The GWJ CRPG Club - Game 6: Arcanum (In Progress)

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Glad you got it working better, Sorbicol!

Math wrote:
Sorbicol wrote:
Math wrote:

So I (finally!!) made it through the Black Mountain Mine. Good god it was painful. Currently level 24 and on my way to Ashbury. Maxed Dodge and Melee (haven't trained to Master yet) and am working up my Strength and Charisma.

Honestly, if there was a cheat for teleportation and/or fast movement I would install it in a heartbeat. I'm interested in the gameworld and story, but traveling is just. so. painfully. slow.

I believe there is a mage spell for that.

Yeah, not a mage

I travelled a lot back and forth among the first few cities I encountered, which got tedious. As the game moved on I felt like there was less of that. I was still traveling, but there was less backtracking.

Math wrote:
Sorbicol wrote:
Math wrote:

So I (finally!!) made it through the Black Mountain Mine. Good god it was painful. Currently level 24 and on my way to Ashbury. Maxed Dodge and Melee (haven't trained to Master yet) and am working up my Strength and Charisma.

Honestly, if there was a cheat for teleportation and/or fast movement I would install it in a heartbeat. I'm interested in the gameworld and story, but traveling is just. so. painfully. slow.

I believe there is a mage spell for that.

Yeah, not a mage ;)

By the end of the game, my buff pure-fighter dude had enough points in Int to cast teleport (a max-tier spell). It's definitely possible.

Wrapped up Isle of Despair, Wheel Clan, and Stillwater. Level 30 currently, and onward to Qintarra.

Spoiler:

I actually managed to talk my way straight to the King in Wheel Clan, but ended up diving through the Dredge anyway for the exp.

The mainline quest in Stillwater made me laugh.

Math wrote:

Wrapped up Isle of Despair, Wheel Clan, and Stillwater. Level 30 currently, and onward to Qintarra.

Spoiler:

I actually managed to talk my way straight to the King in Wheel Clan, but ended up diving through the Dredge anyway for the exp.

The mainline quest in Stillwater made me laugh.

I did the exact same thing!

Nice progress! It starts to really pick up speed from there too. You've got this!

I've just reached Qintarra. There's not a lot that can touch my mage now, and if they can a quick burst of Disintegrate is sort of the mage equivalent of "drop the mic" - rendering them down to their constituent atoms seems to do the job.

I know there is so much I am missing now, and I'm sort of thinking a tech playthrough at some point might be worth the time investment, but for now I'm going to press on and probably just concentrate on the main plot. I'm quite tempted to do the Ancient Gods quest though (although I couldn't make head nor tail of Mazzerin's Mystery and had to look it up in a walkthrough).

I think I'm nearly at the end game now:

Spoiler:

I've been to T'sen Ang and spoken to whatshername about what's happened to the BMC. Now I'm back in Caladon about to go and speak with the Panarii, with my new elven flirt alongside. Virgil has run off though, I thnk I may need to go and find him to bring him back

Getting the teleport spell has been a godsend of unimaginable proportions (sort of) as I am now a very high level mage, so I can't use technological mass transit systems and the ship captains stil won't take me to half the places on the map. Being able to warp from one location to the next - no more interminable trekking across the world map for me! Well, at least not back to where I've been before...

Update!

Spoiler:

Finished T'eng Ang and Caladon, got the boat from the Pirate Ghost, and found Jesus Nasrudin.

Me, the dog, and Bates's bodyguard are mowing through things. Jormund and Raven are along for the ride. I had Waromon (the lizard man) for a bit, but apparently he died somewhere and I never noticed. RIP?

I'm leaning pretty heavily on online maps, cause I just can't stand exploring in this game.

All in all, I'm really enjoying the story and world. I would think an Enhanced Edition (a la BG or PS:T) would do so much to make the game more bearable for a modern audience.

Math wrote:

Update!

Spoiler:

Finished T'eng Ang and Caladon, got the boat from the Pirate Ghost, and found Jesus Nasrudin.

Me, the dog, and Bates's bodyguard are mowing through things. Jormund and Raven are along for the ride. I had Waromon (the lizard man) for a bit, but apparently he died somewhere and I never noticed. RIP?

I'm leaning pretty heavily on online maps, cause I just can't stand exploring in this game.

All in all, I'm really enjoying the story and world. I would think an Enhanced Edition (a la BG or PS:T) would do so much to make the game more bearable for a modern audience.

I feel like it needs a few months of tweaking the mechanics as well. Some builds are overpowered through the whole game. Some builds are under-powered and require micro-management. If you could pull the extremes toward the middle more (well, in addition to losing the micro-management altogether) I think you'd really have something special.

And then yeah, update the graphics some, improve the map and movement systems, streamline the inventory management, and add quest markers, and it'd be super fun.

And victory!

Spoiler:

No lies: I looked up the Tulla puzzle solution.

In the void, I released Arronax cause he seemed like a repentant guy and found the game-breakingly good sword just by wandering around.

I like how many options the game gives for defeating Kerghan. I went with talking him into suicide-by-magical-box (after a first, very brief, attempt at combat).

All in all, I'm really glad I played this one.

