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Arx Fatalis Xbox

Published by DreamCatcher Interactive
Developed by Arkane Studios
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99

2002 was a golden year for PC RPG games. Not only did we have Neverwinter Nights and Morrowind but there were quite a few others released too such as Icewind Dale II. One RPG that didn't get the recognition it deserved though, probably due to being overlooked in favour of the aforementioned titles, was Arx Fatalis. Whilst the PC has plenty of great RPG games to be going on with, the same cannot be said about the Xbox which, at present, only has Morrowind and Knights of the Old Republic. In essence then it was a good decision to bring Arx Fatalis to the Xbox. Let's take a look and see how the game has translated from the PC to the Xbox.

The story of Arx Fatalis is one of life underground. 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 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.

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.

If any of you have played the Xbox version of Morrowind you'll know that whilst it can be considered a very good translation from the PC version of the game there are some problems. The main one that sticks out has to be the load times which are absolutely shocking and can take close on a minute. Thankfully Arx Fatalis has no such problems and load times are very respectable taking only around 10 to 15 seconds to load a saved game. The Xbox version also has two difficulty settings with the easy setting making the enemies slightly weaker and easier to defeat. Your default inventory space is far greater than what you had with the PC version too, which makes it a lot easier to carry those extra items around.

The controls are for the most part what you would expect from a Xbox game. The left analogue stick controls the movement whist the right analogue stick controls your view. Attacks are performed with the right trigger, which not only makes sense but feels comfortable. The back button is used to call up your character profile and quest log. If' you've played the PC version you'll know that spells are cast by holding down the control key and moving your mouse to create patterns. Obviously alterations had to be made with the Xbox version and the result is that you have a choice of two casting methods. The default method is to press the X button and then move the directional pad in the appropriate directions and then pressing X to cast the spell. If that method's not for you then you can use the 'arcade' method where you simply press the X button, choose the spell you want to cast from a list and then press X to cast the spell. Both methods are equally valid although the arcade method is better for quickly casting a spell (although you can precast a spell by pressing the Y button instead of the X button when finishing a spell).

When Arx Fatalis arrived on the PC in 2002 it was a game that graphically looked good, however that was two years ago and whilst the translation to Xbox is certainly a commendable one the graphics don't really come across as anything special by todays standards. That's not to say it's a bad looking game and there are certainly some good effects in Arx Fatalis. Unlike Morrowind Arx doesn't really have massive open landscapes, naturally because it's underground, and the various locations you'll visit have a more enclosed feel to them. This isn't as restrictive as you might think though and, combined with the general low level of lighting in the game, it actually helps to give the game a more intense ambience. The frame rate does succumb to the odd frame rate dip but it's never anything disastrous and only seems to occur at the end of a battle or when entering a relatively open area.

The PC version of Arx Fatalis, in truth, was not deaf gamer friendly. Whilst subtitles did make an appearance in the game everything was not subtitled. Unfortunately this has not been rectified in this Xbox version, which is as big a problem as it was with the PC version. Essentially all conversations that are crucial are shown in text with everything else not being shown in text. The cutscenes, including the introduction, are not shown in text. Occasionally you'll have an important conversation with a cutscene in the middle of it and because the cutscene portion has no text, it in effect, renders the whole thing useless. You have the addition of force feedback this time around, which I suppose adds something extra but in essence you're still not getting the full game as a lot of the verbal information within the game is missing. Thankfully a quest log is kept and records all the important things you have to do. In a nutshell then you can play the game but it's disappointing the huge chunks of verbal information are 'hidden' from deaf gamers.

I finished up our PC review of Arx Fatalis by saying it was one of the best RPGs I had played but there were some major problems for deaf gamers. The translation to Xbox has done nothing to alter my opinion as while it's fully captured the feeling the PC version gave me it has done nothing to make it more favourable to the many deaf gamers out there and our rating has to reflect this painful fact. What it boils down to is how much of an RPG fanatic are you? If you love your RPG games then you're likely to forgive the lack of subtitles because the game is playable, but on the other hand if you don't like the feeling of missing out on the atmosphere of the game, which of course is natural, then it probably isn't going to be an ideal choice.

Overall Game Rating: 6.5/10
Arx Fatalis makes a very good transfer to the Xbox but unfortunately nothing was done to make the game more deaf gamer friendly. Still it's a very enjoyable RPG and RPG enthusiasts will not want to miss out on a quality game in a genre that's not that well catered for on Xbox.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Too much speech is not subtitled and sadly our rating has to reflect this. The game is playable for deaf gamers but it's a bare bones experience, which is a crying shame.