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 Home -> Reviews -> Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura
Arcanum By John "Award" Del Percio,
September 16, 2001
Developer :Troika Games
Publisher :Sierra Studios
Release Date :Late August 2001
Demo Available : Yes - Download
Table of Contents

· Introduction
· Closer Look
· Facts
· Final

Of Objective and Quest Obscura

Unfortunately, not everything with Arcanum is as rosy as it sounds in theory. One of the first things that will be noticed is the graphics. There certainly is no comparison to the Bioware Infinity engine Dungeons and Dragons role-playing games we've become used to. Arcanum was built on a heavily adapted Fallout engine. While that provided a very solid foundation for a game of it's type, and it allowed the extreme support of character statistics, it also meant that we're stuck with an engine that still looks and feels like a game from 1998. True the resolution has been increased, and the engine now supports a 16 bit color depth, but it still does looks rather flat. Fortunately, anyone who has ever played Fallout, and any other true RPG fans out there, knows that graphics are less important than gameplay.

If the graphics were the only problem, I'd still be ready to give Arcanum a perfect score. After all, only so much time can be spent on development, and with all the effort on gameplay and balance put into Arcanum, it would stand to reason that they weren't trying to out-code Carmack for the engine, but there are some other flaws as well. One of the biggest flaws is the combat system. If using the technology tree, not only do you need to acquire the materials, but they are slow to use. Ranged weapons don't really serve much purpose, since enemies seem to lock onto the player like a homing missile no matter where the rest of the party is. In the beginning you can barely fight anything, so there is no way you can really gain enough experience to really begin leveling up and gaining new abilities (depending on player class, but generally, those that do well at first, do badly later.) Granted, the game gets a bit easier as you proceed more deeply into the core of the story and begin to get enough experience to get some more powerful spells or tech (on my spell tree, I went with a summoning tree first and was amazed how easy combat became after that. If only I could boost my fatigue (like mana) enough to sustain two demons for a length of time without waiting to recharge.

In addition, some of the same old problems from Fallout are still present in Arcanum. The incredibly difficult combat system (I think I die more than I play) is back, and with attitude. The inability to scroll far past your character is still the annoyance (at least to me) that it always was. Some of the interface hiccups are still plaguing the engine. And the game still has that dry feeling, where somehow someone forgot to add the personality to the game. As with Fallout, I'm still unable to determine what causes that dryness, but it's there, and the game experience suffers from it.

Finally, some of the quests are extremely vague as to where you should be going and what to do once there. There are many quests that you'll receive in one city, but you can't solve until you arrive at another city in the mid or late game stages, yet you are never told of this. Now, that does add to the realism, but it's not quite what I was counting on.

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