Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gaming Nostalgia, Part II: Arcanum

You begin your journey as the sole survivor of a tragic and unthinkable act of terrorism.  Your peaceful journey to new lands in the passenger section of a large zeppelin is suddenly and violently interrupted by fighter jets swooping across the skies, firing at your defenseless mode of transportation.  

Welcome to the World

You awaken in the land of Arcanum, destined to follow a mysterious path that may lead you to the end(s) of the world, with only the skills you acquire along the way to protect you.  You must choose to engineer your path by educating yourself in the ways of industry and technology, or to learn to harness the subtle art of magic. Magic and Technology cannot coexist easily, so choose carefully!  In this world, every decision you make will effect your course.  

Released in 2001 by Troika Games (published by my ancient hero, Sierra), Arcanum has been hailed as a quintessential steampunk-genre game, but it is not exclusively so.  It is a classic open-world RPG, and over the course of the game, you may traverse extensive industrial cities, forests and mountains using magic and/or technology to aid and guide you.

Small elf in a Big city
The music of Arcanum, composed by Ben Houge, will also guide you through the game and its almost hypnotic and somber tones will be trapped in your subconscious long after your last mission is completed.  You can now find the music available for download, but I strongly encourage you to experience the music in the atmosphere it was intended:  in steampunk cities and magical arcane forests.  

Fast-track route
Wandering isn’t necessarily easy in this game, in fact Arcanum’s greatest fault may be with its character movement.  Arcanum does not allow the player to zoom in and out of a map you must click across the screen for your player to move from one place to another.  The game does allow you to create a fast-track through a town/forest map, so that you can create your own path for your character to follow, without having to click across the screen a hundred times.  It’s somewhere between an old point-and-click game and more advanced movement controls like Baldur’s Gate II. 

With all that moving, you’re likely to suddenly run into random, angry creatures that will try to kill you, often succeeding and robbing you of your hard earned progress.  Even apart from the violence, it still may be a good idea to save, and save often, using F7 (F8 is auto-load, so be careful).  

A few additional tips for your journey:
  • In inventory screens, right-click on items to automatically move them to a shop or your companion’s inventory.  It will save you a lot of drag-and-drop time. 
  • When visiting towns or areas with shop signs, click on the signs to save the notation on your map.  It makes it much easier to find things later on! 
  • For you impatient or completionist gamers out there, Gamebanshee has some excellent walkththroughs, explanations and tips.
  • To enter combat mode manually, which you might, theoretically, need to do from time to time: press the red shield button on the bottom left of your screen in the control panel.  Or, press “R” then hold down Alt and left-click on your target to hit. Sound complicated?  Don’t worry!  You automatically enter combat mode when there are hostiles nearby, and when that happens, you only need to worry about not dying.
  • Press the shift key when in combat to go to turn-based combat.  It may give you the extra second you need to prevent your death.  
  • Sometimes, this game may seem impossible, even on an easy difficulty.  But, if you think carefully, there are always other ways to tackle any problem (thus preventing your immediate and frustrating death).
  • It’s not like Super Meat Boy, but again, be prepared to die.  If you don’t die a lot, it just means you’re a much better and more cautious RPG player than I am.

Arcanum is a steal at GOG for only $5.99.  Absolutely worth it for the amount of hours you’ll spend uncovering new spells, new inventions, and some classic old-school computer gameplay! 

Next on Gaming Nostalgia... I haven't decided yet!  And I have a long way to go in Arcanum...

1 comment:

  1. I love this game! Also, it's terrible that Troika went belly-up. Pretty much everything they touched was pure awesome.