when you thought it was safe to close the book on one of the best RPG
years ever, in slips a quality title like Arx Fatalis. For many, this
game will be like a trip down memory lane. Before sprawling landscapes
pervaded RPGs there were the deep, dark dungeons, which snared many an
adventurer. Arx Fatalis takes us back there in style with a compelling
visual presentation and novel story. Break out the torches folks; its
dungeon crawling time.
Fatalis begins with a pretty straightforward character creation
sequence. Here youll be able to choose from several pre-made
appearances for your hero. After that, players will be required to
spread out some experience points over your new heros statistics.
Following the creation of your character, the story will pick up with
you being carted off to a prison cell by a nasty goblin. While in prison
you will soon meet up with a man named Kultar. Unfortunately when you
begin to speak with him you realize that you have no memory of who you
are or where you came from. Granted, its not the most original way to
start a story, but youll soon learn what makes the world of Arx Fatalis
a pretty unique place and upon your and Kultars escape, your new friend
reminds you of it. Apparently the sun has fizzled out, forcing the
worlds inhabitants to tunnel underground towards the warm center of the
planet. Now that is a great dungeon-crawling environment to work with.
With these different races in such close proximity, conflict is
inevitable and your hero gets caught up in it whether he wants to or
are a couple of distinct similarities between Arx Fatalis and Morrowind,
released earlier this year. Arx has a first-person layout like Morrowind
as well as a very easily manipulated environment. Many will be delighted
to discover that in Arx Fatalis, if it isnt nailed down, it can be
taken, but that isnt always an advantageous outlook on things as many
had also learned from the third installment in the Elder Scrolls series.
Arcane went a little further in the detail department, though. For one
thing when you look down you can see your heros feet as well as his
swaying arms while walking. This attention to detail really shines
through in the graphics as well.
Since Arx Fatalis occurs underground, the developers had to make sure
that the graphical presentation fleshed out an environment where gamers
would want to hang around, knowing that there were no breathtaking
sunsets, lush forests, or rural countryside awaiting them. The games
graphics are well done, with painstaking detail obviously shown in each
brick and stalagmite. Arcane has really succeeded in creating a
compelling environment with a dark mood. The somber, closed in feel may
begin to grate on you, though. Personally Im a sucker for a pretty
sunset, but if youre a tried and true dungeon-crawler youll eat it up.
novel concept in Arx Fatalis is its magic system. Rather than clicking a
button to produce a spell, Arx employs a "rune" system where players
trace shapes on the screen to produce their spells. First you have to
locate a rock with the rune carved on it so you can copy it into your
spell book. The first two runes youll find work together to make a
useful spell that can light torches and cooking fires. Players simply
use the mouse to draw the shapes on the screen. Exiting magic mode will
produce the spell. Players may pre-cast three spells and save them for
later use, but in the heat of battle a sword may prove more useful than
quickly trying to draw runes in the air. The combat system is functional
yet quite dry--much like the melee combat in Morrowind. Arx does try to
add some spice, though, by providing pretty grisly death scenes of those
you vanquish, which vary depending on how you hit them.
Fatalis also provides interesting content with its "combination" system.
Say you find a fresh fish during your quest. Sushi hasnt hit yet so
what use is raw meat? Arx adds a deeper layer here by requiring you cook
your food at times. Youd do this by "combining" fire and a fresh fish.
You can also go deeper and try to cook other things like pies. This
requires different ingredients like water and flour along with the
proper utensils to prepare it. Players may also make their own potions
much like the alchemists in Morrowind and Asherons Call. Determined
craftsmen in Arx Fatalis may even find ways to catch their own fish by
fashioning a fishing pole. Additions like these really should become
mandatory in all RPGs because they add so much value to your experience
by providing fun diversions that still prove useful to the quest.
great titles like Neverwinter Nights, Morrowind, Divine Divinity, and
Dungeon Siege, this year has more than generous towards us RPG fans.
With that said Arx Fatalis is not just icing on the cake. Despite its
similarities with Morrowind, Arx provides more than enough content to
secure a spot of uniqueness among its peers. While I dont think that it
has the broad appeal of say, a Neverwinter Nights, it is a testament to
one of the founding fathers of the RPG genre: the first-person
dungeon-crawler. If you find yourself at home in the depths of the earth
this title is a no-brainer.