reviews\ Aug 29, 2001 at 8:00 pm

Arcanum Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura - PC - Review

Arcanum Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura is a role playing game with some extra bite. It has the standard array of elves, gnomes and orcs to interact with. What makes this title infinitely more interesting, and keeps it from becoming another Diablo clone is the time frame in which it is set. A fantasy realm in the midst of an industrial revolution. This makes for endlessly satisfying gameplay. The shear number of combinations of spells, skills, and technologies will mystify casual gamers, but not to the point of intimidation. On the contrary. Arcanum has enough excitement to appeal to hard core fans, and casual players alike. It will easily take you upwards of sixty hours to complete Arcanum to its conclusion. The gameplay is like pure addiction, and the story is gripping, and involving.

It all starts with a catastrophe. Your player is a passenger on the Zephyr a large eccentric looking blimp. Two odd flying vessels suddenly appear in the sky, and attack the Zephyr destroying them-selves in the process. The blimp ignites into flame, and smashes into the earth. There are no survivors save you, and a dying old man. He musters enough strength to give you a ring along with a cryptic message. Bring it to the boy. He will know what to do. (Promise you will train the boy. He will bring balance to the force.) Your journey begins, with this cryptic message, and a strange engraved ring.

The game has an incredible amount of equipment that ranges from standard such as swords, and armor to rags and coal and empty cans. The uniqueness is in the melding of technology and magick (that's magic with a k folks.) I went from wielding a bow and arrow to popping caps with a gun. This technology scheme set within an industrial revolution brings new life to a stale fantasy RPG genre. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised that I could construct molotov cocktail bombs from garbage. Insanely cool. As are the different skills, spell colleges, and combat options available.

The choices begin with the way you create your character. I spent at least a good forty minutes going through all the different races, and backgrounds. You can choose to create a human, an elf, a dwarf, male or female, half-breed or pure. Each one having its own individual attributes that will affect how you interact with NPC's throughout the game, and how you hold up during battle. Backgrounds are also available. For instance I chose to be a rich debutante in one game. This allowed me to have stronger social skills so I could recruit loyal warriors to join my party with more ease. As you defeat enemies you receive points that need to be distributed to the different attributes of your character. Eventually he or she will gain power and strength, or intelligence or magic or any other choice that you see fit which will allow progression through experience points. The higher the level of experience points, the more options you have available to you. This makes replayability sky rocket as you control and customize your character through the game. With all the different characters and attributes to choose from, each game can play out differently.

You will also find that how you respond will have a direct influence on how you are treated throughout by other characters. The magic spells are as numerous as the choice of equipment, which is continuously upgraded so bartering never gets tired. There is even a choice as to how combat is handled. There is the standard click fest ala Diablo style, or a fast turn based option.

There are oodles of side quests that can be accomplished if you so choose. The graphics are a bit dated as far as character models are concerned, but the locales, and weapon effects are all solid. Many NPC's do not talk, and your character does not speak. This may be a draw back to some, but to me it is a plus. Too many RPG games have poor voice talent that drawl on and on about crap. Arcanum solves this by text based dialogue that is interesting enough to progress the plot, and well written so that you actually care.

Arcanum is so huge that I can see how some gamers would shy away from playing it. All the choices and complexities do have a higher learning curve than most games, but it is absolutely worth it. Troika has included pre-created characters and default level systems so the casual gamer won't have to bother with the sometimes overwhelming choices if they don't wish. Once you jump in, and get the hang of the controls the story will draw you in, and you'll be hooked. This one will be on your PC for months.  

Install: Easy
Fast install, but consumes a large amount of disc space.

Gameplay: 8.5
Endless options galore. Incredibly large design, and just plain fun. Scrolling through the map gets tedious at times.

Graphics: 8.5
Perhaps a bit dated, but overall they are solid. What can I say, I've been playing Max Payne so anything will look dated compared to Max.

Sound: 8.5
Appropriate sound, moody music. Decent voice acting.

Difficulty: 9
This one's got a high learning curve, but it's worth it. Don't worry the manual is the size of a book.

Concept: 9 
Industrial revolution meets the fantasy realm. Can you say Star Wars?

Multiplayer: 8
You can form a party, and work cooperatively. Or you could always just kill each other. There was some stuttering here, but I've heard the patch is already out, so don't fret.

Overall: 9
Overall this game just rocks!


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