Review: Arx Fatalis

Arx Fatalis: a very thin man talking to a bearded man
‘Hello kind Sir, do you have something to eat?’

In ‘Arx Fatalis’ you play as a young man with a serious eating disorder (not the Pac-Man kind, the starving kind), who by the sound of it is wearing high heels all the time. This may sound very edgy and progressive, but ‘Arx Fatalis’ is a classic RPG, which plays in a fairly common fantasy world, that happens to be underground.

It’s clearly an homage to the mighty ‘Ultima Underworld I and II’ and to a certain extend ‘Arx Fatalis’ manages to evoke the eery feeling I had when I played those games. It certainly looks better than games from the early nineties, and it’s still okayish looking for a game from 2002. Especially when you use (and you should) Arx Libertatis, a launcher/mod that makes your life with the game so much easier. It does for example fit the resolution of the game to your futuristic widescreen monitor. Also it makes the game run in the first place. Always a good thing in my book.

I had fun in the beginning. I liked the setting and the atmosphere. It all felt like it received much love from the developers. Luckily I chose to go with a warrior type of character because the draw-by-the-numbers approach to magic, while certainly different, felt impractical. Alas, that brings me to my first point of criticism: balance.

It didn’t take long and my underfed hero was all clad in metal and slicing through trolls like really gross butter. Turns out you are some kind of higher being anyway (spoiler!) but it’s no fun playing an overpowered semi-god so soon. I also didn’t like that at some points I had no idea who to talk to next to progress the story and get to the next quest. I caught myself seeking support from a walkthrough guide – never a good sign.

That’s not Lord British!

Then summer happened and I didn’t play for a while, at least not ‘Arx Fatalis’ and now that I want to continue on the mountain, I realize that I have no wish to go back to the game. It doesn’t feel as exciting and vast as the ‘Ultima Underworlds’ did, which might be an unfair comparison, because when I played those games I was younger than ‘Arx Fatalis’ is now and the point in time when I played them reaches back more years than ‘Arx Fatalis’ is old. This sentence made me sad in several ways. Also by today’s standards the ‘Yes you got us the magic thing. Now, we need another magic thing, but first you need to get two other magic things to get to the thing.’-school of writing doesn’t impress as much. Back then people even thought that spelling names backwards was a very clever thing to do.

I made a screenshot of the menu by accident.

I got through roughly half of the game, but since it’s a roleplaying game I will  pretend my character starved to death in one of them caves. I enjoyed the time I spent with him, but I also don’t feel like going back in there to drag out his sad remains. If you are very hungry, for RPGs, you should give it a shot. Bring food.

Info: ‘Arx Fatalis’ was developed by Arkane Studios and released in 2002. Get it at GOG or Steam.

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