Venetica - Staff Review  

Fighting Zombies with Zombies
by Sam "Nyx" Marchello

Xbox 360
Less than 20 Hours
+ Tons of skills to learn.
+ Plenty of sidequests to complete.
+ Lush scenery...
- ...plagued by inconsistent graphics.
- Forgettable voice acting and music.
- Map complications will frustrate some.
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Back in 2009, Deck 13 showcased Venetica, an upcoming RPG with a mysterious premise. My general excitement from the initial screenshots came from the fact that it starred a female protagonist carrying a hooked blade. I became further intrigued by the game when I found out she was fighting the undead while using necromancy herself. Venetica has a lot of promise in terms of characterization, gameplay and setting, but only pans out to be an average adventure at best.

   Players take on the role of Scarlett, a woman with no family or past to speak of. On the day before her fiancé's departure to Venice, Scarlett's hometown is attacked by a group of assassins, seeking to murder a person without family. This person that they seek is someone who has the ability to use necromancy and wield the legendary Moonblade, a weapon that can banish the undead. Upon watching her fiancé die, Scarlett soon realizes that she was the intended target of the attack, and decides that she must obtain the Moonblade to save the people of Venetica from an incoming undead nightmare.

   The main story of Venetica is actually very interesting and surprisingly complex in areas, but it unfortunately falls flat due to trite dialogue. Part of the problem could be its translation; another issue is that the language itself is corny and derivative. There's a solid idea within having Scarlett being able to travel between the real world and the Twilight world, but it's hard to care about her story when the dialog cannot sustain the depth of the actual story. It also does not help that Venetica's poor voice acting only adds to the hilarity of the overall dialogue.

I'm going to use my sexuality as a weapon! I'm going to use my sexuality as a weapon!

   While the story isn't perfect, it does have some originality that is worth noting. The fact that Scarlett can go in and out of two different worlds adds vibrancy to the game's setting that is very unique. Scarlett can travel between both worlds freely, and while in the Twilight world, can speak with the dead to change the course of her destiny. Venetica also provides an ample amount of choices for the player to make. The choices alter certain aspects of the story, and allow the player to choose what kind of heroine Scarlett becomes. There are a total of three different endings which are obtained depending on Scarlett's reputation in Venice and the choices made in certain plot events. The choice of being good, evil or neutral is completely up to the player.

   While globe trotting around Venetica's lush world, players will be given many opportunities to learn new necromancy skills and physical attacks. The game sports a very simple action-RPG style combat system that really only requires the player to use the X button and whatever shortcuts they have mapped to the D-pad. This is fairly handy as players can map weapons, skills, and items to the shortcut, using these skills at will. There are plenty of skills to learn, which adds just enough customization to tailor Scarlett to one's play style.

   A more unique feature to the game's combat comes from Scarlett's Twilight Meter. If Scarlett is killed in combat, she can resurrect herself and continue fighting as long as there is enough twilight within the meter. The meter can only be replenished by killing enemies, so it is possible to die in the real world if Scarlett does not have enough twilight to sustain herself. Scarlett also has mental energy, which allows her to perform her spells, and thankfully that can be replenished from wells or items. Certain enemies, however, can only be killed within the twilight world, so it is critical that players watch both Scarlett's mental energy and her twilight meter. This feature is unique and interesting, forcing players to use caution rather than simply button mash their way through combat.

   One major complaint with the game is the map system. Players can plot quests to the map, which can be accessed by pressing Y. However, the map doesn't always properly register the quest that the player is working on, making it bit of a challenge when trying to figure out how to progress the mission. Also, considering how grand in scope the setting is, it's very easy for players to find themselves turned around in areas unable to find whatever they may be looking for on the map. The map system's problems can be frustrating, causing players to needlessly waste time looking for things that may not be at the location indicated by the map.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

   The setting of Venetica is truly stunning, as players will traverse through many vibrant and well crafted areas. Although the game features some truly beautiful landscapes, the visuals are marred with many inconsistencies that bring down the game's overall appearance. Areas and characters often look grainy close up. Sometimes character facial expressions look disproportional, and there is occasional texture popping. Overall, the game's scenery is beautiful, but the game's visual imperfections are fairly noticeable up close, and can be distracting.

   Venetica's sound is another one of the game's low points. The game's grating voice acting alone makes it difficult to keep the sound on. Scarlett is the only tolerably-voiced character in the game, with the rest of the cast exuding inappropriate amounts of cheesiness. There's not a lot of music to speak of, and what music is there is all right, but it's not something that will stick with the player once the game has been completed.

   Scarlett's adventure clocks in at roughly twenty hours depending on how much of the game's additional content is completed. There are numerous sidequests and extra events to obtain, which could push the game to the twenty-five hour mark, but even a completionist playthrough likely won't exceed thirty hours. The game also has an adjustable difficulty setting that can be changed on the fly. One detracting issue, however, is the game's lack of an auto-save. The game's manual states that an auto-save exists, but it does not, and if players dies, there's no way to revive Scarlett at her last checkpoint, so it's important to manually save often and frequently.

   Venetica is a tough game to recommend. On one hand, there's a luscious and unique world to explore that is vibrant and astonishing. On the other hand, the story is muddled with poor dialogue and voice acting, and overly-simplistic combat that might not appeal to some. However, for the player who can overcome Venetica's many and palpable flaws, it can be a fun and even engrossing experience.

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