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Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura (Windows)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Description

The luxury zeppelin IFS Zephyr begins her maiden voyage from Caladon in the Kingdom of Arland to Tarant, one of the largest cities in the technologically advanced Unified Kingdom. Suddenly, while the zeppelin is cruising over mountains, two monoplanes attack it and eventually shoot it down. The two half-ogre attackers die in flames along with all their victims except two who miraculously survived. However, one of them, an old gnome, is mortally wounded. Just before he dies, he gives a silver ring to the other survivor and tells him to "find the boy". The witness of the crash, a man named Virgil, declares that the now only survivor is "The Living One", a reincarnation of a deity, and offers to follow him wherever he goes. The hero begins a long and perilous search for the mysterious boy, the origins of the silver ring, and the unknown enemy who was behind the attack on the zeppelin.

Arcanum is a role-playing game similar in concept and many gameplay principles to Fallout. It is set in a unique world, which can be described as mixture between Tolkienesque fantasy, steampunk technology and elements of British and North American culture of the 19th century: dwarves may carry molotov cocktails, and a half-orc protagonist can travel by train between Victorian-like cities. Magic and technology are opposed to each other; most humans and dwarves embrace technology, while some elf clans stick to the old ways and consider scientific progress evil.

In the beginning of the game the player creates the main character, choosing from a variety of races, attributes, magical or technological disciplines, social skills, backgrounds, etc. When the character levels up, the player can increase his main parameters as well as any available skills. Like in Fallout games, the player directly controls only one character; however, companions who join the party may be given orders, and their inventory can be managed by the player.

The game is open-ended: the player is free to explore the vast world from the onset, undertaking a large amount of side quests or following the main story. Social interaction plays a significant role: depending on the player character's charisma and intelligence attributes, as well as persuasion skill, many problems can be solved in a non-violent way. The amount of companions willing to follow the protagonist also depends on the latter's charisma rating; companions may also leave the party if they disagree with the hero's behavior.

The player can select one of the three combat modes for the game: real-time, turn-based, and fast-paced turn-based. Turn-based mode is similar to the combat in Fallout games: characters require action points to move, attack, or cast spells.

The game includes an editor called WorldEdit, which allows players to create their own maps, campaigns, and non-playable characters. Objects from the base game can be carried across to the player-created scenario. The scenery editor allows players to create their own objects. It is also possible to set and change game variables, i.e. the amount of skill points required to perform a specific task.

Screenshots

Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura Windows Fire creatures can damage your weapons... and hurt you
Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura Windows Fighting in the snow, it's like winter sports
Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura Windows Site map
Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura Windows A magic school (without Harry Potter)

Alternate Titles

  • "奥秘:技术与魔法" -- Chinese spelling (simplified)
  • "Arcanum: von Dampfmaschinen und Magie" -- German title
  • "Arcanum: Przypowieść o Maszynach & Magyi" -- Polish title
  • "Arcanum: Macchine a Vapore e Magia Oscura" -- Italian title
  • "Arcanum: Hechizos y Engranajes" -- Spanish title
  • "Arcanum: Feitiços e Engrenagens" -- Brazilian title
  • "Arcanum : Engrenages & Sortilèges" -- French title
  • "Aomi: Jishu yu Mofa" -- Chinese title

Part of the Following Groups

User Reviews

A little rant about Arcanum. Happy Rabbi (1305) 4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars
That's the way to show those bast... uhh... I mean... good hit sir! אולג 小奥 (169161) 4.86 Stars4.86 Stars4.86 Stars4.86 Stars4.86 Stars
Gnomes with guns and bits with bugs Anym (193) 4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars
An engrossing and impressive rpg that ultimately lives up to it's potential. Zovni (9360) 4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars
An Enriching Yet Ultimately Flawed Experience prymusferal (25) 3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars
Troika is dead, Long Live Troika aiolos (6) 3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars
A fine, fun RPG in an original (at least in games) world. weregamer (157) 3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars
It's Kinda Like A Turn Of The Century Shadowrun MasterMegid (897) 4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars
Voi ch'entrate lasciate ogni speranza (Dante, but not the one met in Ashbury) Jacques Guy (55) 2.33 Stars2.33 Stars2.33 Stars2.33 Stars2.33 Stars
Seems to be mything something. Terrence Bosky (5235) 4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

