Crafting a solid gaming experience is much like putting together a puzzle. Regardless of if you have all the pieces directly in front of you, if you can’t get them to fit together the puzzle remains a broken mess. Venetica, an action roleplaying game, is one of those puzzles.
Reminiscent of Microsoft’s Fable series, Venetica puts players in the role of the tough but beautiful Scarlett. After a rather drawn out, if somewhat interactive opening, Scarlett finds out she is the daughter of Death and must set out on a grand quest to defeat an evil necromancer and ultimately save the world. Once the introductions are over the game settles into pretty standard action roleplaying tropes.
It is quite obvious that developer Deck 13 took some major inspiration from the Fable series as the game plays very similar to that series. Combat can be as simple as a single button press or it can involve multiple spells, timing based attacks, and an agility based defense system. It all comes down to your personal preference and I have to give it credit for making it easily accessible for all types of gamers yet complex enough that more experienced players can get something out of it.
And that right there is the extent of the credit this game deserves because in nearly every area of its game design, Venetica is missing pieces to complete the puzzle. They are all there readily visible for anyone who has ever played a game of this type but Deck 13 was not able to get them to fit together.
I love reading the back of game boxes because they always tend to oversell and embellish the features included. Venetica is no different, boasting a few drastic embellishments and one outright misrepresentation.
One blurb states that Venetica is “A visually stunning cinematic RPG with a truly unique atmosphere”. Venetica looks good, if this was four years ago. It very much looks like first cycle XBOX 360 game and the atmosphere of Venetica is about as unique as every other cliché riddled fantasy story. Textures are dull and repeated To be fair Venetica is presented in a very cinematic way but this is not going to be a game you are going to showcase to your friends.
The dated visuals are not the only visual issues the game has though, as Venetica may qualify as one of the buggiest releases ever on the XBOX 360. During my playthrough of the game I ran into multiple game killing bugs. Scripted sequences would fail to load, locking Scarlett in place and forcing the game not only to be reset but to have to be restarted as well. I also ran into missing NPCs in cutscenes but they still delivered their dialog and at least in those situations I was able to progress.
The biggest issue with the game though is its boasting that it “is a vast, open game world, bustling with life”. Venetica is an open world game but claiming it is bustling with life is only true if medieval Venice was populated by a handful of people and they all looked the same. While Ubisoft’s blockbuster title, Assassin’s Creed II, is in no way directly comparable to Venetica in terms of gameplay, the setting can not help but be compared. And simply put Venetica looks amateurish.
If you can get past the graphical flaws and lack of immersion, Venetica does boast an intricate narrative that, while not entirely original in its execution, is entertaining. It also has a solid combat system that if explored thoroughly could offer some exciting battles that will see Scarlett dodging, blocking, parrying and using the intuitive timing system against throngs of enemies. The timing based combat can be quite rewarding if executed properly, although Scarlett can become something of an unstoppable force, especially if paired with the right magical abilities.
But that is all the game really offers and fighting through the game killing bugs, graphical glitches and general lack of polish in regards to near every aspect of the game is a bit of a chore. Games should be fun and there is nothing, not even a discounted price point, that will help that out. Venetica is a title that if it had come out in January 2008, it might have found an audience, if only because of a lack of competition. Unfortunately for it though, Venetica has come out in January 2011 and with the industry moving to a year round release schedule it is hard to recommend Venetica to anyone when there are other, better, games out there to be played.
2 out of 5.