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Video Game / Arx Fatalis

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Arx Fatalis, made by Arkane Studios, is a first-person Western RPG/Immersive Sim that was intended as a Spiritual Successor to the Ultima Underworld series, and has become something of a Cult Classic.

Your character wakes up in a prison with amnesia, and soon finds out (unless you watched the intro, in which case, you already know) he is in a world where the sun has burned out and various different races (through a rare moment of cooperation) have been forced to move into underground Dwarven tunnels and rebuild. After escaping, the Human player character heads for the now-underground Human Kingdom of Arx Fatalis in hope of finding his purpose.

The gameplay itself is very free-roaming after the initial tutorial sections, and many sections can be solved in different ways depending on the specialty skills the player has chosen. A notable feature is the magic system, which requires the player to cast spells by making various mouse gestures.


Arx Fatalis provides examples of:

  • Adipose Rex: Just take a look at the Goblin King's belly, seriously take a look at it. He sure loves his pies.
  • Advancing Boss of Doom: Black Beast.
  • All Just a Dream: The most frightening scene in the game involves Alia and Am Shagar sitting on the bed (possibly after a sexual intercourse). Camera cuts to Alia's face, which suddenly transforms into ghoul-like creature from the crypt. The next second the scene repeats itself, but without her transformation.
  • All Myths Are True: Unless you take the time to read all the books, you may miss the one that names some of the gods that inhabit, or have inhabited the Noden, such as Akbaa, Ftaghn-Nayak, Aldor and Zeus...
  • Amnesiac Hero: You wake up in a cell and the first thing the protagonist mentions to his fellow cellmate is that he doesn't remember his memory. The game's story involves saving the world while also trying to rebuild your memory.
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  • Apocalypse How: A bit of a strange example as, while the sun burning out has caused somewhat of an apocalypse, most have survived it. Also the ending suggests there is hope of moving back to the surface in the future, as it shows the sun is not in fact out, but merely obscured by a cloud of dust in space.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Lightning Bolt and Slow Time.
  • Bad with the Bone: Guess what is Am Shaegar's first weapon.
  • Bandit Mook: Ratmen can steal your money during a fight.
  • BFS: Inut's Giant Magic Sword. A lesser one is Giant Slayer blade. They, however, require a great strength to use.
  • Beneath the Earth: The game is set in a world where the sun was blocked out and most civilizations moved into the underground, into massive cavern systems and the dwarven mines, where they rebuild their towns and cities.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Everything seems to be okay, Akbaa is banished forever, his cult is wrecked and beheaded, king Lunshire meets his long-lost daughter and "rebels", who turn to be her protectors, probably will rejoin Arx kingdom... but they are still forced to live underground and neither the Am Shaegar nor Noden have power to bring the sun back to Arx. That being said, someone has found a way to live on the surface, and the last shot of the game reveals that the sun isn't "out", it's just being blocked by a passing asteroid field.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Nastily subverted. With a secret spell you can summon an extremely tough warrior demoness, armed with a BFS and clad in what looks golden Ylside armor, who attacks you. After you kill her, in a fair fight or using some trick, she explodes, but you can pick up her sword and a random piece of her armor (helmet, leggings of chestplate) appears in your inventory. However, those pieces are breakable, have no model (they become invisible if you put them on), and have poor armor class compared to Ylside armor. While the leggings have decent armor class (the second largest, actually), they're still half as strong as the Ylside ones and not worth the fight. and the chest plate, probably due to mistake, is only as good as the plain chestplate (four times worse than Ylside). At least the golden helmet plays it straight, as it's the strongest helmet in the game.
  • Bonus Boss: A hidden spell summons (which one depends on Random Number God) either a huge lightning-fast rat or a warrior demoness with a BFS who has all your enemies' powers combined and is nearly impossible to kill.
  • Bonus Dungeon: The lowest parts of the crypts, although going there is essential to getting the good ending.
