I have been playing one of my favourite games again recently, Arcanum. It’s a CRPG released 2001 that unlike many popular ones released around that time is not based on the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset1. I think this is what gives me so fond memories of the game, since while I do enjoy Dungeons & Dragons and think it’s a good ruleset for Pen & Paper it always felt somewhat lacking while playing it as a CRPG. Especially the whole “casts per day” mechanic I felt really did not fit in with CRPG’s that tend to be somewhat monster filled. It made casters really frustrating to play especially at low levels since you either did very little or ended up resting every couple fights. But this was about Arcanum, not Dungeons & Dragons.

Playing the game has been a somewhat strange experience, since I have really fond memories of playing it a ton as a kid and those memories seem to be very strong since I can still memeber the early levels really well and know almost exactly what I need to do, what quests are available where and how to complete them as well as how I want to level my character even though it has been several years since I last played the game—though I’m not quite sure how long exactly, I think I did another playthrough of the game ten years ago or so?

Still, I find the game excellent but this strange feeling of knowing exactly how everything will play out all the time is keeping me from playing the game a bit. I mean, I still enjoy what I am doing but it feels somewhat routine which is strange since it has been so long since last. The feeling will also probably dissipate a bit the further in I get since I actually haven’t played the whole game through that many times, only the early levels and maybe the first half or so?

I think I’m actually so slowly at my usuall stopping point back in the day, before going and visiting the Black Mountain Clan. For some reason this first proper dungeon used to intimidate me, I believe partially due to the Rock Golems there which can actually make your weapon break when you attack them.2 Since I’m playing a melee character again this will be something I have to take into account before going in there—perhaps I should get some “expendable” weapon I can use to kill the golems? It’s actually really unfortunate, just got nice magical weapons for the whole party after clearing out P. Schuyler and Sons but I guess I need to use the other weapons for only one or two fights in there.

I think I’ll start enjoying the game even more once I get over that hurdle, and now with Uu’nat down we should probably be raiding less again which means I have more time for other games. Though maybe I’ll just spend that time boosting more instead. I just hope this game doesn’t end up the way Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey where I don’t end up finishing this run—haven’t really played Assassin’s Creed since that post, there as well I would need to get over the level grinding hurdle.

With that all said, the game is still probably my all-time favourite CRPG and if you haven’t already played it and like CRPGs I would definitely recommend you do so. But do read the manual, some of the things—like skills training—really aren’t explained at all in game. As a kid I had no idea what it did, just that you could pay a trainer to get some text to stand next to the name of the skill. But the training is actually really good, and among other things is what is required in order to be able to try to repair completely broken equipment.

If you do end up playing the game, I would recommend getting some of the community patches for it as well as the widescreen patch which is available and works well for the most part though it does have a funky effect on some screens. For example the character sheet and inventory are fixed size, so you end up being able to see some of the world while you have them open which is not the case in the original resolution. Also, depending on whether you like experimentation or just want to see the story, it might be worth looking into some good builds. There is a lot of freedom to the character creation, but there are very much “cookie cutter” backgrounds and skills you can choose to get a easier experience. In my opinion, there are also some somewhat misleading spells, that seem like they could be strong based on the description but end up being somewhat weak in actual usage. One example of this are the different elemental forms you can learn in the elemental spell paths—it seems really cool to be able to turn into an earth elemental or the like, but in my experience the damage and survivability wasn’t that great compared to some other choices. On the other hand, being able to turn into an earth elemental is really cool, so maybe that is enough reason to go that path—I know I made an elemental mage at some point that focused on the different transformations and had fun with it.

Now I’m actually getting the feeling of maybe wanting to remake my character and going for a more magic build again since those tend to be more interesting even if the melee builds can be really strong as well. Maybe I just need to get those first points in earth magic to get the extra strength and that would make my meleeing more efficient. I guess I have a plan for tomorrow then.

  1. Some popular examples would include Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale.
  2. If the durability of equipment goes to 0, it is actually permanently broken unless you have skilled repair—NPC blacksmiths can’t normally repair completely broken equipment.