Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura - PC Game Review

I like classic games. I have most of the old consoles still around my house in working order. One thing that is tough however, is playing older PC games (I still have this old Magic the Gathering game that requires Windows 95 or 98 to play sitting in a box), because the system requirements don't match up and many of them simply don't load or run. Some you can get around, but not most. That's why I was pretty excited when I found Good Old Games ( - they have many classic games playable on the PC.

I also didn't have a PC until I was midway through college, so while my history of console gaming is pretty extensive, I'm a bit weaker on the older PC front. One of the games I picked up awhile back was called Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. It's a mouthful to be sure, but it had a solid pedigree with Fallout developers having designed it, so I picked it up on sale one day. I know that this game got great reviews when it first came out, and a lot of people on GoG reviewed it, but it was one I struggled with to be honest with you.

Graphics - 4:

I know that this is an older game, and I keep that in mind, but while some things like the menu and the character portraits look nice, the rest of the game is just really bland and featureless. Walking around gives you very little new to see of interest. I kept getting the impression that even though this game is older (2001) - the graphics feel older than that even.

Sound & Music - 7:

There's almost nothing in the way of in-game sound effects, and that mingled with the sparse graphics can make your journey feel a bit empty. Luckily there's some voice acting, and it's actually pretty good. There's also a decent if somewhat repetitious musical score at play. Certainly fares the years better than the game's visuals.

Gameplay - 6:

I can appreciate a lot of what they tried to do here. This is probably one of the earlier systems where you see your actions affect the world around you. This is a theme in Fallout and plenty of other games since, and it works pretty well. The character creation system is actually pretty detailed as well, but truth be told I almost had more fun with this than the game itself. A lot of the gameplay elements are less-than-intuitive and though pretty much everything can be found in the PDF manual, it's not always easy to find what you're looking for.

My biggest gripe though? That has to be the combat. It just feels broken - almost silly in the way you click on things to swing and attack (I built my guy up for melee primarily - maybe it's less awkward for different combat styles, but I have my doubts. Sometimes party members hit other party members, things like that. Also the followers take odd paths at times and get stuck.

Intangibles - 7:

The game has the potential to be quite large. There are a ton of side quests, though I honestly did not bother with many of them - which was in and of itself an indicator as to how little I was enjoying the game. The way you can develop your character does lend some replay value to the game, as well as the deep creation system. It's a very open-ended RPG, but so many of the mechanics just did not work for me, and drained the fun out of the game. There are some multiplayer and map editing options I never got to make any use out of, but for those interested that's probably worth a point there.

Overall - 6:

It wasn't horrible, and I would say I spent about 35 hours beating the main storyline, but I'm someone who does every single side quest available in Dragon Age or buys every piece of property in Fable 2. So the fact I was streamlining my adventure is a pretty good indication that I just was not enjoying the game as much as I thought I would.



  1. Good review: I'm a big fan of Arcanum, but I can see where you're coming from.

    Have you considered Avadom:

    Jeff Vogel makes some awesome retro-style RPGs, and Avadom is his newest work. Well worth a play through if you're after something classic :)

  2. You know, I hadn't heard of that one until I read about it on your blog awhile back, but it did rather catch my eye at the time. I've got a handful of other older rpg and strategy games I picked up not toooo long ago I plan to plug away at soon as well, but this is among those I've got jotted down actually for when I get through my backlog (which has actually been going pretty well of late, surprisingly) heh


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