by JoWooD Productions
This year has seen some major RPG games arrive on the PC. Neverwinter Nights, Morrowind, Icewind Dale 2 are just three that readily spring to mind. One title that hasn't had the spotlight thrown upon it in quite the same way is Arx Fatalis. Adopting a rather more traditional style like that of Ultima Underworld, Arx Fatalis is definitely a game that will appeal to veterans of RPG genre.
On the world of Exosta, particularly in the city of Arx the sun ceased to shine and a severe coldness spread over the land. This coldness forced the inhabitants, a mix of Humans, Orcs, Ratmen and Goblins underground. However it was not long before the peace between the races was shattered. Uneasiness soon turned to hate and soon the rise of the once forgotten Akbaa the Lord of Destruction, the human killer, began. Akbaa along with a priest called Iserbius formed a cult to spread the evil influence of Akbaa. You begin the game just as all seems lost. You're in a prison cell and you don't have any memories of who you are or what you should be doing.
Of course you can play through the game in any way you see fit. You can fight your way through or attempt to sneak your way through and resort to fighting when it's essential or you can of course mostly rely on magic to see you through. Combat relies on a hit and move process, much like it would in real life. Magic has been implemented rather splendidly. During the game you'll come across runes. These runes will help you create spells. To cast a spell you have to hold down the Ctrl key and holding the left mouse button down you have to draw the runes pattern onscreen. This sounds a little awkward but in actual fact it isn't, it's great fun and adds to the immersive gameplay that Arx Fatalis has. You don't have to draw them all the time though as you have the ability to bind three spells to the 1,2 and 3 keys.
There is a level of interactivity in Arx Fatalis that you just don't see too often in a RPG game. Most objects can be interacted with either by using them or combining them with other objects or simply throwing them at an enemy. Your character will eventually need to eat and some of the food items that you find will need to be cooked in a fire. Mix flour and water and you have dough. Combine the dough with a fire and you'll have bread for your character to eat. If you use the dough with an apple and a fire you'll have apple pie. There are plenty of recipes for you to experiment with in this manner. Potions, poisons and antidotes are other items where you can mix ingredients to create a finished article. This allows you to be creative and makes the gameplay seem that bit more personal.
Graphically Arx Fatalis looks pretty good with features such as bump mapping available to turn on if your graphics card supports it. The game doesn't look as good as Morrowind, to be perfectly honest, but then again it doesn't have the framerate issues that Morrowind has. Arx Fatalis more often than not sees you in enclosed and rather dark environments. The lighting for these areas has been well done and this helps to give the game it's rather intense atmosphere. The character models are also good, especially the faces which are very detailed and a big improvement on the gargoyle like faces that feature in games such as Morrowind. There are some clipping problems though and it is not uncommon to walk through objects that you should not be able to.
While Arx Fatalis is a very good game indeed there are some problems for deaf gamers that will indeed spoil the fun. Whilst most of the important conversations (those that are key to the game) are subtitled, some of them aren't. The conversation with Ortiern for instance early on in the game goes to a cutscene that is not subtitled. The other speech in the game is not subtitled either. Double clicking on a character will usually get a verbal response/conversation from them but these are not subtitled. Most of the time there is no text to indicate that NPCs are talking nearby which can make things tricky. When you first begin the game you will get tutorial messages that appear exclusively in text when you first encounter a situation for the first time. These are very helpful and explain what needs to be done without resorting to the manual. As we mentioned earlier your character needs food to sustain him and he will tell you that he is hungry. Unfortunately though this is not show in text. If your character attempts to open a lock that is too complicated he will say so but again this is not shown in text. These are some major problems for deaf gamers that will take a lot away from the enjoyment of the game.
What can I say about Arx Fatalis? It's definitely one of the best RPGs that I have played but there are some major problems for deaf gamers. A majority of the verbal information is just not subtitled and there are no options to turn subtitles on either. Perhaps a patch could be released to enable full subtitles in the game. The only other thing I can say against Arx Fatalis is that the game crashed back to the desktop some of the time when I tried to use the quick load feature otherwise it was perfectly stable. This is definitely a great game for hearing gamers but for deaf gamers it needs a patch, if that's possible, to enable full subtitles. If that does happen we will remark the game but in it's present state there is just too much verbal information that a deaf gamer will miss out on and it spoils the game.
Game Rating: 6.5/10