Arx Fatalis is not the type of game I am usually interested in. It has the same type of play mechanics as some of my favorite games like the System Shock series and the Deus Ex series, but I’ve never been big into the deep PC RPG games like Morrowind that this game plays a lot like.

I sat down with this game without any preconceived notions and I have to say what I played of this game I found enjoyable. Sure, there are obviously some problems with the game, but I had a heck of a lot easier time grasping this game than I ever did with Morrowind. I know many out there have put over 200 hours into Morrowind, but I would never be able to find that kind of time. Arx Fatalis is certainly not as long or open-ended as Morrowind, but it is a pretty good RPG in and of itself and something that people that didn’t play the PC version (like myself) should think about picking up.

Arx Fatalis is a bit different from other PC RPGs, although it does share a lot in common with the Ultima Underworld series. The people of Arx Fatalis have gone underground since the sun disappeared. The overworld is now full of ice and all the races have set up camp underground. Basically this means Arx Fatalis is a dungeon crawling game, although it is a very good one.

The graphics of Arx Fatalis are not the best around, but I would say it runs at a better clip than at least the original Morrowind release on the Xbox. The fact that this game is played inside of dungeons would usually mean that it is going to look rather bland and lifeless, but I beg to differ. The dungeons themselves are well done, but where the graphics are weak is in the character movement and look.

The sad thing is that there is no fluid movement in characters…in fact they seem to stutter along, basically jumping frames where it would be cool to see them in a nice smooth movement. The character graphics in themselves are a little too blocky and the main character (you can choose 4 faces) looks as if he hasn’t been eating much. Relatively big chest area, but supermodel-like belly area. He basically looks like a freak of nature. Many of the enemies share that same problem, although some of them look very good.

The graphics won’t win any awards, but they do a good job of keeping the framerate pretty constant and making the game look pretty good.

There is very little music in this game, much like Morrowind. Obviously when you have a huge quest that can take over 40 hours (or 200 in Morrowind’s case), music is the least of your worries. Anyway, who needs music when you’re stuck in a dungeon? Sure, some moody music might work, but it’s much better to just hear the ambient sounds. That is where Arx Fatalis thrives.

The ambient sounds are fantastic on this game. One big plus is that every line of dialogue spoken in this game. They add realistic effects to the voices that you would probably hear if you were stuck underground with walls all around you. When you get into combat mode the sounds are excellent as well. The weapons sound like themselves and the death noises are just excellent.

Overall the sound section is excellent and I cannot fault them for not having much music in the game at all.

Here are the controls for the game:

Left analog stick – moves/peek (pressed)
Right analog stick – look/crouch (pressed)
D-pad – inventory
L trigger – jump
R trigger – weapon attack
A button – action
B button – draw weapon
X button – cast spell
Y button – set precast spell/cast precast spell
Back button – character menu

Everything is serviceable with the controls, although I had a few problems with them that can obviously be contributed to the Xbox controller. Arx Fatalis is played totally in a first person perspective. The sensitivity of the right analog stick seemed a little weak. You press it just barely and you would over shoot an item in your cursor. Same thing happened in fights where the right analog stick, if slightly moved, would over shoot the enemy. I can only imagine how much easier this was on the PC when it first came out.

As is usual in the PC RPG world, you play a character that wakes up in a cage and amnesia (Planescape: Torment anyone?). Your first job is to get out of the cage and start on your quest. In the beginning the game does a good job of teaching you everything you need to know. How to use objects, how to choose things out of your inventory, etc.

This game is pretty non-linear, although there is an obvious storyline going on. You can choose to take up quests or not take up quests, much like Morrowind. I had another problem with this game and that is the character’s constant need for food. Since it shares a bunch in common with Ultima Underworld, it is not surprising that food is a necessity in this game. The cool thing is that you can do such things as build yourself a fishing rod, fish and cook the fish in order to eat. However I’ve always felt that, although realistic, the reliance on food in order to survive in an RPG is something that belongs on the cutting room floor.

What I am most scared of is that many people won’t give this game a chance. I feel it is easier to pick up and play than Morrowind. Fact is I’m not a big Morrowind fan and I turned it off after just a while (blasphemy…I know) and when I put Arx Fatalis in my Xbox I had the feeling it would go the way of Morrowind for me, but I was greatly surprised. Maybe it is because this game shares more with System Shock in overall feel. For $30 you really can’t go wrong if you’ve already played through Morrowind and/or Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

$30 for a pretty good RPG is a darn good deal, so obviously this game has the value to spare. It is also a pretty long game in itself. It certainly doesn’t come close to the amount of hours it can take to go through Morrowind and its expansions, but this game should keep you glued to your screen for a while. Arkane Studios has done a wonderful job in transferring this PC game onto the Xbox where hopefully even more people can enjoy it.

If you’re all KOTOR or Morrowinded out, Arx Fatalis is a really great RPG to pick up and play for the low price of $30 (same as the new Morrowind). Also for those people looking for an RPG to play on the Xbox and maybe haven’t played those other two this is also a good game to pick up.

If you’re looking for a “balls to the wall” action game it would probably be smart to look elsewhere though. I am one of those people that have been converted by Arx Fatalis. I thought for sure I would hate it, but I have totally loved it since I first put it in my Xbox.