the player to pick up, drag, and place most objects. Food must be collected and eaten periodically to prevent the protagonist from dying of hunger. The player can combine various items to create new ones, as well as modify their properties. For example, it is possible to cook food, bake bread, use tools such as pickaxes and shovels, and brew potions.


  • Arx Fatalis. Последний бастион - Russian spelling
  • アークス・ファタリス - Japanese spelling
  • 地城守护者 - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

193 People (150 developers, 43 thanks) · View all

Lead Designer
Game Director
Lead Programmer
Lead Artist
Level Design/Level Programming
Additional 3D-Animations
3D Artist
Additional Game Design
Sound Programmer
Etranges Libellules SARL graphic coordinator
3D Artists
[ full credits ]



Average score: 77% (based on 75 ratings)


Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 88 ratings with 7 reviews)

Arx Fatalis - Deadly City?

The Good
First of all, let's make things straight. Deadly City is the English translation for Arx Fatalis (latin). I don't really know why the game is called like that, Arx isn't that deadly, but I guess its all about the history of Arx.

Most people hate this game because of it's small world and few characters. I personally love this feature, the game is easy to explore and you will never get lost in the world. Also, you will always know what you have to do. You won't need to travel 998383838 regions to get to an NPC in order to get... one Magical Feather of the Phoenix (random name) or another...

The combat in Arx Fatalis is easy to learn since it uses the classic "recipe". You hold the mouse button to "deliver" a stronger hit. You can use bows, swords, axes, daggers or any other weapon you can get.

I liked the spellcasting system. Each spell can be casted only if you cast specific runes (each spell requires specific types of runes.) in a specific order. To cast the runes you must "draw" with the mouse cursor the symbol which represents each rune. Switching between melee/ranged combat mode to spellcasting mode is easy thus making combat even more intense and at the same time interesting.

The character's interaction level with the surrounding objects is simply "heroic"! You can cook, go fishing, read books, steal and more!

The story in the game is interesting overall, but the ending seemed a little "abrupt" to me...

The game graphics are absolutely great and the atmosphere offered by the graphics is unequaled. Maybe some buildings look a little bit weird... but I won't consider that a flaw.

Each character has it's own voice and the actors did a great job. I watched all the characters in the game, and believe me they seem to be real! Also each character has it's own "daily routine", which makes things even better. However, you can't tell if there's a day-night cycle since the action takes place in the underground so I've never seen any character sleeping. Too bad...

The quests you recieve are always different, I've never seen any "cloned quest". Each quest, even if it may seem to be secondary, affects quite greatly the main storyline.

The game also features some puzzles, which aren't entirely difficult, but you never get bored by solving them since they are interesting and if you ever get stuck on one puzzle you'll be very satisfied if you solve it after.... don't know why but you will be :)

The opponent's AI is well scripted and each enemy seems intelligent... some may even cause you trouble.

The environment sounds and sound effects are helping the overall atmosphere of the game to get even higher! I liked the music played by the local musicians and the atmospheric sound from Arx...

The Bad
Well first of all the loading times are... deadly... The world is made of many "regions" that you can access one at a time, and everytime the loading is really deadly. Maybe that's why the game is called Arx Fatalis...

The spellcasting system requires the caster (player) to go somewhere for training before casting spells in a fulltime combat... Sometimes it's really difficult to cast some runes just because you "missed" a "shape" with the mouse.

The Bottom Line
That would be all bad things... the game is great, a classic even. Maybe it does not surpass other "great" RPG's, but Arx Fatalis is special in a special way and maybe if you play it you'll put the CD in a special place, to be seen by everyone. The game deserves such a "sacrifice"...

Windows · by Hypercake (1310) · 2008

A badly planned and executed "Underworld" game

The Good
The graphics are nicely done, not extraordinary, but alright. The sound is quite good, only there is too little of it and no music at all. I especially liked some of the cutscenes, which are done with sparsely animated stills. Sometimes animation will only consist of moving across several elements of the still, or of a flickering light effect, but all in all it's very effectively done and creates more atmosphere than many state-of-the-art rendered cut-scenes in other games.

Some of the dungeon crawling is sufficiently moody as well, I recall an interesting, lofty ice cavern and the last level of the maze was quite spooky.

What else...oh yeah. You can bake bread in "Arx Fatalis". What is it that people like about baking bread in games, I wonder? A rush of primal satisfaction à la "My digital character can live off the work of his own, digital hands?" I never understood that sensation. Neither do I understand why quite a lot of people liked this game.

The Bad
First of all, this game goes out there shouting "I'm the 'Ultima Underworld' for a new generation". Since I played both "Ultima Underworld" and "Arx Fatalis" not too long ago, I can clearly say that this new generation is to be pitied. Let's quickly compare gameplay features.

In "Underworld" you have a great sense of exploration due to an enormous amount of non-linearity in its trail of events. Very often there is more than one way to get through a door, an NPC can be killed, lured away, ignored or bargained with in well written multiple-choice dialogue. The element of "life simulation" is very predominant, too, since your character gets exhausted and has to eat and sleep, furthermore, you can always have a look at the time of the day. The story involves the cliché of a kidnapped daughter, but other elements, like for instance the whole "murder of Cabirus"-affair, are original and well executed (these weird dreams!). Moreover, "Underworld" is delved into an extremely rich background (e.g. the whole colony-founding affair) and, ultimately, even carries a message, namely that for all the bickering and war going on between different races, the ultimate evil can only be defeated when all of them lay aside their differences and contribute, symbolized with the respective talismans the Avatar has to get from each race. It may not be much, but hey, for a game of the early 90's it sure is something.

