Sunday, December 20, 2015


I am quite sceptical of games made by small companies with little reputation. With known developers and large publishers, the large amount of money spent shows in some way even if the title is bad. But when an unknown company makes a bad game, it tends to be shit through and through. Regardless, I decided to give Venetica a go for it being a fantasy-themed RPG and having a female protagonist

In the world of Venetica, Death is a position to which a new person is chosen every now and then by some mysterious council called Corpus. Death then carries his duties from the Twilight World until someone else replaces him. However, the next candidate, Victor, did not turn out to be well-fitted for the job, as he does not plan to give up the position once he gets it.

You play as Scarlett, who is the daughter of the current Death. It somehow falls to you to stop Victor and his goons as Victor has become undead and immune to Death's powers. The love of Scarlett's life, Benedict, is also killed at the beginning by Victor's minions. This creates a moral struggle -- are you attempting to stop Victor for the sake of balance or are you there just for revenge.

Your decisions throughout the game decide which ending you will get. It was not clear how exactly this worked but most of the time the choices were very obvious, and I got the good ending I aimed for. Venetica reminded me very much of Fable, though it does not have the same level of silliness that game had. It is not without humor either, however.

The gameplay is also similar; third-person hack and slash with (death-themed) magic. Parrying is as useless as it was in Fable. Rolling behind enemies is much more effective than waiting for them to attack your parry so that you can riposte. Enemy parry does not happen quite as often but sometimes they do interrupt your combo. Overall I found Venetica's combat to be entertaining, sometimes even flashy with how the moonblade swings have light trails.

I wish there were more slots in the action bar, though. I ran out of room rather fast. Also, the way the interact key is the LMB, and changes to CTRL + LMB when a weapon is drawn is one of the stupidest user interface design decisions of all time. How does one even come up with such an idea. I am sure it is possible to have a separate key for it even on controller that apparently has the same deal.

I give the game a bonus point for having an option to lock the mini-map from rotating, though. And the ability to zoom the camera in and out was also unexpected. Many third-person games do not allow you to do so even though there is no reason not to.

The biggest problems Venetica has are on the technical side. And I think they might be a good reason to avoid it altogether. I first installed the game on my old machine as it seemed to meet the recommended specs. However, even on lowest settings Venetica ran like absolute ass on it. And so I switched to my newer setup. But even with a two years old i5 and GTX 970, FPS would drop near 30 at some locations.

The game looks prettier in the screenshots than I remember it being. The textures definitely could have been sharper, though. I think there actually is a mod somewhere that adds higher quality textures but I did not bother to find it. I was also surprised how few different armors there were for Scarlett. I was expecting a whole lot more.

And then there were the breaking of vases. Every first vase I broke after a loading screen would cause the game simply to freeze for a half a second. Like it suddenly had to load something of considerable size from the hard drive.

Sadly, that is not even all of the trouble I had. Venetica also has serious stability issues that might prevent one from finishing it. At the first boss the game would crash every time I broke down the last pillar. But I kept trying (the definition of insanity, I guess) and then on the fourth attempt or so -- where I died once (Scarlett is not killed that easily) -- I suddenly was not greeted by my desktop and got past that phase instead.

Also later on, when talking to Leon, Venetica would always crash when exiting the dialogue. Luckily, talking to him at that point is optional. I also experienced one random crash at the palace after a loading screen. Deck13 Interactive seems to have acknowledged the problems on Steam forums but since that was in January, I doubt the crashes will ever be fixed.

The game's English localization (Deck13 is from Germany) is somewhat shoddy too. Voice-acting varies from passable to terrible, and the subtitles have numerous errors in them. Sometimes the lines are completely different to what the character actually said.

With all that, I cannot recommend Venetica, even if it was a fairly enjoyable experience. I think I should try to get better at avoiding games that have multiple technical issue topics on their forum.

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