Sam Hansen
E3: Arcania: Gothic 4 Impressions
A quick look at DreamCatcher's new open world adventure.
06.21.10 - 1:43 AM

Liz Maas and I were given a comprehensive look at DreamCatcher Interactive's continuation of the Gothic franchise by game producer Kamaal Anwar. His guidance led us through a few different locales spanning multiple island settings, focusing on combat, exploration, and technical achievements we can expect to see come release time.

While it surely wasn't the bulk of the presentation, it was clear that the technical aspects behind the Vision game engine have been a focal point during the development cycle. Load times have been cut down to a sliver, with the entirety of the game world being streamed off of one initial load. One load time, one extended wait (not all that painful), with everything after that a seamless explorative experience. On the graphical front, dynamic lighting promises to provide a more visceral experience to the present day and night system. Shadows will shift and sway constantly as the sun makes its rotations, and it was definitely impressive to watch the entirety of the forests we were in alter themselves with no camera trickery or other transitions. Other natural objects such as clouds have what the team calls a volumetric presence, meaning that fogs and the like will work in tandem with the aforementioned dynamic lighting. Torches and spells with luminescent properties, too, will create alternate lighting changes to the environment. With all this action running off of one load time, there tended to be a noticeably stuttered framerate, especially during the action sequences, which I expect will be ironed out before release.

In addition to the temporality of the natural world, NPCs will act accordingly with the flow of time, as well. Characters have life cycles, places to go, schedules to keep. Someone roosting within a guard tower midday might head off to a swimming hole as soon as the sun sinks. And likewise, an idyllic grove in the light can be a creature feature at night.

Much of our gameplay time was spent on the tutorial island (which was actually pretty massive) where we were introduced to a few of Arcania's combat elements. Fighting will be combo-based, with physical attacks, ranged weaponry, and magic spells acquired via skill trees. Progress through said trees will result in longer charge times for your spells, with the final nodes allowing for dramatic, over the top explosions and other appropriately outlandish spectacles. And as with most open world games in the same vein, character appearance will change as you equip new armor and knickknacks. My different character builds had me outfitted with everything from muskets and lightning bolts to swords that I would never be able to singlehandedly lift with the grace and nonchalance of our main character, so look forward to tweaking out your character model with the flashiest gear they've got.

Considering that this is the fourth title in the series, one might expect to need a prior knowledge or familiarity with the existing fiction, though I definitely got the vibe that this won't be the case. DreamCatcher seems to be making expansive efforts to make this title assessable to new players without snubbing their existing fanbase. Characters from past games such as the Diego and Gorn return to the existing universe, with the former playing a critical role in Gothic 4's storyline. Menus and minimaps provide user-friendliness, while retaining the option to be hidden for series veterans looking to add that extra zip to the challenge. Dialogue will also be fully voiced throughout the entirety of the game, and dynamic lip synching will help beautify all versions of the localization. The team definitely has a keen eye for their audience of established and prospective players.

Thorough as it was, our demo wasn't able to relay everything inherent to the Arcania: Gothic 4 experience. The final game is set to blast you with hundreds of quests, branching story paths, and over 10-20 hours of sidequests tacked onto an already beefy 30 hour storyline. There's a lot more here than what a half hour preview could ever allow us to play, so be sure to stick with RPGFan for additional coverage as DreamCatcher's latest trots on toward its fall release.