skip to main content

Arcanum: the Review

 30 March 2007

Hooray hooray for classic urgh-so-bad-graphics-but-so-good-gameplay RPG-games like this! Arcanum is without a doubt the best game Troika ever made, and that deserves something extra. Like a review and a nice collection of screenshots, or something similar. Enough introduction, grab a gun and shoot! Or pick a spell and cast, if you will.

What’s going on, George?

Finetuning has never been more fun

As some of you probably already know, this is a very strange game. No classic setting (orcs, elves, magie & mythes) but a mix of those same settings in combination with early technologies like guns, steam trains and such. The first time you open up the character creation window, it took me 5 hours to create a character I liked. Yes, the options and settings are incredibly deep and sometimes too complicated. At least, at the first time. Each faction balances out the other one: when you create a magic casting Elf, he won’t be able to touch most technology weapons and vice versa. It is even possible you won’t have access to tech stores halfway trough the game anymore! In the stats screen you’ll see a Magick/Tech meter wich points what faction you are leaning towards. Magic armor with a bonus to your Armor Class is useless for a tech dwarf, for instance. Doctor Bomb Thrower

A Fine revolver Scheme

It’s also very important wich NPC you carry with you. Virgil for example, the Human you meet at the beginning of the game with his funny voice (too few voice acting in the game!), is a magick user. His heal spells won’t have much effect if you are leaning towards the tech side too much. Luckily there is also a tech sided healer but Jayna does not play a huge role like Virgil in the plot/game. She can create spices and healing herbs from two different ingredients, provided you have the right schematic for this. You can buy schemes but they are very expensive. You can also select a few when leveling up, wich of course is limited by certain stat points. You can become doctor in traps, armor, weapons, … by stepping up every time. Start creating a dagger, and end with a pretty big and deadly two-handed sword. Don’t go screaming nerf! yet, there are pretty big stat requirements present. You won’t be able to create another category (ex. armor and weapons, electricity and chemicals, …) since you pumped all points in one way. Turn Based and other Options

My devoted follower, Virgil!

Guns require bullets wich you will eventually be able to create yourself. But carrying ammo requires a lot of strength and repeater rifles empty your pocket in no time. Very annoying, constant restocking. Well, that’s why you should take that big fat huge dumb ogre with you. But! There is another solution: get your hands on a bullet recipe. You only need to carry the two ingredients (lightweight) instead of the finished product. Explosives such as Molotov coctails (wich send enemies flying while you have enough time to blow a couple of holes in their head) are heavy too. Since we’re talking about combat anyway, there are three different options to battle. real-time, semi turn-based and full turn-based. The last option is adviced. At the bottom of the screen, a bar appears wich represents the amounth of Actions you still can do (walk, shoot, reload, …). People playing Fallout will recognize this. Real-time is basically a poor execution of a click fest like Diablo. It’s funny to hear Virgil’s comments on the enemy or your actions when things turn out bad. If you create a low-INT character, you’ll only be able to talk me wanna sell stuff too. People will think less of you, but you’ll be able to hit harder and faster. Balance, you see. By the way, ogres have a different clothing size. This means you won’t be able to equip your ogre (or dwarf) with regular sized material. Neat! Or not. What do you mean, Ugly?

Do you like my new rifle, sweetie?

The world itself is very beautiful put together. I’m not talking about the raw graphics engine, but about the little details here and there: trash bins near the streets actually have randomized – well, trash content. Wich you eventually will use to create new items; for example rags can be used as a fuse for molotovs. Some fields are filled with spices and herbs, a crash site actually contains little springs and metal plates, and so on. The quests give you quit a bit of freedom. Will you kill the bandits for justice, will you bribe them to join you, will you insult them and chase them away, or won’t you do anything at all? Yes, it’s time. Time to talk about the actual graphics in Arcanum. Well, they suck. That’s that. Remember: it’s all about gameplay folks. Gameplay. And that one thing is more than present in this magnificent game. The game does require a good amounth of patience – Arcanum throws something like ‘‘figure it out yourself, damnit!’ at you. Luckily the original box and game comes with an oversized manual. The budget edition does not, wich is a shame. Conclusion

Good, forming a conclusion for such a game is one of the most difficult things about reviewing. As a Western RPG junk, I’d easily rate it A+ (wich means 10/10). Too bad most game sites won’t agree with me. We all know Troika Games is no more. Is this game for a casual gamer? Not at all. Are you an RPG fan wich likes to delve deep (oh yeah, baby) into the game and story? By all means, please buy this excellent game.

Categorized under: Arcanum review


I'm Wouter, a level 35 Retro Gamer, and I love the sight of experience points on old and forgotten hardware. I sometimes convince others join in on the nostalgic grind. Read more about me here.

If you found this article amusing and/or helpful, you can buy me a coffee - although I'm more of a tea fan myself. I also like to hear your feedback via e-mail: say hello. Thanks!