Venetica is a fantasy-adventure RPG developed by German developer Deck 13. They're actually more well-known for adventures games such as the Ankh franchise and Jack Keane (of which I've played). I didn't realise their history while playing Venetica, but I certainly did get an adventure game vibe. Particularly in the 3D visuals, which are based around Venice but in a slightly cartoony style.
Released in late 2009, there's a patch from 1.02 which vastly improves the look of the game, which is just about mandatory. The patch mainly improves some of the post-processing, creating much better lighting and more colourful environments. But that being said, Venetica is still a bit dated looking for 2009. It would have fit in nicely say around 2006. There are many areas that are decent - interiors can look good, with palaces featuring extravagant detail. Some of the distant set-pieces are very impressive. Some of the outdoors areas are nice to look at and even the cartoony adventure game feel comes off nicely.
But on the opposite side of the scale you've got some poor quality textures. You've got some areas very under-detailed. Around the middle of the game you get to the centre of Venice, Arsenal, which is a huge spiral passage of wooden bridges with waterways down below - nice idea but it look quite ugly. Some of the high up buildings badly needed detail. The area that followed this - the docks - was also a low-point of the game. Certainly not holding candle up to Assassin's Creed. But most of the game, particularly the first half, does look good enough.
Arsenal was also shockingly jarring on the performance. While I did have everything maxed out, this area was just poorly optimised. Clearly, the engine couldn't handle such a huge area on screen at once, and it struggled big time. It was a fucking pain having to walk up and down those stairs so many times. The rest of the game, mainly in smaller areas, didn't suffer the same.
The character models are also pretty dated looking; about what you'd get from a mid 2000's adventure game.
Gameplay itself was fairly decent. I very nearly didn't play Venetica. After changing the controls and realising there's a huge lag, I was on the verge of quitting. The visuals hadn't interested me enough. But I changed the controls back and used GlovePie and the lag was gone, so I decided to keep going. I'm glad I did, it turned into a fun and quite addictive 15 hour game. The average playtime seems to be about 20 hours, but I completely at least half of the side missions so I think 20 hours and I would have done everything there is to do. I didn't really need as much as I collected anyway, the final boss battle was easier than the very first boss.
Venetica is quite light as an RPG. It doesn't get into meticulous micro-management. You get an unlimited inventory but there's only three armours. Four different types of weapons which you'll upgrade, but by the mid-point I already had the best sword and just stuck with that for the rest of the game. There are spells but they're not particularly excited. A couple that drain health, a few more powerful melee hits, but nothing to get excited over. There are shops, but apart from buying a couple of good weapons, you don't really use them much. Perhaps if I were on hard skill I might buy more health packs.
Combat is typical melee fare. You can roll or block. Block required a numbered key press so I never used block and just stuck with rolling. Unfortunately rolling could be messy and not responsive enough at times. Difficulty was fine. The game had a habit of being easy as you hit away at an enemy but the second they get a hit on you it'll often be a 2-3 hit combo which you can't get out of, and suddenly you're dead. So that could be annoying, but overall it was fun enough.
Later on it even got to the point where I was wanting just a bit more action. The third and final chapter in the game felt like more of an adventure game than an action game, with shit all to kill, instead just backtracking doing tasks.
Venetica is not an AAA title. The visuals are fun and okay, but they don't really compare to modern 2010 games. But the combat and gameplay had me well addicted to finishing it for a couple of days, so it must have done something right. It is certainly worth playing in my opinion. Not quite as good Gothic 4, which again is not as good as Dragon Age: Awakenings, but single player RPG's are few and far between. And by the way IGN gave this a 9.2.