Arx Fatalis is an atmospheric first person role-playing game developed by Arkane Studios that gives Xbox fans a piece of personal computer gaming. Translated nicely, "Arx" is welcomed addition to the limited Xbox family of role-playing games.

The Game
Arx Fatalis is a similar game to Morrowind, which is a good thing considering Morrowind was one of the best selling games of 2002. Like Morrowind, you will explore a fantasy world and will be granted the same interaction and wide selection of weapons and spells. Arx Fatalis isn't a simple game and it takes about an hour to grow on you. Once you have the control system down and explore the underworld for a while, you will start to realize the brilliance in Arx.

The story starts you out trapped in goblin jail cell with no memories of your situation or who you are. After the jail break you will have to use stealth, force and problem solving skills to escape the goblins clutches and the weaving underground network of the goblin city. Arx Fatalis will have you exploring the underworld and interacting with different races and locations. The storyline behind Arx, as you can guess is dark. Showered in a world which has lost its faith, Life is submerged, the sun is burnt out, and the world is covered in ice. Sounds like a great time. As the game progresses and your memory returns, you will find out the standard save the day plot uncovered. The plot isn't new, but it will keep your interest.

Arx Fatalis gameplay has a number of nice innovations in the way the game interacts with items in the world. It won't be much of a surprise to PC gamers, but console gamers will enjoy these instances greatly. Arx interaction follows close to the grand size of Morrowind, greater and lesser in separate areas. I will go deeper into these interactions in the innovation section of this review.

Graphics & Sound
The graphics are a bit rough due to the abundance of underground textures of browns and grays and due to the fact that it seems like Arkane was working off an older graphics engine. Don't get me wrong, the graphics aren't horrible, but you will notice that they don't hold up to the same quality as other Xbox titles. Luckily the art direction has its act together and gives us interesting landscapes so we can focus on other things besides the polygon counts. Arx Fatalis also holds nothing back when approaching gore and is one of the most visually brutal games I have seen in a while. You will encounter rooms filled with blood, body parts and stripped bones, this to help bring the nature of the characters to life. Goblins and Orcs don't exactly have the best table manners.

One thing you should notice right away in Arx is that they excluded all background music and rely solely on ambiance sounds to keep the player tuned to the game. You wouldn't think this was a wise choice until are walking through pitch black tunnels hearing a shuffling spider legs echoing off the walls. The absence of background music adds more by not being there, and this game wouldn't be on the same level if they would have added some generic medieval soundtrack. My only complaint is that the reverb is a little overdone; they are in caves not stadiums.

Arx Fatalis gameplay is innovative from character controls, to the level of intractability between items and the environment. Arx Fatalis tries hard and convincing makes your character seem alive by adding simple concepts such as hunger. A nice little addition is the way they implemented realism into a basic human need. You simply can't kill an animal and eat its meat to survive. You will need to find a fire and cook all uncooked meat before it is safe to eat. The brilliance in the system is that every once and while your character will get hungry and you will have to eat or suffer fatigue or even death from your actions. Food is plentiful in Arx, if not stolen from someone you can break out a piece of wood and some rope to make a fishing rod, and enjoy some Arx fishing. Great interaction and other other developers should take note.

The spell system is strangely influenced by Capcom styled fighting games. Like pulling off combos with Ryu, you will have to execute combos in different orders to cast spells. If it becomes too much for you Arx does supply an easy way out with the auto cast option. I recommend trying the game with the auto cast option off, and if it becomes too much of a hassle to remember lefts and rights. do the switch.

Arx Fatalis has the mojo - although the game isn't flashy, it has some very memorable sequences. Trying to talk to a dead guy hanging in a cell is pretty cool and pretty useless, but "Arx" throws it all in to build a convincing world that has fallen below earth surface. Arx could use a graphical update and a filter on the echo, but besides that the game is pretty damn cool. The innovations are notable and throwing the meat on the barb-ie to feed the fighters belly is a great option. Arx has the hidden mojo, look hard and you will find.

If you enjoyed Morrowind on the Xbox, Arx Fatalis is a safe bet. Arx Fatalis gives us an adventure without over accentuated anime characters and oversized weapons. Arx brings the Xbox one more great RPG and keeps within the high standards Morrowind set.

Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | January 21st 2004

  • Arx Fatalis is the first real RPG combining an intriguing story, a deep environment, a high level of interactivity, all combined in a user-friendly interface.
  • Arx Fatalis offers a number of interactions with objects and NPCs, realistic action fights, a unique real-time spell casting system, character creation, dialogues, puzzles and exploration in an underground atmospheric world.
  • Explore real cities, underground lakes, natural caves, lava openings, lost civilizations, secret temples, crypts, city sewers, Goblin encampments, Dwarf forgeries and other mystical magic sites.

Arx Fatalis
Arkane Studios
Dec. 2003