Liked: The setting was quite interesting and the game was very committed to giving you many avenues to solve a quest. The story had its interesting moments, with a nicely foreshadowed 'twist' at the end.

Disliked: The UI for obvious reasons. The opacity of some of the underlying systems. The companions were pretty dull except for Virgil.

I would be interested in seeing how other runs turn out, e.g. low-intelligence or pacifist conduct runs. But I can't bring myself to wrestle with the UI again. Maybe when it gets a EE/remaster/etc.

Math wrote:

And victory!

I would be interested in seeing how other runs turn out, e.g. low-intelligence or pacifist conduct runs. But I can't bring myself to wrestle with the UI again. Maybe when it gets a EE/remaster/etc.

Congrats! Nice work!

I'm very much in the same place. I've got a handful of other character builds I'd enjoy trying, but the friction in the system would be a bit tricky to bear again. Even re-starting after I played myself into a corner with a gunslinger was tough to overcome.

And we are finished. In the end I found it to be very enjoyable, but with a fair dose of frustration (oh man that UI!) and some well meaning but badly thought out mechanics. Travelling and shopping shouldn't be that difficult just because you are a mage! (although that teleportation spell really does the business if you can be bothered to invest in it.

It deserves a tech play-through at some point I guess, but not right now. An Extended Edition ah la Baldur's Gate would be very interesting though I think.

Spoiler:

I also freed Arronax (and cheated in Tulla), but for some reason never got the option not to fight Kerghan. So fight him I did. I did rather like the Vendigroth device cutscene though. If you are going to destroy someone's soul, strikes me that device would definitely do so.

Sorbicol wrote:
Spoiler:

I also freed Arronax (and cheated in Tulla), but for some reason never got the option not to fight Kerghan. So fight him I did. I did rather like the Vendigroth device cutscene though. If you are going to destroy someone's soul, strikes me that device would definitely do so.

Spoiler:

From what I could tell, the dialogue branch followed an option which (at least to me) read like you were agreeing with Kerghan. Turns out that the subsequent dialogue was more of an argument still.

I also had 20 Charisma and maxed Persuasion. ;)

Sorbicol wrote:

And we are finished. In the end I found it to be very enjoyable, but with a fair dose of frustration (oh man that UI!) and some well meaning but badly thought out mechanics. Travelling and shopping shouldn't be that difficult just because you are a mage! (although that teleportation spell really does the business if you can be bothered to invest in it.

It deserves a tech play-through at some point I guess, but not right now. An Extended Edition ah la Baldur's Gate would be very interesting though I think.

Spoiler:

I also freed Arronax (and cheated in Tulla), but for some reason never got the option not to fight Kerghan. So fight him I did. I did rather like the Vendigroth device cutscene though. If you are going to destroy someone's soul, strikes me that device would definitely do so.

Congrats!

There are six of us now who have completed the game. Slowly but surely, but this still looks to be our lowest completed game so far.

I am nearing the end of this slogfest. The last 1/3 of this game has been a challenge to finish. I am off to the void and should still be done by the Sept. 30th deadline.

tundra wrote:

I am nearing the end of this slogfest. The last 1/3 of this game has been a challenge to finish. I am off to the void and should still be done by the Sept. 30th deadline.

Excellent! Still plenty of time should anyone want to start late and make a sprint to the finish.

I'm looking at making that sprint right now. I'm not very far into the game, but I'll put some good hours in this weekend.

5 days and counting, hear ye hear ye!

The weekend is here and I begin my final grind. Failure is not an option! I will get this game one more name on its finisher list.

Complete. That was a tough one.

tundra wrote:

Complete. That was a tough one.

Grats! Made it by *that* much.

Entering the Void. Finishing this bad boy tomorrow for sure.

Forget about waiting to tomorrow, I stayed up late instead, aaaand.... finished!

Well, OK, it is tomorrow now, but anyway.

Hoo boy do I have mixed feelings on this one. Lots of stuff I like, buried under a lot of tedium and a UI that challenges the patience of even someone that considers the UI of the original Fallout games to be plenty usable.

There's no way I would ever play this game again without the Teleportation spell.

Alright let's talk Arcanum a little more:

THE GOOD

The setting and theme - Existing in this world is enjoyable and memorable. There were many small touches that made the game's atmosphere special. I really enjoyed simple things like road name signs and address plates on buildings, things which facilitate navigation within the world instead of the modern design of incessant floating waypoint markers. I cannot overstate how much I loathe modern waypoint marker level design.

Inheriting from Fallout - What made me want to play Arcanum in the first place is the game's lineage, coming from many of the developers of the original Fallout title, and clearly pulling a lot of inspiration from that game. The statistics and character backgrounds are pretty obvious echoes of SPECIAL and traits, and very comfortable concepts for a Fallout player.

Lots of mechanics - There's so many mechanics going on, so much to dive into. I could easily see how a second playthrough of the game could differ significantly.

