Arx Fatalis – XB – Review

Your name is Am Shaegar – a
foreign phrase that means he who has no name. No name means no memory of the
past or why you are locked in a cell deep underground beneath a sunless world.


The story is long and one of
woe. The city of Arx once proudly stood above ground, basking in the warmth of
the sun. But after the death of the king, the sun gradually began to diminish.
The new king, knowing that time was now short, decided to move the entire town
underground. It was a move that took five years to accomplish.


But the underground world
was populated with a variety of races. For a time, the races worked
harmoniously. However, like all things, the old prejudices and hatreds sprang
back up and now the races were all locked underground, a sunless, endless winter
above, and violence beneath. And now, something new has been added. Pure evil
has entered the world and is slowly consuming the souls of the innocent.


Into this world of woe
enters another – a man, knocked senseless by the goblins (or gobblers) and
dumped, nearly naked, into a cell. Who is this stranger, named Am Shaegar by the
man in the next cell. Therein lies the core of the adventure.


Arx Fatalis is an Xbox
release from Dreamcatcher and Arkane Studios. It is rated Mature for blood and
gore, and violence. This is a game that plays out from the first-person
perspective, and is a quest-driven adventure.


It is rather obvious that
your character is there to stop the evil that is plaguing the underground world.
But inasmuch as you must stop it, you must first learn who you are. To that end,
you will have to crawl through the dank, rat- and spider-invested pathways, form
uneasy alliances with a variety of would-be foes, or just battle through.


According to the tale that
is revealed along the path,

Akbaa the Lord of
Destruction has been released into the world of men, ratmen, trolls, dwarves,
goblins and others in the underground labyrinth. Akbaa once allied with the
human priest Iserbius, who created a cult to worship the evil lord, and spread
his reign of terror. One of the king’s astronomers uncovered the truth of the
cult and petitioned the Sybarta, the keepers of the balance between good and
evil, for aid. The Sybarta sent an emissary/guardian to counter the threat of
Akbaa, but the guardian was waylaid and never truly arrived.


Or did he?


The combat system of Arx
Fatalis is relatively simple. You equip a weapon (which will wear out over
time), target and attack. Or you can use magic, which you learn through finding
rune stones and inscribing them into your book, to attack your foes. Lurking in
the darkness is always good, particularly if you want to sneak up on your enemy,
or isolate one and take it out quickly.


The game features a
free-look system tied to the right thumbstick. Crosshairs help target the enemy.
The animation in the attack mode is not quite as smooth as in the magic mode,
but still decently done. This is a hit-first, hit-often, do the most damage when
you hit and you will win style of game.


Graphically, the game looks
very good. The environments are richly textured and the dynamic shadows and
lighting add a nice realistic touch. Flickering torchlight can cast wonderful
effects on the walls. The combat is a little staid, with the obligatory mist of
blood washing away from a strike.


The game does have solid
audio support. The ambient noises add depth to the mood of the game, the musical
score suits the game and while some of the dialog is forced, the vocal
characterizations are nicely done as well.


Arx Fatalis is somewhat
linear in overall game play. There may be a variety of paths you can take to
reach a certain goal, but they all seem to come out in the same area and
ultimately require the same efforts to realize the solution. The game does have
puzzles, and is built for those who pay attention and look for the details, the
casual item laying on the floor, or the crease in the wall that may indicate a
hidden path.


That said, Arx Fatalis is a
solid Xbox RPGer. It is a good port of a PC title that also was a solid
performer. PC gamers who played the original will likely want to pass on this,
unless you just want to relive the same experience on a different platform. But
Xbox gamers who have not played the PC version should find Arx Fatalis a
wonderful, immersive adventure in a fantasy realm.



The control set-up has been ported from the keyboard and mouse of the PC game to
the controller of the Xbox, and this is a game that plays well in the latter
format. There are some load times as you move from one setting to the next, but
once in a game area, the action moves seamlessly.


This game is quite dark and players may have some problems seeing in the initial
game settings. Not to worry, you can adjust the gamma in the options menu to
make the game a little more visible. The animations are well done and the
overall look of the game is richly textured. The game does feature dynamic
lighting effects to enrich the realism of the environment and the special
effects are superbly rendered.

My, but you have
a profound grasp of the obvious … Ok, some of the dialog is a little forced and
underscores the obvious, but generally the ambient noises, the musical score and
the voice acting is well done.

Difficulty: Easy

The quick in-game tutorial will give you all you need to know to work through
this title, and there are two difficulty settings to challenge players.


This game is accessible, both in terms of player control, and the options to
adjust the look and play style. The targeting system is reflexive but aptly
suited to the thumbsticks. The spell-casting system is somewhat easier than the
PC version, relying on the directional pad to weave the arcane runes on the air.


This title ported very well to the Xbox. Though mostly a quest-driven RPG, Arx
Fatalis still manages to offer enough variety and discovery to keep players
enthralled. This game is almost identical to the PC game, so if you’ve played
that, you may wish to pass on this title. If you are looking for a solid RPG
console title, one that takes place in an imaginative world, you may look no
further than Arx Fatalis.