Note: This article was written by Eric Bennett
Arcanum (of Steamworks and Magick Obscura) is a fun break from your normal “Dungeon Crawl” save the damsel in distress RPG. When I first saw this game and saw that it had a mix of magic and technology, I had flashbacks of my first PnP module where our DM brought in firearms. That had to have been one of the worst experiences I have ever had. I almost didn’t buy the game because of that. But, I needed my RPG fix (I know I need to go to RPGs anonymous J) and picked it up. I loaded the game up and off I went (that was the last time I looked back).
All of my RPG experience comes from Dungeons and Dragons. You roll your character up then pick what he will be (Mage, Ranger, Fighter, etc.), pick his race and maybe a background. With Arcanum you pick your race and your background (to determine any positive or negative adjustments), modify his stats and off you go. Hey wait a minute, where do I pick his class? That’s one of the fun breaks from the traditional RPG. Here your “class” morphs as the game goes on. If you want to have a fighter with a few offensive and/or defensive spells, so be it. This makes the game that much more “re-playable”. Run through the game once with someone that sticks to more of the magic, then run through it as someone that is more a tech nut. The possibilities are endless. The only thing you have to watch out for here is the more tech you have the more likely your magic won’t work. Pay attention to your Tech/Magic meter (I didn’t L)
The mechanics of this game were quite easy to pick up and worked quite well. The first thing that I noticed was the path finding. It was actually quite good. I didn’t have to baby sit my character and move him one step at a time. I also liked the fact that you could change from real time to turn based fighting. This came in handy for the larger battles. I would work in real time when there were few enemies that were quite easy to beat, then when I would come up on a battle were there where many enemies or one that required me to think up a strategy (brain doesn’t work too fast J), I would change to turn based.
Another great feature, in my opinion, was the mapping. I love large maps that you can just wonder around in. Arcanum gave me a very large playground to explore. I spent the first day just walking around the area exploring. On a down side, the camera was stuck to only one view. This is just a personal problem for me, and not a problem for the game. Though there was a few time I would lose sight of something that was hiding around a corner, where if I could have moved the camera to the side I would have been able to keep track of it. Told one of my followers to stay so I could go disarm some traps (followers have a bad habit of just walking over the traps). When I came back to get him he was up against a wall and I couldn’t see him. I had to move my mouse all over the screen till I saw his “green circle”.
The side quests and stories were well written and flowed quite well with the main story and quest. Though some got tedious or were a case of hurry up and wait. But over all they were a good way to explore the world and gain levels.
After playing for a while I decided that I would give the World Editor a try and see if I could create a mod. This was quite difficult; the World Editor takes quite a bit of getting use to. I tried and tried but I couldn’t get any of my mods to work, so I went to the web to find some. There are a few mods out there, but I could only get a couple of them to work right. That was until I found Car_Arcanum by Chris Beddoes. This brought some fresh life to the game.
I will not go too far into detail, so as to no spoil the game. The character creation was enhanced with some new backgrounds (loved the “play tester”). Chris added a “DM” so that you could adjust some of the rules or turn them on/off. Now I know that this wasn’t placed here to “cheat”, but if you tweaked the rules just right you would be able to have a character that was all but unstoppable. He also added some new areas and a “few” surprises J. Like I sad above, I tried the World Editor and failed and after playing through with this mod I have to bow down to Chris.
Even though I started this game out thinking it was going to be a pain, it ended up being one of the most enjoyable RPG game that I have played. With the “classless” system you can really blend magic and tech to achieve your goals and have fun again trying a different combination. The mechanics, fighting system, mapping and story were all quite enjoyable. The only down side that I had was the camera (personal felling) and the AIs of the followers. No matter how often you told them to stay close they would go off and set off traps or start a fight with a wolf. But other than that I really enjoyed this game and look forward to a sequel (PLEASE).
I give this game a 9 out of 10.