  • Boring, but Practical: Harm, Poison cloud, Repel Undead, any weapon enchanted with Paralyse.
  • Breakable Weapons: Except mithril and meteor ones. Everything you hit will erode your weapon, and somewhere far from civilization it may become an issue. You can repair it yourself (generally a bad idea), pay a visit to the blacksmith or enchant it with a special item to make it indestructible.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Kultar, your fellow prisoner from the very beginning of the game, returns to save you near the end if you help him.
  • Convection Schmonvection: In some of the lower levels, you can stay near lava safely as long as you don't touch it.
  • Damsel in Distress: Alia, though only episodically, and Shany.
  • Deal with the Devil: While the Sisters of Ederneum are more neutral than evil, King Poxsellis made a deal with them for his fourth-generation descendant to become their new queen in exchange for the powerful artifacts Krahoz and Zohark.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The dragon.
  • Developers' Foresight: It is an immersive sim after all!
    • Buying shares in the troll gem mining trade while they're low at the beginning of the game will allow you to sell them for much, much more once the trolls get back to work, as said trade is once again profitable. Capitalism!
    • Tons of environmental interactions work, and just about every item has a purpose. For example, you can use a pickaxe to mine gems, use a hammer and anvil to repair damage armor, and more. You can even make bread by combining flour and water, and then setting the dough next to a fire and watching it rise in real time. In 2002!
    • Conversely, you can stumble across hidden spells by using your noggin. The spell casting system in general has tons a surprising amount of depth, such as the fact that every rune as something it represents. Using logic can allow you to come up with some rather strong abilities. For example, the spell "Harm" creates a barrier of damage around you at all times. Nowhere in the game is the combination for this spell listed, but you can cast it once you get the appropriate runes: Rhaa and Vitae, literally meaning "decrease life." Another example is the ability to fire off an ice ball by simply replacing the rune for "fire" with the rune for "ice" when channeling the fireball spell.
      • Every spell has a purpose. Every single one. The game completely averts Useless Useful Spell as a result, and there's at least one area where using a spell that seems useless is actually necessary to procede. One excellent example of a seemingly purposeless spell actually having a use is the Control Demon spell. Demons do not naturally spawn throughout Arx, as they are from another plane of existence. They keyword is naturally, as it's possible to summon a demon using a spell and then cast Control Demon on it to turn it to your side.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Akbaa, although it is just an avatar, and the main character is implied to be on the verge of becoming a god himself at that point.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Drawing runes with the mouse to cast spells requires practice (especially in combat), but looks magnificent.
  • Disc-One Nuke: After some early quest, nothing prevents you from travelling to the very rock bottom of the world, where you can get some nice weapons and items and tons of XP.
  • Drop-In Nemesis: In dwarven mines you are hunted by Black Beast, a Nigh Invulnerable One-Hit Kill Mighty Glacier Puzzle Boss. You have to activate a steam hammer, lure the beast under it by whatever means and smash it. This, howewer, just slows it down, but now you can move into other room and throw a lever, which releases another lever, which, it turn, opens the Lava Pit so you can lure the monster there. Hell, Black Beast is so slow, so why bother with whole hammer thing? Let's go for the lava already! Well, go and try. Once you throw the lever, the damn creature starts running, effectively going Nigh Invulnerable One-Hit Kill Lightning Bruiser. Naturally, your chances of survival plummet.
  • Dug Too Deep: The Dwarfs, who moved to the lowest levels of the mine and came across a monster during their continued digging.
  • Eldritch Abomination: While Akbaa has to possess a body to manifest on Arx Fatalis, the glimpses of his true form seem to be almost nothing but tentacles and eyeballs.
  • Enemy Summoner: Iserbius loves summoning the demons, and Liches sometimes spawn zombies.
  • Everything Fades: Mostly averted but played straight with Ylsides, who explode after death so you can't loot their awesome armor.
