Developer: Troika Games
Arcanum official page: http://sierrastudios.com/games/arcanum/
More Arcanum resources
The Rifle and the Fireball
I wasn't very excited when I first heard about the concept behind Arcanum. It's a little hard to get worked up about another RPG that tries that risky magic/technology formula. Yipee-kai-yay, yet another game that takes the medieval fantasy setting, and then moves it forward a few centuries to the industrial revolution. Many games, especially the pen and paper kind, have tried and failed to make this concept work. The Wizardry series has had success, but those are mostly dungeon crawls, not RPGs that try to show you a world with vast, open spaces and people living normal, daily lives.
The game certainly has one great thing going for it - it was being developed by Troika games, which was composed of many of the same developers who did the original Fallout. Grudgingly, that respect turned into a desire to finally take a look at the press kit, the screenshots and even look up a few links.
Wow, it's amazing what one page of a press release can do for you! As mentioned above, Arcanum isn't set in your typical fantasy world. The primary races - humans, dwarves, elves and orcs - have seen technology slowly make its way into daily life. Now the population is becoming urbanized and all 4 races co-exist in cities, not necessarily a harmonious relationship but better than the wars of medieval times.
Up until recently, technology and industrialization had been limited and not much cause for concern - mostly gradual changes that people could accept, especially those in power who fear such change. However, as the game progresses (perhaps even at the game's start), the slight unease turns into high tensions as the powers of the day - the mages - start fearing for their waning influence and status.
That map looks like cloth
All the World's a Stage
At the beginning of the game, you have the option of selecting from a variety of pre-made characters or creating your own. Character creation is slightly different in Arcanum. It does not employ the standard character class setup so prominent in Baldur's Gate II or Diablo II. Rather, it's more similar to Fallout, or perhaps more accurately, Daggerfall.
There are 8 basic stats such as strength and charisma which influence over a dozen derived stats like character speed, poison resistance and the like. These stats are complemented by 16 character skills such as gambling, healing and lockpicking.
Characters can learn up to 80 spells, each belonging to one of 16 'colleges' - somewhat like schools of magic in AD&D. There are also 56 technological degrees that belong to 8 disciplines.
It's up to the player what kind of character he wants to play - an all-around generalist? A magic user? Someone familiar with various technologies or perhaps a specialist?