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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

RPG / Action

 

Publisher

Dreamcatcher

 

Developer

Arkane Studios

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q4 2003

 

 

- Decent game for fans of old-school role-playing games
- Plenty of gaming adventure hours
- Appeals to old-school dungeon crawler fans

 

 

- If you donít like old-school role-playing games, this is a total bore
- Graphics are extremely weak for an Xbox title
- Controls can get awfully frustrating
- Eating cooked rat ribs sounds more like a ďFear FactorĒ challenge than an acceptably normal RPG element

 

 

Review: The Elder Scrolls III - Morrowind GOTYE (XB)

Review: Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (XB)

Review: Phantasy Star Online 1 & 2 (XB)

Review: Deus Ex - Invisible War (XB)

 

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Arx Fatalis

Score: 5.9 / 10

 

arx fatalis xbox review          arx fatalis xbox review

 

Besides Morrowind, Knights of the Old Republic and Phantasy Star Online I & II, the role-playing game hasnít been exactly well represented on the Xbox as compared to either the RPG-laden PS2 or the GameCube. So RPG fans must have had their interest piqued when the well-received PC game from 2002, Arx Fatalis, was scheduled to appear on the Microsoft system. However, anybody expecting a Morrowind-quality good game will be sorely disappointed by Arx Fatalis, which will appeal only to old-school PC RPG gamers, who are willing to trade off good graphics and controls for a long-lasting dungeon crawler storyline like the Dungeon & Dragons titles that once were all the RPG rage.

For the modern Xbox gamer who may indeed be searching for another RPG such as Morrowind to bide the time until Fable, Sudeki, or True Fantasy Online finally make

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their debuts there is little to recommend in Arx Fatalis, which although packs plenty of RPG playing hours, has too many underachieving features and worse, is just sleep-inducingly boring for those long stretches of playing time.

The story takes you to the suddenly sun-less Earth of a medieval-type age of magic and monsters, forcing the human population to retreat and live in the

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underground fortress, Arx. But Arx isnít a safe haven, as there are ratmen, dragons, goblins and demons all around, as well as a mysteriously evil presence that threatens the very existence of humankind.

So basically, Arx Fatalis boils down to roaming through the dark and cavernous underground world, searching for answers, and fighting all kinds of creatures and beings, with magic and weapons right out of King Arthurís Court. Arx Fatalis borrows heavily from old-school RPGs, and one that comes immediately to mind is the old Interplay title, Stonekeep, and not only for the so-bad-mediocre-is-a-compliment graphics that are just embarrassing for a 2003 Xbox title. These are horribly muddy visuals due in large part to the gameís dank underground environment that are bad throughout. Sound doesnít fare much better, as even with 5.1 real-time support, there isnít too much worth hearing thatís of high quality.

There is a antiquated item storage system, too. There are plenty of items to find, including food, weaponry, books, and other odds and ends. Some of the items you can collect are bizarrely strange, such as gathering ribs from defeated uber-sized subterranean rats. Worse, you have to eat this unappetizing rat meat to restore your health. (Sounds like a ďFear FactorĒ dare.) And in an annoying little twist, you canít just eat them either. You must find a fire source and cook them before consumption, just like your mom always preached: "Make sure to cook your rat ribs well before eating them!Ē

You must also cook fish and learn to prepare other foods with the help of the Arx cookbook. Another food source can be from the farm animals roaming around, including chickens and pigs, which you must kill first before they give up their tasty meats. But as in other parts of Arx Fatalis, killing something isnít as easy as it would seem. Do you really think it would take more than five hits with a sword to down a pig? Or a rat, albeit a giant New York City sewer system sized one? It does in Arx Fatalis.

 

arx fatalis xbox review          arx fatalis xbox review


Arx Fatalisí combat system is uneven, giving your targets way too much strength, which leads to a frustrating amount of deaths against Arx Fatalisí stronger targets. Making theses deaths even worse is a not-so-friendly save system that with just one miscalculated battle, can force you to begin again at a start point that you may have passed long, long before your checkout point. On top of that, the controls are a bit too loose and unmanageable at times, especially with Arx Fatalisí ill-advised first-person person perspective where third-person would have better suited its gameplay.

Besides using weapons, there is a big influence of magic in Arx Fatalis. You need to learn spells that can be pre-cast and much like a fighting game, hitting the right combination of buttons will provide a particular magic spell to unleash on those who are trying to take you down.

The worst aspect of Arx Fatalis is the long stretches of exploration that become a boring chore instead of a extraordinary adventure. You go through level after level of dungeons and cities built throughout the fortress, sometimes running into nary a creature save a tiny frog in a shallow pool. Arx Fatalis can be a lonely adventuring game for periods that really doesnít get too exciting even when you eventually come across another Arx denizen or two. Eventually after enough walking around Arx for the many, many, hours of gameplay, youíll figure out whatís afoot, but thatís only if you make it that far, because the many, many hours of gameplay are in direct relation to the excruciating amount of endless roaming through the underground that is Arx and most certainly isnít for everybody in todayís gaming world.

You really, really have to like old-school dungeon crawler RPGs to derive any enjoyment out of playing Arx Fatalis. Ugly graphics, poor controls due to unwisely incorporated first-person perspective gameplay, and long stretches of boring dungeon exploration create a mediocre game that is at least five years too late to merit consideration. Those Xboxers searching for an RPG should go get the Morrowind Game of the Year Edition if they already donít have it or replay it if they do while waiting for the releases of Fable, Sudeki, or True Fantasy Online (hopefully sometime this year, for all three).

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(March 25, 2004)

 

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