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PC Preview: Fishtank's ARX FATALIS !

by Rainier on Jan. 22, 2002 @ 9:29 p.m. PST

You up for a new 3D puzzle/action game? Then look out for Fishtank's upcoming "Arx Fatalis" somewhere end of March. We got our hands on an early beta version and put it to the test .. We WERE impressed and the game can only improve by the time it reaches final stage .. Hurry up with that puppy! Me Want!

Arx Fatalis is a first-person RPG, which plunges the player into an amazingly complex fantasy world. Arx Fatalis combines intelligent story line with impressive medieval surroundings. The user-friendly interface allows the highest interactivity possible. Arx Fatalis creates a state of intense immersion that allows the player to feel that all his actions have a direct consequence in the Arx game world.

The goal of the game is to destroy the secret cult of Akbaa: the god of devastation and chaos, and thereby prevent his return to the physical world. Should the player fail, the demon is bound to impose his reign of terror upon Arx. The player, assuming the role of the potential hero, fights inside an underground fortress using wooden clubs, swords and magical items to defend himself against creatures including goblins, trolls, rat men and other vicious opponents. But, brute force is not always the best way to succeed and the player has at his disposal the innovative new "on screen gesture based magic system" to assist him in his progress through the game. Using the mouse, burning runes can be drawn in mid-air. A series of these gestures combine to create powerful magic spells that will protect the player or empower him to defeat his enemies and pursue his quest.

In addition to the struggles against demons and monsters there are numerous opportunities for interaction with the creatures and objects inside the fortress helping the player to rediscover his memory, solve puzzles and fulfill quests. Collecting experience points enables the player to appropriately craft his hero's skills and abilities and to develop his overall persona. Dare to enter the world of Arx Fatalis. Explore underground cities, secret temples, lost civilizations, dwarf mines and discover the magic of Arx Fatalis...

As a sneak peek Fishtank send us a version of the game for evaluation purposes with the notice that since it was an early build there would be bugs thus to take the early stage into consideration. Boy were they right about THAT ;)

Initially i had serious problems figuring out the controls up to the point where i was about to throw the cd out the window ... but stubborn as i am i decided to bite the bullet and i was determined to make this preview article. Comes with the territory and no manual sure did not make things easier.

You start off in the Goblin prison so first off you need to get out of there and whack the guard over the head. When moving about the screen your "hand" (or mouse button) will alert you when moving over things of use .. such as a loose stone you have to move in order to break open the bars of your cell so you can slip through. Next thing it will "glow" over a bone in the next room which you have to pick up so you can use it to slap around the goblin guard. Once you got rid of that ugly goblin you need to free one of your cell mates ... and the story begins ...

Up to this point i was massively struggling with the controls to grab weapons and switch from combat mode (holding your current weapon in your hand) and walk mode. The difference between the two is that although you can freely look and walk around in combat mode, you can not investigate/pick up items, use levers or basically anything else BUT fight. Not that there was all that much to fight with except for some rats and huge spiders.

As mentioned earlier the version tested was a beta build so there were quite a few of bugs (such as attacking rats all of a sudden becoming invisible but still attacking you, i could look through walls and soon) but this game sure has excellent graphics. Dark and gloomy at first, foggy when you come out of the caves and bright lights and environment when you arrive at the castle/tavern. At first the game didnt grip me as anything interesting at all, but once i mastered the controls it totally took me by surprise and i HAD to play on. Sadly enough this version only had about 4 finished levels so now Fishtank got me panting for the full version so i can carry on my quest!

The HUD is pretty standard with your strength on your left, the mana for spells on your right .. In the middle you have the Inventory (by pressing I). Above the mana there is an icon for direct access to your bag of gold coins, your journal and access to the inventory. The inventory holds all your "findings" from potions, food, weapons, scrolls and whatever else you can pick up. Your journal has a map of your current location, information about spells/runs and your discoveries.

The most interesting part of this game (as far as we tested of course) are the spells. Along your path you will not only find/encounter weapons, armour and other utensils but also rune stones, which you usually pick off corpses/skeletons. Each rune stone has a symbol on them and a name. The combination of various rune stones results in spells. The symbol on the run stone (once found they are kept in your journal) indicates how that specific part of the spell has to be cast by your character's hand motion. Sounds complicated? Don't worry .. its not ;) You enter "spell cast mode" by pressing (and holding CTRL), some sort of pentagram will appear on the screen indicating spell mode and then you just wave your hand over the screen. So if a rune stone has a horizontal line on it pointing to the right you hit CTRL and move your hand from left to right (yes the direction DOES matter), followed by a sideways/upwards move, that will temporarily increase your vision. A vertical,upwards and sideways hand motion will ignite nearby torches and other flammable items. One could easily compare this with the all familiar console A,B,B,C combo's .. VERY COOL!

A major part of the game play is the interactivity with the NPC's and the environment. Basically .. everything you do has consequences, but not everything you do is vital nor important to the solution of the game, or that specific part of the game (it may be of importance later on). For instance you have access to a tavern where you can have a drink, eat, chat with all the other customers or just play an early version of Wheel Of Fortune to get more gold coins or look around for clues. Eventually you might just go berserk (like i did) and end up killing everybody in the tavern just for shit an giggles. Remember when i said everything you do has consequences? Well as soon as you attack one of the customers or the bartender, the other people in the tavern will attack you in reprisal. So although it may not seem to matter at that point, it may be of importance or have consequences later on in the game.

The game has some interesting impertinent characters such as a dog seemingly just idling around but it will end up following you if you pet it, 4 times. Could it be of importance? Who knows ;)

There are also pigs, chickens etc. just wandering around that you can kill, investigate their corpses and you will end up with raw food like ribs and drumsticks. You will also find bread, cheese, raw fish scattered all over the place. You can not eat the raw meat but if you throw them on a fire you came across (or start one yourself using one of your spells) you can cook and eat them to replenish your strength.

Often proclaimed to be the long awaited UNOFFICIAL successor to Ultima Underworld III, this game has what it takes to take over the torch! Arx Fatalis is the type of 3D puzzle game the community has been waiting for. We have waited long enough, bring it on already!

Check out our previously posted exclusive SCREENS.. Click HERE

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