Rhetorical question time – What makes a Role Playing Game great?
Obviously, this will differ between individual taste – but I think within the genre we can account for specific traits, and their importance to the overall quality of a game:
- Plot: Planescape Torment is considered one of the best PC role playing games of all time. Pull up any “Best of” list, and Planescape is always hanging out in the top ten – if it’s not sitting directly at number one. Why? It’s not the combat system, which is mediocre at best, or your various options for character builds. It’s the story. Crap combat, little customization, and yet it gets cited as one of the best of all time – that’s the power of story.
Aarklash Legacy’s story is shit.
Sure, If I elevator pitched you the plot, you might be intrigued – A group of fantasy debt collectors are sent to call on a debtor. This debtor, he is not so receptive. He is also a Baron, and he decides that not only is your party not taking your collateral, he’s outlawed you from his country with orders to kill on site.
Your group has to fight their way out of his lands and back to the relative safety of their repo headquarters. Also, there is a deeper evil behind their blacklisting (because of course there is), and they must come together to unveil the perpetrator.
Sounds promising right? Not a bad frame to build on, and there’s a number of ways you could take it – maybe some political intrigue, red herrings and clues before the villain shows their face; All bog standard stuff, sure, but it doesn’t mean it’s inherently bad.
So, where do the writers/developers take the plot?
That’s not hyperbole either, the plot outline I gave – except for one anti-climactic villain reveal – is the entirety of the plot. Somewhere during development ideas were flowing for mechanics, and lore, and then – what about the plot? I don’t know… shit here’s a cocktail napkin, we’ll flesh it out later – except they never did.
Still… plot isn’t everything.
2. Character Build: Baldur’s Gate had a relatively weak overarching plot, but it’s still a classic. Baldur’s gate also offered you the diversity and complexity of Dungeons and Dragons character builds. By the end of the game your main character was firmly yours, the result of build choices you had made over the hours you played. You also gathered a party of diverse class and skills.
Aarklash doesn’t have that either. You get four party members at a time – there are eight in total – and they all boil down to the same four basic roles – Tank, Healer, Mage, and Damage Dealer.
3. Roleplaying: Not a single option in the game. No Biowarian morality choices, no dialogue choices, nothing.
4. Sidequests: There’s barely even a main quest! None.
5. Economy: Even though you are Debt Collectors, nope.
6. Loot? …
7. Character Design? Well… let’s take a look:
The closest thing to a”main character” Aarklash legacy has, Nella isthe leader of your mercenary repo-men – or a Qour of Wheel Sword’s according to the game. After all, why use real English words when you can make up silly bullshit words to fill your lore, I just…- anyways – she fills one of the two Mage roles. She has a Harley Quinn vibe going on with the colors, and that hat, but similarities end there. She’s straitlaced and commanding, and the fulcrum of the plot – such as there is. In spite of her flamboyant outfit, she’s pretty boring.
Now we’re talking! Knokka is one of your starting party members, and she’s your first Tank. Also she is some sort of T-Rex, Human, Mime, Robot hybrid, that wears flesh colored Hammer pants. I think. (Well, I know she wears hammer pants, the rest is speculation) Her voice actor is awful, and reads all of her lines like a little girl, even though she’s a towering behemoth holding a tree trunk sized sword. She is, truly, a study in contrasts.
Interestingly, when I was looking through the achievement section I found one suggesting that a romantic relationship can develop between Knokka and the Frenz, the Dwarf. Somehow, I missed this heartwarming tale. I guess it goes to show that love transcends all obstacles, including inter-species love and the difficulty of being a giant robot mime face monster with the personality of a child.
Take that Republicans.
Devlin has a rat poking out of his hat both in his portrait and in his in game model. The rat is never mentioned or touched on in anyway. I like to imagine they are best friends, they’ve gotten each other out of so many jams! Hat Rat keeps Devlin grounded, but Devlin pushes him to reach for the stars – they truly compliment each other.
