Realms of Arkania Review – A Half-Baked Blunder
In this Realms of Arkania review, we delve into the remake of the 1992 Sir-Tech published classic game. Developer Crafty Studios attempts to modernize the RPG classic based on the German pen and paper game The Dark Eye. Featuring first person town and dungeon exploration and isometric turn-based combat, the game has all the ingredients of an experience that caters to the hardcore RPG fan. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny not only misses the mark entirely, but manages to deliver one of the buggiest, unfinished releases in recent memory.
I’m afraid than any in-depth review of Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny will sound like a bug report for a game that’s still a year out. Whether they meant to or not, United Independent Entertainment GmbH (known for various sims such as Agricultural Simulator 2013) shipped a broken game, leaving Crafty Studios to desperately release patches that, while addressing bugs like a dwarven villager stuck halfway in the ground and a vicious combat freeze bug, only introduce new bugs, like enemies that stay standing after death or get stuck in walls as often as not. Since release there have been a number of patches addressing issues like wrong dialog branches, missing class restrictions, and a fix that kept you from casting spells without mana (AE in The Dark Eye system). More patches are being released on a near daily basis with plenty more promised in the future.
Let’s not dwell on what the game was or will be, and instead let’s focus on what it is now: Realms of Arkania is nearly unplayable. Players can build their party of up to six characters out of almost a dozen classes ranging from Warrior to Witch, with a boatload of stats, skills, and spells to tinker. I hope you have a Dark Eye player’s guide handy, because the game does a lousy job of explaining what anything does, and often the tooltips for items are less than helpful, and you don’t even get tooltips explaining what spells do in the middle of battle, so good luck remembering what Plumbumbarum does (pro tip: It reduces the target’s Parry and initiative). It’s not so much an issue of obtuse rules or systems, but that the systems are obscured from the player.
The screenshots on the game’s Steam page make it look like an impressive fantasy adventure, but frankly I’m not sure what sort of wizardry they used to pull that off. Even on the game’s highest of four graphics settings, Fantastic, the game looks old, with character models that unfavorably resemble the 2001 Piranha Bytes RPG Gothic. Whether it’s a townsperson or a robber in combat, everyone animates poorly, clothing clips through the model, and the open-mouthed vacant stares of the market salesmen seem to glaze over your party like a Twilight Zone episode.
The soundtrack consists of a handful of tunes that seem to come and go when they please and a near deafening rain track. Everything is repetitive with obvious looping and nothing really stands out as above adequate. The sounds are cheap and combat is a mostly silent affair; it’s clear many sounds have not yet been implemented. The voice acting is atrocious, with the narrator doing his worst Ira Glass impersonation that makes every descriptive line or dialog read unintentionally laughable. Thankfully, not every line is voiced, but the writing is hardly passable in some cases, most likely due to poor translation.
Don’t buy the 2013 release of Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny. Do yourself a favor and pick up the original trilogy on GOG and save yourself the pain of waiting for this game to be fixed. The game was clearly shoved out the door before it was ready for prime time. With so many options for developers and publishers to explore before releasing a broken game, it’s perhaps more unacceptable than it’s ever been for unfinished game releases. Plenty of unfinished titles are released on Steam Early Access, and titles like Minecraft, Prison Architect and Mercenary Kings show that players are willing to tolerate paying for unfinished games.
The Kickstarter community, with its limitless nostalgia for classic RPGs, would have embraced the idea of a Realms of Arkania remake with open arms. Stay tuned, and I will let you know when this game is done and worthy of your dollars, but sit tight because it might be summer 2014 before that happens.