  • Functional Magic: There's hints that magic is the main reason the races were able to continue surviving after the sun went out.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: The game here gives an explanation for the common RPG trope of the player character being able to learn new skills, improve their physical abilities and even their minds at a ridiculous pace: You are a divine agent sent to solve an impending crisis on the world of Arx Fatalis. The Noden used to send agents with Physical God -level abilities, but this caused undesired collateral instability in the local societies. Thus they developed a new method of sending an agent in a "blank slate" state, but equipped with a prodigious ability to learn and improve, so they can obtain the abilities necessary for completing the mission with minimal disturbance.
  • Good Is Not Nice: It isn't stated anywhere that a world-saver demigod can't rob a bank (howewer, its owner and especially his fiancee can count as Asshole Victim). Or simply loot everything that isn't nailed down or on fire (and if it is, you have a pickaxe and Douse spell).
  • Jump Physics: Really awkward, on the verge of Good Bad Bugs. You can somehow move twice as fast by bunny-hopping and negate all falling damage by jumping off the ledge rather than walkking off it, but there is a dreaded jump-puzzle involving tiny platforms and lava...
  • Karl Marx Hates Your Guts: Subverted twice: At the beginning, goblins don't trade jewels because trolls, who do the mining work, went on strike. So, you can buy cheap "goblin mine" stock certificates, then improve the situation with mines yourself and sell them back at double cost as their price rises. Later, if you bring a book about commerce and finance to a troll king, he'll screw the goblins and sell jewels himself, and you, as a friend of trolls, will have a HUGE discount. Otherwise played stright. Also subverted if you have high Intuition, but it's completely useless in any other situation.
  • Karmic Death:
    • The key for the outer world door is possessed by King Lunshire and can't be stolen. Opening the door is completely unnesessary and has no quest related, so in order to open it you must murder the king (who is actually nice and tragic person) to satisfy your curiosity. However, if you open the door, a powerful gust of wind freezes you solid and dead.
    • If priests who kidnapped a little girl to sacrifice her succeed in doing so, a demon will be summoned and immediately kills them.
  • Kill It with Fire: Fireball / Incinerate woks wonders with Ylsides, as well with everything else except Akbaa which is deliberately fireproof. Mummies are especially sensitive to fire.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Pretty much every tough enemy (and player himself with Speed and the Ultimate Weapon). Ylside (well, at least until their Speed spell empties their mana bar), a dragon, summonable Demon Rat and Demoness Warrior and, the worst, Black Beast in turbo mode (see Drop-In Nemesis).
  • Magical Gesture: You cast spells with mouse gestures, but good luck getting the game to recognize them.
  • Magic Knight: Even playing a character with a heavy focus on melee and Rogue skills, magic is still frequently essential to solving puzzles and fighting certain enemies.
  • Mama Bear: The dragon, exact gender unknown. Subverted as it can sell one of its eggs to the PC. Double subverted as it knows it's necessary for saving the world and at least wants a compensation for such a sacrifice.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: In the good resolution to the plot, when the Sisters of Ederneum come to take away princess Alia to become their new queen, it is revealed she is the fifth-generation descendant of Poxsellis and not the fourth, saving her from that fate.
  • Meaningful Name: Lord Inut, obsessed with chickens to the degree of insanity, and Falan Orbiplanax, the astronomer.
  • Multiple Endings: While the main ending is the same, a few sidequests have a major influence on the resolution of one of the central plot-lines of the game.
  • Naked on Arrival: Am Shegar shows up with just a loincloth.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted.
    • Alotar, the king of goblins, shouldn't drink wine, as his stomach can't hold it. So, in order to get him out of his locked trone room, you douse his dinner with wine, and Hilarity Ensues.
    • Another poor goblin apparently ate too much rotten fish today...
  • No Name Given: PC's (nick)name, Am Shaegar, literally means "the nameless one".
  • Power Glows: Enchanted weapons.
  • Powered Armor: A magical example, strength-boosting Ylside armor.
  • Promptless Branching Point: The game is notable its lack of a dedicated dialogue system, so all Story Branching (such as different side quest resolutions) occurs via the player's gameplay actions, often without any kind of prompt.