Devlin is a goblin, or at least that’s what the game says. I’m convinced he is a bird-man, and in fact only found out he was a “goblin” after actually reading his Biography in preparation for this entry. Look at that picture though! His nose might as well be a beak. Devlin has the whole Vase/Face illusion thing going on. He also has the whole does an unbelievable amount of damage per second thing going on – he’s a damage dealer and back stabber, but he’s weak as hell – all his skills are centered around minimizing enemies attacking him and maximizing how much he wrecks.
Wendaroo is one of your starting characters, and despite having a name that makes me immediately think “Kanagaroo” she is actually a dog, and a healer. She is also, without a doubt, the most useful character in the game. Wendaroo can heal quickly, buff your party up, and eventually cast spells that basically make your party invincible.
This is a shame, because she is unbearable. Everytime she speaks, Wendaroo throws in some sort of growl, whine, yelp, or howl – just to really drive home that she’s a dog.
Now imagine these words spoken by a voice actress who vacillates between “Wise Earth Mother” and Nelson Muntz, and who literally says the word growl in place of a growl.
Wendaroo was included in the game to appeal to the market of horny fanboys that love scantily clad DogWomen. After all, nothing says sexy like a rabid dog shoved into a too small tubetop stepping on stage at the local strip club.
Leck Lorus is the first additional character you find in game. He’s a ghost, with chains wrapped around him. This likely represents the guilt from his life he’s still chained too, or you know, cause Ghosts wear chains, like Jakob Marley. Leck Lorus is mage No. 2 – for me, literally – I only used him when it was required. Otherwise he went on the bench with the rest of the B-squad. Luckily, every cut scene with dialogue includes all your active and non-active party members. I say luckily, because if not I wouldn’t get to hear Leck Lorus delightful vocal performance. Everyyyyyy worrrrdddd heeeee sayyyyssss isssss hunggggg witttthhhh Ghoooosttllly Vibrattttoooo – again because he’s a ghost.
Frenz is a Dwarf, and this is a Western RPG, so you know he has a Scottish accent. The nice thing about Aarklash Legacy is that there was clearly a lot of effort and thought put into the art of these characters. Frenz, the bio tells us, like to experiment with dangerous weapons, etc – and it appears based on the burn marks on his face and arms that it wasn’t the most successful endeavor. A little bit outside your normal Dwarf characterization.
He also shoots guns and falls in love with things that are an affront to God.
Motcha is the Orc Shaman and second healer of the group. He speaks with a Jamaican accent, and is the most prominent figure in advertising for Aarklash Legacy. I think he has about three lines. He had some decent spells, but I kept him benched – because decent spells don’t make your party invincible. Which is unfortunate, because he absolutely aced the prerequisite of not being a near naked Dog Woman.
Bo Lahm is an Ogre. The second tank, and a miserable failure for me. The purpose of a Tank is to draw attacks, keeping your squishy mages, healers and damage dealers safe. The purpose of Bo Lahm was to stumble around like a drunken toddler, do little to no damage, knock over his own teammates, and then die. Go to hell Bo Lahm.
And that’s it – barring one to two other NPC’s. That’s your cast of characters. They interact with each other throughout, have conversations peppered with Lore that means nothing to the narrative and are never explained, and despite never actually seeing them bond, by the end of the game they are basically a family.
Still, as much as I make fun, I can’t deny that there is an energy to the design and illustrations of these characters – it’s a little bat shit crazy, but they have interesting designs, and I do like them. They certainly beat the standard – Elves, Dwarves, Humans trio most Fantasy games rely on. Unfortunately the designs are in service to weak characterization and poor storytelling.
So the character designs are cool, the rest of the game is just okay – “so,” you ask, “is this game even worth looking into?”
Well, slow down friend, because I haven’t even touched on the combat.
The combat is… incredible.
But I’ll touch on that more next time.