Arx Fatalis is a very interactive RPG that will make a hero out of your character when he saves an underground kingdom from destruction.
Arx Fatalis is a very unique and entertaining RPG that will have you exploring an underground world filled with cities, dungeons, caves, villages, and even ice caverns. The background story is that Arx Fatalis was once a great and prosperous city that existed on the surface, but once their sun began to fail and decay, then all the races that made up this land decided to hide underground until this period of darkness passed. So this is the set-up, an underground world in which humans, goblins, trolls, and other races try to co-exist in order to survive.
Your character starts the game by waking up in a goblin jail cell, with absolutely nothing to use -- no weapons, no armor -- just enough clothing to barely cover yourself. You do not remember how you got there, who you are, or anything else about yourself or your surroundings. After you break free of this prison, you make your way to the city of Arx, and have a talk with the king. The adventure begins from there, and you start doing quests for the king and the encampments that lie outside of the city. As your journey progresses, you begin to find out more about yourself and the races that make up this underground place. You find that you are considered somewhat of a prophet, and you have been sent there by a supernatural place known as the Noden. There is an evil cult of priests, lead by a man known as Iserbius, who is intent on summoning an evil force called Akbaa, who wishes to rule and enslave all that live in Arx Fatalis and the surrounding lands.
There were two features in this game that made it very unique, and they were things that I have not experienced in quite some time when playing an RPG style game. First of all, you had to actually eat in this game, and at times it was annoying, but for the most part it was a welcome change. There was enough gameplay involved with this task, that it made it interesting to have to actually feed yourself. It was not just a matter of finding a piece of food and eating it, you sometimes had to combine types of food to make bigger food items. For example, you would have to combine water with flour to make dough, then you would have to use a rolling pin to make a pie crust, and then you could add an apple to the crust to make an apple pie. And just like in the real world, you would have to find an open flame, and cook that pie. And there were many other food items as well that would need to be cooked, like ribs, chicken, or fresh fish. So although at times during the game, it may have seemed like a tedious task to feed yourself, it DID add an element of realism to the game that I have not seen in a very long time.
The second feature was the casting of spells. It was very unique in this game, because you had to actually use rune stones, which once again, I had not seen utilized in an RPG game for quite awhile. These stones could sometimes be found within your travels, or purchased from the many shop owners you will find throughout the land of Arx Fatalis. One very neat and cool graphic that was associated with spell casting, was that you had to draw the runes in the air with your hand, and once you had done that correctly, the spell would be cast. Granted, at times it was aggravating when you could not get the rune drawn correctly, and never be able to cast the spell, but thankfully there were not too many runes that were that hard to draw. It made the game very interactive when you could actually see your characters hand raise up and trace the rune stone in the air, and make a spell come to life.
The other reviews that I have read about this game seem to think that Arx Fatalis is trying to be the next "Ultima", and I will admit that the last time I had to eat and use runes during an RPG game was when I played Ultima, but I think there is so much more to this game that makes it very distinctively different from Ultima.
Potions can also be created much like food can be. There is a skill known as Object Knowledge, that you will have a chance to upgrade as the game goes on, and this skill determines how well you can make potions. There are certain items that you will have to find as well to be able to make potions, like empty bottles, the proper reagent, and a distilling apparatus.
There is not much of a character creation section before the game begins, so if you are really wanting to be able to customize your character in this game, than you will probably be disappointed. Before the game begins, you are given the opportunity to choose what your character will look like, and you are given a few points to distribute on your attributes and skills. The attributes include Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, and Constitution. At the beginning of the game, you are given five points to use on these attributes, and each time you level up during the game, you are given another point to use on them. The skills include Stealth (Move Silently Hide in Shadows), Technical (Lockpicking and Disarming Traps), Intuition (Detect Hidden Objects and Passages), Ethereal Link (Warns of Enemies), Object Knowledge (Identify Objects, Brew Potions, Poison Weapons), Magic (Casting Spells), Close Combat (Melee Combat), Projectiles (Ranged Weapons), and Defense (Use of Shields). At the beginning of the game, I believe you are given about 20 or 30 points to use on these skills, and when you level up during the game, you are usually given about 15 to use.
There is a book icon that is always located at the bottom right of the screen, and when you click on that icon, it brings up a book that includes your character information, quest log, diary, map, and book of magic spells that you have learned. When you bring up the character info page, there is a section on the left side that lists your Armour Class, Life Energy, and such. There is also a portrait of your character, and this is how you equip your character with armor and weapons. There are no slots associated with these items, like you may be used to with other games, but instead you just drag an armor or weapon item onto the portrait, and it is automatically transfered onto the character. You can acquire items for your head, torso (which includes arms), legs, and two rings can be equipped at all times. The weapon will automatically go into the left hand, and the shield will automatically go into the right hand (there is no way to change this). The only exception to this is if you decide to use a two-handed weapon, and in that case, you will not be able to equip a shield. The weapons you will find and purchase during your adventure will be your typical RPG weapons like swords, axes, bows, and sabres. The shields will range anywhere from tower shields to just your ordinary bucklers. I think the only type of weapon I did not notice was crossbows.
The monsters you will encounter during your adventure will include goblins, trolls, spiders, giant rats, dragons, and of course the undead. Some will always be hostile toward you, but there will be other times when you need to talk with these creatures and gain quests from them. This is a type of game that will react to the actions you take with these other races, and in some situations, they can have adverse effects on the outcome of the game. So you must learn that there is a time to fight, and there is a time to talk things out. All of the experience you gain during this game will be earned through combat or completing quests, and do not expect to reach a very high level. I think I was level 7 or 8 when I finished the game.
The gaming screen was set-up very nicely. For the most part it was full screen, which is always nice, and all the tools you needed to access were a mouse click away. Your inventory would scroll up from the bottom of the screen whenever you clicked the right mouse button. During the first part of the game, you do not have much inventory space, but later on during the game, you will be given backpacks, which will expand your inventory space. At the bottom right of the screen is your log book icon, and your game options icon. The contents of chests or dead bodies, will appear on the left side of the screen, and you can just drag those items from that page to your own inventory page.
The graphics are superb in this game, everything looks very realistic, and the detail on the environments and different races is outstanding. The sound is also good. There are not too many ambient sounds and not much background music, but I would rather have just a few than too many. There was a few times in which the dialogue would skip or not play at all, but that may have been due to my system and not the game.
Gameplay was good, with the exception of combat, which I get into in the next section. The interface was very easy to use, with inventory and other tools easy to reach. The replay value is high because I am sure there was a lot of secret areas and puzzles that I did not find the first time playing it, and playing it again would no doubt allow me to find those areas. There is not any kind of training mission included with Arx Fatalis, but at the back of the manual there is a walkthrough of the first few moments of the game.
There were a couple of things that I did not like about this game. The main problem I had with it, was that I thought it was too short. The story is very compelling and entertaining, but it could have been longer, and there could have been more to it. This was a visually attractive game and full of plots and twists that kept you interested in the story, but I found myself wanting more when the end approached.
The other thing that got on my nerves was the way combat was controlled. You had to hit the Tab button to initiate combat, and then hold down the left mouse button to build up your weapon strength and then release the left mouse button to strike with your weapon. This seemed like a lot of trouble, and I would have been pleased with more of a mouse driven type of system. Movement was also controlled by the keyboard instead of the mouse, and I would have preferred it the other way around.
So in conclusion, I would highly recommend Arx Fatalis, and prepare yourself for an adventure that will have you interacting with the world around you like no other RPG has done in a very long time.