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Reviewed By: Dylon 'Kusari' Whyte [10.02.01]
Category: RPG
Developer: Troika Games
Publisher: Sierra

Prices as of writing:
EBWorld.com - $49.99

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura

By my understanding of the technology vs. magick rules of the Arcanum world, the Pyrotechnic Axes shouldn't have worked very well on highly magickal creatures. But I've yet to come up with a single encounter against magickal creatures where the Pyrotechnic Axe failed me.

The same goes for my character, who is decidedly technical, and the wearing of magickal armour. The impression that one gets from the manual and from the game world in general is that the magickal armour should practically run away from a character of its own accord, yet it seems to function without a problem.

The combat system is a glaring example of where Arcanum could have benefited from some serious polishing. Here are some more bugs that really should have been squashed before the product was even considered for store shelves:

Click Here!

The are tons of side quests which add a rich atmosphere to Arcanum, one of my favorites involved Madam Lil. That's right, in a nod to the not so savoury side of society (and to Fallout 2), Arcanum includes it's very own: "Best Little Whorehouse this side of Puff the Magic Dragon". Since I was playing a female character I was given the opportunity to partake in some not so "hetero" activities ( the S&M dialogue about my half-even heritage was quite amusing!).

Madam Lil was also happy to offer me some extra cash by helping to take care of a very special client. And take care of him I did! The poor little guy was begging for mercy by the time I was done (maybe I should have taken off my platemail first…). Anyhow, this little excursion netted me a few hundred bucks and the chance to perform another job for Madam Lil, no gnomejobs this time, just a simple collection of a client's back dues. 

This job was rather special, as it ran smack dab into a small, but rather beneficial bug. By following the correct route in the dialogue tree and taking a rather aggressive tone, the chap will offer you $200 now and $200 if you come back in 5 days. It seems that he simply doesn't have the cash on him. However, if you initiate another dialogue with him and follow the same set of dialogue options he will give you another $200. Hmmm, I thought he didn't have the $400 on him? Let's try again, another $200, you can basically follow this course ad nauseum to make yourself as much extra dough as you want. (I understand that the latest patch addresses this problem). 

The downside of Arcanum that this example illustrates are the numerous Bug-a-boos that should have been squashed before release. They include: 

  • Numerous spelling and Grammar errors, as well as convoluted dialogue trees that allow for key skills to be missed and lost forever. 

  • Poorly though-out encounters for some skills, such as killing good-aligned knight to gain "Melee Mastery"

  • Despite offering the chance to develop either a Magical or Technical character, Arcanum is rather blatant in giving all the perks to Technical characters. This is especially troublesome as magickal characters in the party literally knock themselves unconscious with failed magickal-healing attempts on the main character.

  • NPCs that join the main character are unable to learn advanced skill levels or discovered technical blueprints.

  • Higher levels of skill training are supposed to give characters certain perks. The perk for Dodge mastery is supposed to cause enemies to suffer critical failures when the character makes a successful dodge. I've yet to see an example of this perk functioning correctly.

  • The town of Ashbury suffers from many anomalies, including unprovoked murderous behaviour in some less social townsfolk, a graveyard of infinite zombies and a VERY forgetful mayor (It's best to have a point of Persuasion before you speak with him).

  • NPC characters that suffer massive alignment and mood swings for no reason. I understand this problem has been addresses in the latest patch.

  • Item descriptions which are vague and filled with acronyms that are not fully described in the manual.

  • NPC characters choosing which weapons, items and armour they will wear, which often means less effective items than what you want them to wear.

  • A poorly thought-out economic system that includes too little interesting treasure and leads to dirt-poor characters. Time honored traditions, such as selling weapons and armour meet with laughable failures, even with a medium skill level for haggling I've sill been offered $100 for items that sell for over $2000.

  • Assorted combat problems, such as turned based combat and summoned monsters causing infinite loops that can only be broken by switching combat modes and NPCs that jam themselves in doorways, requiring full game re-loads to free.

Are there any more bugs?

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