Frigging brilliant game.
The combat and skills seem a little shallow for the first dozen or so battles; tank and spank, only 4 skills per character, and the talent trees look very sparse. By the time your starting party memebers reach level 4 and have all their base skills unlocked you might feel like you've reached the end of their variability, and you would be wrong.
The talent trees look sparse because, simply put, there is no fluff to be ignored, like so many other *cough* world of warcraft *cough wheeze* games. Every point in every tree is meaningful. Yes, even the ones that "merely" reduce a spells mana cost by 10% or increase a spells damage by 20%. Those small numbers matter in this game.
Then there are the truly game changing options, like a curse that makes an enemy's incoming heals cause damage to them instead. It sounds like a parlor trick or a gimmick at first, until you encounter enemies that heal themselves for large amounts every time they attack you, or sub-bosses that can heal an ally to full in a split second.
The best part about the talent trees? You can reset them on a per-character basis for free as many times as you want (outside of combat only, of course), to A) check out whether that cool-sounding change to the warlock's nuke attack that turns it into a channeled health drain is as good as it sounds/fits your preferred playstyle, and B) change the tools available to you in combat based on what kinds of enemies you are facing. Find yourself in a new area where none of the above-mentioned self-healing enemies are present? Go ahead and respec your shaman for increased potency on his heals, or even swap him out for a dedicated damage dealer.
As for the combat itself, well, it's a bit like trying to play a relatively simplistic version of some other kind of game *cough* world of warcraft *ahem*, sorry about that. Except your party of 4 is controlled entirely by you. The active-combat-but-with-pause tag applies well, but unlike other entries in the genre (mass effect 2 sort of? KOTOR 1/2, dragon age.. um.. anyone other than bioware making games in this genre?), the combat system feels like it was built around the pausing element specifically, rather than adding the pause option in as a last second adjustment to a game that was too bulky to be practical without it.
Coping with powerful enemies in this game has much more to do with positioning and actively responding to enemy actions, via commands issued during pauses. Where most RPG games expect you to survive a powerful spell by simply having accrued enough experience points from grinding to boost your health and durability stats to the point where enemy attacks are negligible, Aarklash offers you no such opportunity. Dodge or die. (sorry to have to make a pop-culture reference, but it's kind of like Team Four Star's DBZ Abridged Piccolo is watching over your shoulder as you play! You don't want to let Piccolo down, do you?.. he's probably going to hit you in the face if you do)
There are also several steam achievements in the game that are actually difficult to achieve, such as two particularly nasty challenges based on completing certain portions of the game without ever using the pause feature. It is hard. It is also fun, and satisfying to finally succeed. That is all I feel compelled to say about it.
There are a few downsides to the game I would like to address for the sake of being fair and balanced. The equipment and looting leaves much to be desired, and the ending of the game is one of those "Hey, you guys like sequels right?!" endings. Needless to say, if there is a sequel, I will be first in line with a fistful of dollars to throw unapologetically at the developers.
Did I mention that Wenzil is awesome?
Wenzil is awesome.