Venetica is an RPG set in a fantastical version of 16th century Venice in which you play Scarlett, the daughter of death, attempting to save her father and the entire world from a secret society of necromancers. On paper it certainly sounds like it could be a more individual entry into a genre famed for its sword swinging meatheads and faux Tolkien-esque stylings. In fact Deck 13’s attempt at the genre is so bad on so many levels it’s best that it sank beneath the surface of the Venetian lagoon along with the city it so woefully emulates.

Its first strike is graphics. Immediately dismiss from your mind any memories of the ravishing city lovingly recreated in Assassin’s Creed II – although admittedly this is an unfair comparison, akin to mentioning JMW Turner’s masterful rendering of the Grand Canal alongside a holiday daubing by your crazy aunt Dolly. The city here is a frustrating maze of bland textures, and given the size of the place the game’s mini-map is woefully inadequate for orientating yourself, meaning that most of the game’s mere fifteen hours play time is spent running around in circles and swearing. Oh, there’s a spell you can cast that unleashes a raven that’s supposed to guide you to your objective, but like most other things it doesn’t work very well and more often than not just flies into the side of the nearest building (indeed a similar suicidal impulse possessed me as I played the game).

In a shocking example of down-right fibbing from the PR department the game’s box boasts the following: “A visually stunning, cinematic RPG with a truly unique atmosphere”. The designers do at least attempt to create memorable environments, that much is true, but are constantly foiled by the appalling engine they are working with. Your first approach to the fabled city, for instance, could have been special indeed: a windmill perched on a rocky outcrop leads down to pristine shoreline, as a giant marble bridge sweeps majestically across the sparkling waters to your destination, seemingly floating on the horizon. At least that’s what was in their heads. Realising this panorama in graphics that would have seemed clunky and outdated in the early days of the PS2 is about as easy as making a replica of the Taj Mahal out of dry sand. What’s more the whole thing is so clearly attempting to ape Fable’s uniquely charming look that it’s often embarrassing to watch.

The next big problem is the game mechanics and in particular combat, which makes or breaks an action RPG. Although the game attempts to give you an assortment of moves and strategies – including rolls, blocks and flowing combos – because of some truly bad AI and a camera that seems to have a mind of its own, fights are a truly frustrating experience. The only strategy that really works is to run behind someone and mash a button until they fall over. Enemy strikes hit you even when you think you’re out of harm’s way (or behind them) and even the most insignificant looking crab is able to drain your health with a series of unavoidable snips of its pincers. God help you if enemies actually manage to surround you.

The final straw is the game’s shoddy story. Frankly looking at any preview video of the game it’s clear that it’s not going to win any awards for graphics, but recent titles such as Deadly Premonition demonstrate that even on a next gen console a game can get away with shit graphics as long as it excels in other areas. Publishers DTP Entertainment AG have a good pedigree in Point and Click adventures on the PC with games like the atmospheric Black Mirror II in their portfolio and will also soon be releasing Gray Matter, the eagerly awaited new adventure from Jane Jensen, creator of the canonical Gabriel Knight series. You’d think that some of that experience crafting original adventures with deep narratives and insightful script writing would have filtered through into Venetica – sadly this is not the case. Instead it’s like watching an amateur theatre production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Gondoliers, except without the funny songs.







One response to “Venetica”

  1. Dean avatar

    I guess everyone is too busy being outraged at the latest Call of Duty review and blogs on WOW and Fallout to bother commenting on a review of a rubbish F-list RPG knock off:)

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