  • Puzzle Boss: The Black Beast. You cannot engage it in direct combat, so the "fight" against it is more characterized as a mad dash to set up a trap for it.
  • The Reveal: The player character is a being from some sort of astral plane, and is in fact a sort of "angel", sent to help out the humans. The reason why you're a blank slate is because in the past, previous agents sent to help out went mad with power and turned evil. By blanking your memories, you wouldn't go crazy and not care about your set mission, which is to stop a God of Evil from being brought into the mortal plane. This also explains why you're so crazy strong, and why you get so strong so fast.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: Rats. And Ratmen. And, good god, the summonable demon rat.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: King Lunshire is skilled in diplomacy and managed to save the most of his (if not the worlds) people by convincing all races, even those who were mortal enemies, to join forces for common survival. His father, Poxsellis, was a great warrior who combined splitted domains (whose lords he defeated in Combat by Champion) into the kingdom of Arx.
  • Schmuck Bait: On 4th level you find a trail lined up of gold pieces. It leads you to a chest where goblin's voices can be heard. Of course, you open the chest, and three goblins attack you. The chest is empty.
  • Sequence Breaking: If you pump everything into your lockpicking skill, it is possible to unlock the door to the catacombs on your first visit to the city. The catacombs contain several shortcuts to deeper levels which you are not supposed to be able to access at this point.
  • Shaky P.O.V. Cam: Enter the Black Beast.
  • Significant Anagram: Suiberis is Iserbius.
  • Slasher Smile: Seconds before slashing at you, Black Beast raises its paw and tilts its head, giving the impression of a nightmarish smile.
  • Soul Eating: Akbaa's goal is to "drink" the souls of everyone in Arx Fatalis, as he mentions during a cutscene near the end of the game.
  • Spell Construction: You collect runes and combine theme via mouse gestures into spells and while your spell list automatically lists some combos, it doesn't list all of them. For example, you can replace the Fire rune with the Ice rune and get equivalent spells. A large list is here.
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: An Incinerate Spell works this way.
  • The Starscream: Atok, the foreman, is shown to be this during the Troll Strike quest, and his plan involved stealing the Troll idol from King Pog, in order to cause the popularity of goblin King Alotar (who Atok claims cheated in the election) to plummet so that Atok may take the crown and eat all the pies he wants.
    • Carlo suspected Queen Florence of being this to King Lunshire, so he has an assassin murder her after the birth of her daughters after finding a note from her to the Order of the Sacred Dagger. Carlo was incorrect, however, as the vaguely-worded note was not in fact about assassinating the King, but rather kidnapping Princess Alia so that she may be safe from the Order of Edurneum.
  • Stone Wall: An interesting case is that it can be played Up to Eleven. If you pump every point into defence, you will efficiently and very quickly become Nigh-Invulnerable. Even Black Beast, a One-Hit Kill on legs, can't hurt you; however, being also Nigh-Invulnerable (though rather Mighty Glacier), it can corner you and make you starve to death.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Incinerate and Mass Incinerate spells.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: From all things you can summon, only the chicken won't attack you at first glance.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: Dwarves. Well, there is actually the Ultimate Forge, and all blacksmiths were eaten.
  • Underground Level: The entire game, for obvious reasons.
  • Useless Useful Spell: Life Drain. It will deplete your mana meter in seconds and works only in very small radius (roughly ONE step). You surely do not want to get that close to stronger enemies as they deal more damage than the spell heals, and weaker ones are pretty well killed without it.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Iserbius genuinely believes that Akbaa will bring the sun back.
    • Captain Carlo, who assassinated the queen because he suspected her in a conspiracy against the king, but could not tell the latter, knowing it would break his heart.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Poxsellis' ghost is really and rightfully pissed at you for busting his grave and stealing his helmet.
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: You have to eat occasionally to not starve, but there's more than enough food for it to not become an issue.


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