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Page 2 of 3As you make your way through the game, you will acquire experience points, which will increase your level. As you increase in level, you will accrue character points, which allow you the opportunity to improve your magical, technological, social, and/or stealth abilities. You will have a neutral alignment by default, but as you do good or bad things, your alignment will shift accordingly. You will likewise generate a reputation for yourself, and also accumulate fate points, which are another unique aspect to the game, allowing you to alter events in a favorable way for your character.
You will also have the ability to create items from other items and assorted components you can make poisons and robots, potions and guns based on schematics you can buy and learn.
On the upside, you can really make and play a unique character the very epitome of role-playing. On the downside, you have so many choices to choose from that you may feel somewhat intimidated by the vast array of choices before you and no matter what you choose, there will be something that you later wish you had chosen instead. Although, not-for-nothing, this adds greatly to the replay value of the game. Beware: when you create your character, and for the early part of the game, your limitations will require you to be pretty focused on what you want to become.
Aside from following the main plot quest, there will be plenty of sides quests to keep you running all over the place. While the quests are tracked in a journal, you will need to pay attention to the dialogues to keep track of all the details.
As you may have gathered, you can play this game dozens of times and still have very different gaming experiences. With the vast array of character development options and their effect on the story, you will find Arcanum to be quite worthy of repeat play. This is enhanced by the open-ended nature of the game. You can follow the main plot in a straight path, or veer off and do hundreds of side quests. Depending on how you play it, the game can give you from 30 to 90 hours of play in a single campaign.
The game is played from a third party perspective, like Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale. The interface may be a little awkward for some at first. I've heard some games get ripped for having a (poor) interface (Gothic springs to mind), but let's face it: If you like the game, you're going to play, and handling even the most tortuous (or torturous take your pick) interface will become second nature after a while. Oh, and by the way, there's nothing particularly bad about the interface in Arcanum. Okay, there is one thing: the darn interface takes up way too much of the screen, giving you a somewhat stingy field of view.
Some will be more critical of the interface than me, but if it isn't to your liking, it isn't to your liking. I have also read of some people experiencing bugs and problems, but my playing experience was smooth and without a hitch. I imagine the more recent patches covered some issues that may have been problematic for those who played the game nearer to its release date.
As with any game, experimentation and practice pay off. Note that there is no in-game tutorial, so you may want to keep the manual handy. The game I bought came with a miniaturized copy of the Prima Official Strategy Guide, which was very helpful (although far more information can be found here, on GameBanshee).
Most CRPGs involve combat at some point, and Arcanum is no exception. The game allows you to choose from real-time, turn-based, and a hybrid of the two. Real-time was too fast for me, and turn-based was too slow, so I used the fast-turn-based, which worked out pretty well. The combat is pretty pale nothing really exciting or graphic just sprites whacking sprites on the real-time setting it looks particularly bad, as everyone just attacks each other in a mindless and uncontrolled frenzy.