Venetica ReviewPublisher: DTP Publishing
, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
UK Price (as reviewed): £27.99 inc. VAT
US Price (as reviewed): $32.99 exc. Tax
Released almost exactly a year ago in Germany, Venetica received moderate praise as an interesting and entertaining RPG. Review scores were admirable without being astonishing, even in a country famed for its addiction to this particular genre. One year later and its finally due to try and carve itself a path within the gaming market on our little island among a mass of similar titles.
Venetica begins in bombastic style, with the protagonists home village under merciless attack. After a brief bit of brawling in your tattered night dress whilst wielding a poker, your character, Scarlett, is saved by her one true love laying down his life in place of hers. So far, so standard.
You’re then magically confronted by a spiritual entity, and informed that you need to find the mythical Moonblade to slaughter the Undead Archon with, allowing you to once again bring peace to the world. It's a sudden change of pace and potentially an exciting one, but while the names might sound a little different to the usual orcs and goblins, there’s nothing genuinely fresh on show.
Leaving on a fairly rickety looking boat
Likewise, Scarlett's ability to enter some form of spirit world in order to kill enemies and enter previously inaccessible areas is neither fresh, nor truly worth the inclusion. Every area where you'd use the ability is obviously signposted, turning what could have been an interesting gameplay mechanic into just another key to unlock certain doors.
It's a stain of disappointment which permeates through almost the entire experience. You'll frequently find yourself within fairly small areas with a number of NPC's willing to give you only the time of day. Some will offer a story sensitive mission that needs to be completed in order to progress. Others will hand over the kind of bog standard RPG busy-work that always seems to see the titular 'hero' becoming the general dogsbody for the entire village. The word 'generic' starts to spring to mind very early on.
Technically, Venetica is a few steps below what you'd usually expect from a modern RPG. Visually it's incredibly basic, with fairly solid animation being the only real bit which cuts the mustard. Clipping occurs even within the intro movie, and voice actors begin to obviously repeat within the first half hour. Character faces and models also loop phenomenally quickly, giving less an idea of an expansive world to explore, and more the impression of a backwater inbred village.
Giant enemy crab attack!
Texture-wise things are usually pretty ugly, yet at points the bar is raised to a fairly lofty position. The slight shimmering effects you'll witness while wielding one of your many pieces of weaponry in particular are actually quite attractive indeed.
The saving grace is the combat system. Timing is absolutely key in Venetica's otherwise simplistic combat engine, with each slash of your weapon able to be transformed into a combo by initiating another attack just as the first is coming to its conclusion. At which point a second, much more powerful attempt will be unleashed.
Combo's are the true key to success, with simple button mashing one sure fire way of getting physically demolished each and every time you come up against a tricky foe. The timing is loose enough to make sure that you're not left frustrated by frequent failure, yet restricted enough to keep combat to a moderately tricky level.