THE BAD

Zero explanation of lots of mechanics - The experience of playing Arcanum for the first time:

1. I'm doing OK
2. I'm getting my ass kicked all over the place
3. Wait what's this screen buried in the UI all about?
4. Oh there's a whole "thing" here that I'm not taking advantage of
5. Go back to #1 and repeat

This definitely feels like an old school "read the instruction manual" kind of game, which would have been less surprising for a game in the mid-90s or earlier, but is unusual for a game that was released at about the same time as the original Xbox.

Trash mobs - So many sections are just a slog of trash mob enemies that provide no interesting encounters. Toggling on real time combat is pretty much a must to not have these drag the game down even further than they do.

No Player Character AI + Real Time Without Pause - Two issues here that make each other worse. First, the player character does nothing automatically in a real time environment. In the Infinity Engine games, all of your characters will participate in combat automatically in real time until/unless overridden. Pair that without the ability to pause, and participating in real time combat is an exercise in frustration of trying to manipulate the UI while someone is wailing on your character.

Turn Based <=> Real Time Toggle - Instead of pausing real time combat, hitting the space bar toggles between real time and turn based. And this transition is AWKWARD A-F. I often ended up using it to try and simulate a real-time pause. It was never satisfying in this regard.

Everything To Do With the Map - The map UI is terrible. It's vaguely similar to the Fallout "overworld" map, with the random encounters and all, except it is needlessly complicated. It would have been so much better without the dual zoom levels, and with the location list on the left side like Fallout.

Travel tedium - Traveling on the map from one major location to another was tedious. As you get later in the game, it often wants you to do this much more often. I would not be finished with the game right now if not for the Teleportation spell. I actually don't mind games requiring some time and effort to travel, rather than just allowing insta-travel, but Arcanum's was so tedious that I could not get Teleportation fast enough.

The Camera - In Fallout, I can scroll all the way across an area, click on a spot, and have my party start running to that spot. Arcanum apparently has this locked camera thing, which the Multiverse Edition mods into a free camera. But even with the free camera, you can only click so far away from your party to have them move. Past some arbitrary distance, the click gets ignored. This is a massive pain in the ass for the entire game, and is just the most inexplicable regression from the Fallout games. It is the most head-scratching unforced error.

THE UGLY

Technical Problems - Running unmodified on Windows 10 is right out. The Multiverse Edition makes Win10 play possible, but still with crashes, freezes, and other headaches. On top of that, I was held up for a while until I discovered that the Multiverse Edition fails on G-Sync monitors. WTF? I've yet to have any game be affected by the presence of G-Sync. Disabling G-Sync "fixes" the issue, but remained an annoyance every time I switched back and forth between playing this game and other games.

OVERALL

Uhhh.... I both want to play the game again and not touch it ever again. Because of the timing of my playthrough, I chose a path through the game that really powered through the main quest, and bypassed a lot of optional content. I feel like I could enjoy the early game MUCH more now with a better understanding of the game's mechanics, and better set myself up for a successful run, but oof do I not want to go through all of the boring, time-chewing parts to get to all the fun and interesting stuff.

I'm glad we played this for the club, because just like Divinity, there is no way I would have powered through to the end without the carrot of maintaining my perfect completion rate. Unlike Divinity, which left me with zero interest in ever playing it again, Arcanum still holds things that intrigue me and could, conceivably, draw me back in at a later date. But as it stands, I am super ready to move on.

I do wish this game got a proper remaster or a straight reboot. It is so interesting but so damn clunky.

I still play this from time to time, until the annoyances become too much for me to take.

Good write-up, Legion. Thanks.

I echo similar thoughts from my brief compatibility issue riddled experience. That real-time to turn based toggle. The lack of a pause. The map. All were disappointing.

If there's ever an Enhanced Edition I'll potentially come back around. If not, this one is relegated to never be seen or heard from again.

Yeah, that's a great write-up, Legion. I share many of the same feelings. Nicely done!

Still about 8 hours to go if anyone is almost done!

tboon wrote:

I do wish this game got a proper remaster or a straight reboot. It is so interesting but so damn clunky.

RnRClown wrote:

If there's ever an Enhanced Edition I'll potentially come back around. If not, this one is relegated to never be seen or heard from again.

I agree with this, because SO MUCH of what makes Arcanum frustrating is not at all part of the core game. Modernizing the frustrating parts of the experience away would not require any "dumbing down". Just porting the game to a modern engine plus some common sense UI updates would erase about 2/3 of the game's real pain points, without making one single change to core gameplay.

I do think a truly great remaster/EE of this would touch gameplay though, because the game balance is, well, pretty broken. But that said, even if all you did was a modernized engine port, and maybe adding an actual pause to the real time combat (so that you can sanely pick out and cast spells and target enemies), that would be a day 1 insta-purchase for me.

*Legion* wrote:

I do think a truly great remaster/EE of this would touch gameplay though, because the game balance is, well, pretty broken. But that said, even if all you did was a modernized engine port, and maybe adding an actual pause to the real time combat (so that you can sanely pick out and cast spells and target enemies), that would be a day 1 insta-purchase for me.

For me they'd have to address balance as well. I felt like the game is in many ways a beta, with several pathways (looking at you, gunslinger) conceptually broken. The game has a "be anything go anywhere" feel to it, but so many of those options fall apart when you dig into them.

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