What do you have in "Arx Fatalis"? Level exploration is extremely linear, there are dozens of doors one can only open when they're supposed to be opened and if, by mere chance, one gets into a new place before the story would expect one to be sent there, confusion quickly claims its toll, because linear item A is missing to perform linear task B and there's no other way to get around mentioned B. Dialogue is non-existent, the number of NPCs is little, there are no memorable or even remotely talkative NPCs at all and one simply cannot talk to them - except in generic one liners which the computer conveniently chooses to say for the player (I would have loved to at least have the option of not saying anything and keep my mouth shut). Considering the "life simulation"-element, well, there is no way of measuring time, your character has to eat, but doesn't need sleep. Did they do that to come closer to a roleplayer's life? As for the story of "Arx" - all right, so what if this game is linear, as long as it would come up with a decent story I wouldn't have minded, but truthfully, this is just a perfect example of the most boring "You are the chosen one and have to save earth against evil-evil god" mumbo jumbo. At least they put some fine twists and turns in between, like for instance "find this to get that to wield those against them to destroy said evil-evil god!" As I mentioned, there is no dialogue, so you're not even allowed to protest, neither are you allowed to solve these formidable "quests" in any other (perhaps more intelligent?) way. It's all destiny and prophecy, and this streak of thought is not only still a predominant one in many games, it's also an archaic one, based on the old and wrong assumption that each of us just has to do what we're "chosen" to do and everything will be sugar & spice. Last but not least: as for a background to its abominable tale, "Arx Fatalis" has nothing to little of it. Never does any of the numerous races really go beyond your stereotypical fantasy alphabet: trolls are stupid, goblins are stupid but think they're clever...etc., etc. The initial idea of people having to live underground because of a fading sun might have been a nice one, but "Arx Fatalis" simply fails to fill it with meaning.

However, the trail of mistakes doesn't end there. Worse than the contents of "Arx Fatalis" are its gameplay mechanics and balancing. Some quick facts: there is hardly any light anywhere, torches will last about a minute, and the appropriate spell to see in the dark colours your screen pink (quite psychedelic, that, but obviously destroys any means of "dramatic" lighting). Still worse, the game is haunted by some peculiar sort of "riddles", especially in the crypt levels. These riddles consist mostly of illogical, trial-and-error switching of large numbers of levers, clues as to what one should be doing are either rare or non-existent and - worst of all - these sequences are in no way integrated into the game. They appear to be present merely to stretch the "gaming experience", never is anything explained, leading to questions such as "Why did they put all these levers in a tomb anyway?" popping up, or "If they didn't want anyone to enter that grate, why didn't they just lock it and threw away the key? If they did only want those to enter who knew a certain combination, why can I still solve the riddle and open it, i.e. why is the combination not insolubly complex?" And - the most important question - "Why does the almighty hero-from-another-world player-character not carry a file around to get rid of mentioned grate in a more 'in-yer-face"-way?" You can carry a shovel and a sledgehammer, or wield fiery spells of mass destruction, after all...

Finishing off this rather bleak review, the "Arx Fatalis"-interface is clumsy and reacts outright strangely from time to time. Jumping is imprecise at best, fighting can be quite tricky to manage, which is not helped by the game's absolutely horrible balancing. I know that everybody who played this game has said it already, but here it goes: the battles against these tough-looking, bald-headed Ylsides are laughable. I didn't need a single healing potion for five huge levels of "Arx", I pondered selling them because I thought they might be obsolete after all...and then - I used twenty of 'em during one fight which lasted ten seconds max. Whoever came up with such a weird "twist" really has to re-enter game-school, or rather fun-school - because that simply isn't fun.

The Bottom Line
I know this has been a long review, but I felt that someone had to say something negative about this game because, although it wasn't hyped, it nevertheless acquired some "cool indie stuff"-status. Well, here's the short of it: "Arx Fatalis" is mediocre in presentation, generic and boring in content, boasts a whole lot of horribly executed, "original" gameplay features while not even being able to implement standard stuff such as jumping and fighting well. In the end, it's not a step ahead but a large leap backwards compared to a classic such as "Ultima Underworld" (which also had its faults, but more than enough virtues to redeem itself).

Windows · by worldwideweird (29) · 2011

Good unbalanced rpg

The Good
First of all the graphics are really good in this game, as is the atmosphere and feeling. In the beginning of the game you come to a castle which is some of the most impressive graphics I have seen in any game. The music also is atmospheric and moody. Similar to Thief: the dark project it has some very cool locations like underground crypts and cathedrals with zombies and mummies. Some quests also reminded me alot of those of Eye of the beholder.

The Bad
It is very unbalanced. The Ylsidies especially are very though to beat without using magic, which is boring if you want to play a warrior and not rely on magic. The other big thing is that it is often quite vague what your next mission is or how to begin it. You feel that the designers have missed something. Also in some scenes the framerate falls very low on my computer which is a 2400+, albeit with a geforce fx5200 graphics card.

The Bottom Line
The flaws in this game hinders it from being a masterpiece although it is a very fun game nevertheless.

Windows · by Vashna (17) · 2005

[ View all 7 player reviews ]


European and German version

In the German PC and the European Xbox version all blood effects and the possibility to cut off limbs (along with limbs used as level decoration) were removed.


  • Computer Gaming World
    • April 2003 (Issue #225) – Sleeper of the Year

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by POMAH.

Xbox added by rstevenson. Windows Apps added by Koterminus.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, Jeanne, Apogee IV, jaXen, Stratege, Patrick Bregger, Abhisit Chanmana.

Game added September 4th, 2002. Last modified August 22nd, 2023.