The Press Says

GameZone Aug 30, 2001 9 out of 10 90
PC Gameplay (Benelux) Oct, 2001 84 out of 100 84
Peliplaneetta.net Sep 12, 2001 81 out of 100 81
Quandary Sep, 2002 4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars 80
Gamesmania Oct 11, 2001 76 out of 100 76
Gamers' Temple, The Apr 05, 2002 75 out of 100 75
ESC Magazine Sep 28, 2001 7 out of 10 70
Adrenaline Vault, The (AVault) Sep 21, 2001 3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars 70
Game Informer Magazine Oct, 2001 6.75 out of 10 68
Computer Gaming World (CGW) Oct, 2001 3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars 60

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Trivia

Manual

Following on the tradition started in the Fallout manuals, Arcanum's manual includes an actual cooking recipe! This time it's Grandma Cookhill's Three Bowl Bread.

Mod Pack

On January 7th, 2002, the development team released a free "Mod pack" containing six new and exclusive adventures. It can be downloaded here.

Mods

Chris Beddoes has produced a mod for this game that addresses some balance issues, makes it overall a little more challenging, and replaces the entire opening area and quests. This latter is important because the opening area was used in the demo, and many players have just seen it too many times to want to start a new character any more, despite the near-infinite possibilities for character design. It can be found here.

References

  • There's a location in the game called the "Isle of Despair" which is a penal colony which holds it's inmates in a remote island behind a magical barrier that makes it impossible to escape. Now, when you ask the generic npcs for its location they answer:

    "You mean the Black Isle? I'm not quite sure..."

    Black Isle Studios is the name of Interplay's RPG division, and the former home of Arcanum's development team.
  • A portion of the Stillwater giant quest contains a major (and fairly obvious) reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, specifically the part where you have to trace the beast to a cave and capture it. In fact, the whole sequence plays just like in the movie, you follow some giant footprints, enter a dark cave filled with bones and dead bodies, and so on.
  • There's a Fallout reference in the walled city of Tulla. Apparently one of the students had to venture out in the Wastes to find a Water Gem. He has since returned and the Mages fear how the journey changed him and the influence he might have on other students. Plus, he's wearing mechanized armor.
  • There's actually a reference to Bill Gates and Microsoft stealing the ideas for their Windows operating system from Apple's MacOS. One of the most influential and wealthy of people in Tarant is Gilbert Bates (Swap the G and B in Gill Bates and you have Bill Gates) because he brought the power of the steam engine to mankind. Another steam engine developer, called Cedric APPLEby is spiteful of Bates's success and claims that he invented the steam engine first and that Bates had stolen the idea off him.

Graveyards

A hidden graveyard, containing tombstones of Arcanum's most diehard fans, can be found at the location W: 1060 S : 809 on the world map. Another graveyard has lots of humorous epitaphs written on the graves. However, many of them are taken directly from Baldur's Gate.

Server shutdown

The official Sierra game servers were shut down on 1st November 2008.

Soundtrack

The soundtrack to Arcanum was composed by Ben Houge for string quartet and was provided in its entirety on Computer Gaming World's May 2001 demo CD.

Both the soundtrack and its sheet music are available as a free download.

Stillwater giant

Despite the result of the associated quest, the Stillwater giant DOES exist. It can be found on a random encounter between Stillwater and the pass to the elven city.

Information also contributed by Rambutaan, Sciere, Terrence Bosky, uclafalcon, Unicorn Lynx, weregamer, Wojit and Zovni

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אולג 小奥 (169161) added Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura (Windows) on Jul 12, 2001