Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura
Review by Arkhaine
"Too big to be any fun"
Now, I may be a little biased in that I much prefer the more linear stylings of say, Final Fantasy over a Baldur's Gate or a Fallout. Just thought I'd clear that out of the way to begin with.
Graphically, Arcanum isn't anything to write home about. Most everything looks the same as everything else, but it is all done in a nice, refreshingly different 17th century-esque setting. Keep in mind however, that you must really dig the colour brown to enjoy these graphics for too long. Especially if for some insane reason you decide to run off into the wilderness, it's all brown...brown...brown...ohh, green tree...brown...brown...brown, etc, etc, etc.
Arcanum has some great music. I just loved the quiet, soothing violin music that accompanied most everywhere. Keep in mind that if you aren't a fan of violin music, you'll probably get sick of it all too quickly.
Sound effects are a different matter, however. They just aren't...anything really. They are so muted and dull that they may as well not be included. But, it doesn't really bother me, I loved the music too much to care!
Ok, now that that is out of the way it's time to really get stuck into the game. Upon opening up the game you are presented with a huge selection of character creation options, enough to make even the most hardcore of customisers happy. It IS a little daunting however, more so if you are used to the simplicity of console games.
The huge wealth of options does pay off, however, as you really can do whatever you want. Want to be a big brute who goes around smashing people and saying 'Ugh'? Do it. Want to hurl magic spells, or create guns and armour, or be a smooth talking gambler? You can do that too. The best part is, it ACTUALLY MATTERS. Yes, those two words needed capitilisation. Why? Because a lot of games say you can do whatever you want and, well, you can't. Not so with Arcanum.
For example, early on in the game (very early, no spoilers here) you find that a wannabe thief and his cronies have taken over a bridge and are charging people to cross. If you are the big hulking brute who says 'Ugh' then you can simply smash them to bits. If you are rich, pay them. If you feel like being naughty, agree to blow up some bridge materials for the thieves, or you can even fast talk your way into getting across for free, and if you are REALLY persuasive, the thieves will pay YOU money. That's just a tiny example, but it shows perfectly how you can play Arcanum the way you want, not the way you have to.
Early on you are presented with a small amount of direction: You have crash-landed in a plane and are the only survivor. An old gnome has given you a mysterious ring, then died. From there, you will meet up with a religious man by the name of Virgil. Good, you have direction. From there, you can go to the nearest town and...yep you guessed it, all direction is lost and you have no idea what to do. That is the greatest asset and the greatest flaw of Arcanum. There are so many ways to do so many different things for so many different people that you will be too overwhelmed to want to do any of it. While some people may find this to be amazingly exciting, I found it daunting and off-putting. I hate in games when I have no idea what to do next, and Arcanum does that to you all the time. Or, it tells you a little bit, but expects you to level up 10 times before doing it, as well as spend 15 hours in each town doing things for people you could care less for.
But, some people like this. If you do, then by all means go out and get this game now, it is huge, and very non-linear. If, like me, you like to actually have a goal more specific than 'This is a ring. It's not my ring. Better find out who owns it and I have no idea where to start'
On a side note, I found Arcanum loved to slow down...I have a pIII 700 with 384Mb of RAM, I don't like slowdown on a graphically poor 2d RPG.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 02/27/02, Updated 07/31/02
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