The First Person Perspective
The majority of Arx Fatalis will be played from a 1st person view. The reasoning behind this decision is a far greater sense of immersion for the player. Arkane Studios will use the 1st person view to help bring an atmosphere of fear, claustrophobia and dread to the underground realm of Arx. Again the immersion will also be helped simply by having a view that gives a greater sense of realism. The team knew from the very beginning that playing from a 3rd person, or isometric view would only serve to disparage the illusion of the dark, alternate reality they were creating.
That being said, the game will also contain a number of in-game cinematics at various points in the story, these will switch the view to a third person perspective, allowing you to see your character in all his glory and watch the story unfold.
To further aid player immersion it was also decided that the game needs a simple, easy to use and relatively hidden interface. The idea is to allow the players to perform the many complex “in game” actions, with minimum “out of game” complexity and without flooding the player with statistical information. This means that the skills were made as generic as possible – For example the Mechanics skill combines picklocking, trap disarming, repairing and other mechanical based actions into one generic skill. Simple mouse actions will allow players to quickly perform tasks such as giving items, combining items, activating objects and communicating with NPCs.
This combines with a clear, easy to read, in-game book that serves as an inventory system and statistical data screen. You can find some shots of the interface in our screenshot archive.
Skills and Attributes
Although simplified, stats are by no means forgotten and play a very important role in Arx. As a player kills monsters and solves quests he is rewarded with experience points, after a certain number of experience points are gained the character raises to the next level. Each time the character raises a level he is given a number of skill points with which to increase his skills. Depending on the character’s attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence and Constitution) the amount of skill points required to raise a particular skill will vary. For example a warrior type character with high strength and low intelligence will be able to raise combat skills for considerably less points than he would magic skills. This also prevents characters from mastering every available skill and requires more specialization.
Thanks to the TTLG interview with Raphael Colantonio we currently know of 10 skills that are in the game: Mechanics (combines lockpicking, trap disarming, repair), Object Knowledge (lore, trading, repair weapons, weapons id), Stealth, Casting, Backstab, Awareness (shows hidden objects, warns in case of monsters), Projectile Weapons, One Handed Weapons, Two Handed Weapons and Parry (a defensive skill).
Combat and Stealth System
Arx uses an action based combat system that is similar to the one used in the Ultima Underworld games. Holding down the attack button prepares the strike and releasing then swings the weapon, the longer the button is held the more power will be put into the blow and thus the more damaging the attack will be. Damage is also affected by your weapon skills, strength, opponents defense and the stats of the weapon that you’re wielding. The action based combat enables a variety of options, creeping around behind an opponent to get in a backstab, running to avoid blows as you attempt to prepare your spell or maneuvering to get in that fatal blow. Equipping a shield also gives you the option of trying to block your enemies’ attacks.
All monsters in the game have realistic sight and hearing, this introduces some stealth elements as seen in games like Deus Ex and the Thief series. Make too much noise and monsters will hear you, hide in the darkness and they will have difficulty seeing you. This means you can actually hide from monsters and attempt to sneak around them without notice, making stealth and darkness every thief’s best friend. Sneak past monsters to avoid combat, or perhaps place your dagger in their back with the Backstab skill.
One of the most anticipated features of Arx Fatalis is the unique magic system that the game offers. Magic in the world of Arx is a ritualistic art form; to incorporate this into the game all spells are cast with a series of hand gestures by drawing a series of unique runes on screen with the mouse. Once a correct combination of runes is traced then the spell can be cast. Each rune has a unique meaning and represents a word, allowing clever players to discover the combinations for some spells by themselves. All this is done to help bring playing the role of a spell caster to life.
In total the game will contain more than 50 different spells!
Interaction with NPCs and Objects
Interaction is a key part of Arx. Objects can be manipulated and NPCs (Non-Player Characters) can be dealt with in a variety of ways. Before charging straight into combat you might want to try talking or dealing with the creature. That troll might have some information you find very useful… Though there is a large amount of dialogue in Arx, it is never unnecessary. A good example of this is buying objects from a store; instead of entering a dialogue mode you simple need to drag the items from the shelves and onto your belt, if you can afford the item then you can do the deal!
Objects can also be combined and used both together and with the environment in many different ways. Like the interaction seen in Ultima 7, only much more of it and on a larger scale! From something as minor as using flower together with water to create dough and then with a nice, hot fire creating some delicious bread. Add an apple into the mix and you can make apple pie, which in turn can be eaten by the character or even sold to NPCs!
To something bigger like using a narcotic to poison a water supply in order to take out a guard. Simply place the substance in the water and then watch and wait as the thirsty guard comes to take a drink of the water and then falls unconscious to the floor!
Another example demonstrated recently at the 2001 E3 showed the character listening to a conversation between two Goblin guards. One of the guards is complaining about another Goblin named Zuk, who keeps leaving dirty plates on the table. The Goblin guard boasts that if Zuk leaves another dirty plate on the table then he will punch his lights out. On hearing this the player took his character to find Zuk, who just so happened to have left a dirty plate on the table beside him. The player then picked up the dirty plate, carried it back to the guardroom and placed it on the table. Once the complaining guard noticed the plate, he stomped out of the room to find Zuk and true to his words proceeded to punch his lights out! (thanks to Fafhrd for being at E3 to see this and then tell us about it!)