Jump to content
New Forum Update ×



Recommended Posts

Sadly Troika Games, creators of Arcanum, recently ceased to exist - and given how much I liked Arcanum, I consider that a great shame.



I'd bought Arcanum a while ago, and it was quietly gathering dust in a cupboard, until one day when the kids were bored and complaining about their crappy computers I lobbed the game at them. They seemed to like it. Still I wasn't tempted to play it - I mean, an rpg that features steam engines and magic? Please.


Then my computer broke down, and I confiscated one of the kids' computers, which so happened to have Arcanum installed on it - and with nothing else to do, I started playing. And pretty soon, was hooked.


Character generation was amusing - there are a variety of races, and a large choice of 'backgrounds' which range from 'run away with the circus' via 'sold your soul' to 'beaten with an ugly stick' and determine some of your stats.


Movement controls were atrocious, and one of the few things I didn't like about the game. However, once I figured out how to use the maps for travel (of course I couldn't be bothered reading the 186 page on-disk manual.... don't be silly!), that ceased to be a problem.


The storyline was good, and built up gradually to a suitably epic ending... well... one of the possible endings. At various milestones throughout the main quest you are given a clue as to what to do next, but getting from one milestone to the next isn't always quite so straightforward.

The start of the game, while it hints at greater things to come, can be a bit slow, and the first few wolves you meet can be a real challenge. Coupled with getting used to the movement controls, it takes a bit of persistence - but it's well worth it.


There are lots of entertaining side quests in the game, and from what I've gathered there are several ways to accomplish them, allowing you to roleplay your character through the game. One of my favourite side quests had a very X-File-ish feel to it.


But what makes Arcanum really stand out is the dialogue. Many of the backstories help to give the game depth - particularly poignant was a speech about humans' use of technology without truly understanding the consequences of what they were doing - and create interesting NPCs.... a nice change from the cardboard cut-outs which populate so many game worlds.

Voice acting is reserved for certain NPCs, but where it is used it is very good. Written dialogue is excellent - I mean, how many games do you know which feature the word 'bourgeois' in the dialogue?


And the technology I was so hesitant about? Arcanum manages to integrate this aspect beautifully. The conflict of technology and magic is one of the central themes of the game - and the technology used is perfectly in keeping with the setting. The steam trains are really quite pretty.


Graphics is something I don't pay much attention to - I believe Arcanum had some, yes. Don't ask me anything technical about them, though.


Arcanum is also the first RPG I've played where having a party of followers actually has some uses other than as packmules. NPC followers will fight for you, heal you, pick locks for you etc. Though unfortunately, they tend to get a bit reckless and will attack anything hostile within range... even if it means taking on a monster with their bare hands. Technologist followers can make things for you, depending on their skill levels and the materials available, which is a good way to augment your own skills.

With levels being capped at 50, you really have to be careful how you spend your experience points - you can't be a good all-rounder, but will have to specialise.. again strengthening the role play aspect.



If you want an rpg with a good story, great dialogue (though I've heard that dialogue is dependent on your character's intelligence - so a lobotomised half-ogre might get rather different responses than my highly intelligent half-orc technologist) and replayability, and don't care too much about all the latest, shiniest graphic effects - give Arcanum a try.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Arcanum is a good game. I was fascinated by the idea of the combination of technology and magic that the ads for the game descirbed so bought it and played it through when it first came out. I should go back and try it again with a different type of character since it is a game that will supporrt replay but haven't done so yet. One thing I did find a little disappointing was that the highest levels of "technology" abilities really did verge on the magical (science fictionish?) rather than staying believable as a logical form of advanced technology development. The technology sort of seems to jump from 19th century technology to far fu ture technology without any intervening development. Makes it hard to suspend disbelief. I never got very far with a magic oriented character so don't know if the high level magic has any sort of simlar problem but it probably doesn't since it doesn't have the same sort of assumption of logical progression that technology does (at least for someone with a technical background).
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've played Arcanum (and finished it). At first, it looked very interesting. But later it became boring, and I don't know why. It had everything: nice character generation and development, intriguing plot, good gameplay and interesting world. But still, something was missing.


As technology is concerned, my character (and me too) despised technology. I played good paladin-like character, so I could do nothing, but if I had played evil wizard, I would have killed every single technician. Except the dwarf in the temple in Greyhills (or Greenhills?). I got a mission to destroy his engine, but after talking to him I just couldn't do it. :)


And I quite liked the game editor. When I first saw it, I was suprised, how fast and easy is world building when compared to TES Construction Set. But there was something missing too. I uninstalled Arcanum and I don't think I will play it ever again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...
Yeah I was disapointed to hear about Troika's demise because I really liked it. And Dark0ne, BaldursGateII and IcewindDale II are both really great games, but I personally liked BGII better, being a child of the Lord Of Murder is just cool.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Arcanum is a very good game in my opinon.

Theta, you argue that the movement system is a bit complex sometimes - well, Arcanum inherited the movement system somewhat from the Fallout series games. If you look carefully, you'll see that the games have many elements in common, settings-aside.

There's the same action point system, movement is handled in the same way, followers work very similarily..

If I remember correctly, some of Troika's employees also worked on Fallout, and brought the idea, the way to build the game and how it should be played, with them. In fact, it's a pretty common saying that one of Arcanums' available followers, the "Worthless Mutt", was actually there simply because in Fallout 1 one of the followers you could have was a dog called "Dogmeat".

Then again, Arcanum is much more vast than Fallout, since you can have, for example, a good and evil ending, while in Fallout you're restricted to ending the game in one single way.


Arcanums' setting is one of my favourite, because it is pretty much unique, in that I have yet to see another game in which machines and magic are eternal enemies like in Arcanum. It's almost standard for elves and dwarves to hate eachother, yes, but in Arcanum there is a reason, elves are the best magic users, and dwarves have the best technological capabilities. It's also cool to see how almost everything you can do as a magic user, you can also do as a technologist. Raising dead isn't limited to technologists: you can acquire schematics to build a reviver (a pretty advanced schematic actually) and use that to revive fallen companions.

Magic users aren't the only ones that can summon additional friends to aid in battle (college of summoning): technologists can learn how to build mechanical arachnids and acquire schematics for building medical arachnids and automatons (big humanoid robot-like things). This is one of the things that I liked the most, building robots to help you out.


I always played as a dwarven technologist. My friends told me that playing as a magic user was too easy, and I wanted a challange, but mostly I wanted to play a character that was something like a craftsmen. So, my dwarf specialized in Smithy, Gunsmithy and Mechanical and was a master firearms user with good persuasion skills. It fitted everything that I thought was important to survive, in peaceful and combat settings. He could talk his way out of trouble, but if it couldn't be avoided, he had the means to create and use powerful weapons and armor, for himself and his companions.

Once I played as a halfling thief. He was especially good at lockpicking and in melee combat. Was also a persuader (a skill I always thought was indispensable) and a good dodger. In the end, I got tired of playing him, because he wasn't really my kind of character. After that, I just sticked with technology users.


It is sad to see Troika go. I've only played one game that they made (Arcanum, of course), the others that they made (Temple of Elemental Evil and Bloodlines) didn't really interest me that much, especially because of the settings. Didn't really care for another D&D game, and one starring basically only vampires wasn't really my pick..).

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...