It’s not often that a videogame fills you with quite so much emotion, and for the most part, when it does, it’s a good thing. You perhaps feel that he medium is evolving, and beginning to plumb depths that were entirely off limits to it a decade ago. No, it’s encouraging to see video games elicit joy, fear, triumph and the like. Except when you’re playing Venetica.
This is mainly because the emotions it draws forth from your mind are wholly negative ones. Hatred, claustrophobia, anger and frustration are your four bedfellows for this woeful title, and you’ll be snuggling up nice and tight for the duration of your time with them.
So, think action RPG from the Fable stable, and water it down… a lot. That’s essentially what you have in Venetica. There are a few elements reminiscent of Baldur’s Gate, but in general you’re looking at a really, really poor man’s Fable II. The lead character in this scruffy, hobo version of the old Xbox franchise is Scarlett, a Lara Croft look-a-like who has all the charm and charisma of an ailing leper. You’re aided by various other-worldly buddies, such as your father, Death, as well as a couple of rather camp locksmiths to mention but a few. Your chisel-jawed, soon-to-be husband has been slain while protecting you from a seemingly random attack, and you decide to set out on a quest for revenge, peace or the chance to bring hubby back to life, depending on your choices throughout the game.
Everything present in this slurry of a game sits somewhere between adequate and dreadful. You can’t identify a single element which deserves anything more than a passable grade at best. The visuals are budget as anything, the voice acting is woeful, and the combat (of which there is a fair bit) is shockingly bad. And this theme continues with elements like the inventory – you have a fairly standard inventory system, but if you want to use more than one item at a time, you have to repeatedly delve into and out of the inventory.
But what’s worse – much, much worse – is the pure evil of the maps. It’s like they’ve been generated by some malicious game developer who desperately wants to mildly upset gamers. Well, if this was his master plan, it’s worked with us. We feel genuinely upset at having had to play this tripe, and the bunching in our shoulders is testament to just how frustrating these maps are. There aren’t too many of them – a mere handful per level – but they’re just sprawling enough to make them reasonably impressive… were it not for the fact that it feels like they’ve been made from the same set of four textures: door, floor and two wall textures. This, combined with their multi-tiered labyrinthine nature makes navigating any area a complete nightmare. Add to this the haphazard and unnecessary nature of many of the locations, and you get the distinct feeling that the whole game has been put together by paraplegic chimps with lower-than-average spacial awareness.
What really drags it from being one of those guilty pleasure-style lovable budget titles to being totally unworthy of your time is the simple fact that there’s nothing enjoyable about it. There are no epic scenes, no exciting twists and no real feeling of achievement. You can complete a trifling task for what seems like a minor character, and receive far more benefit than the main story arc. The choices you make feel utterly without effect, and the weapons are so dreadfully dull that upgrading them is nigh on pointless.
There are two possible outcomes to you buying Venetica, so we’ll outline them for you. Firstly, you could walk into your local game vendor, hand over some money, head home and put it in your machine before playing it for around two hours in the hope that something good will happen. When your patience runs out, and you realise that no amount of necromancy spells will make this game playable, you turn it off and try to claw some of your money back by trading it in.
The other alternative is that you smear yourself with peanut butter, run naked to your local vendor, gibbering merrily, hand over the money and head home to enjoy what you think is a good game. Then, once you’ve completed one story arc, you’ll go on to the others… because you’re quite clearly mad.
In short, the best thing about this game is the story. The trouble is that the story is a bit rubbish as well. And even if it weren’t, it’s dished out in such a slapdash fashion, and by such lame characters that you’d be hard pushed to enjoy it anyway. There are too many significantly better action RPG titles out there for you to bother with this, and the fact that it’s an emotional experience doesn’t make a jot of difference, it’s still unutterably bad.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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