• Flashback Friday - Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura

    In any discussion about the greatest video game RPGs of all time, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura is bound to be mentioned, and rightfully so. Arcanum is a steampunk fantasy RPG released by Troika Games in 2001, making it perhaps the best debut for any video game studio. It is the sole occupant of tier 2 on our video game RPG tier list, meaning only one video game RPG has more role-playing than it (that being Fallout 2). Troika Games was formed by ex-Interplay employees, so much of Fallout's brilliance is on display throughout Arcanum.

    Arcanum is an isometric 2.5D game that lets you choose between real-time combat and turn-based combat. Off hand I cannot think of another RPG that gives you such an option. Its superior quality and 190 page manual might make the educated RPG fan think it comes from a pen and paper RPG, but it does not. It is an original video game RPG, one of the best of all time in this regard again not unlike Fallout and most of all Fallout 2.

    It is set in the world of Arcanum which consists of a massive continent and several off shore islands. It is almost completely open world with only a few locations not being accessible until you advance to a certain point. The world of Arcanum resembles a parallel 1800s United Kingdom in which magick exists but is being replaced by steam based technology, making for a very unique setting and intriguing conflict. It plays off of its setting well as we will soon discuss, taking advantage of the literary intrigue it presents in the form of story and quests, and also taking advantage of the setting in the form of gameplay diversity.

    The massive world of Arcanum has very few loading screens, and only select few small locations require advancing to certain parts in the plot before they can be accessed.

    Arcanum is available on both GOG and Steam, and only supports Windows. It needs some work before it can run at widescreen resolutions. See the following guide, especially pages 17-18:


    Don't be intimidated, all that's needed are a widescreen patch and unofficial patch. In Windows Vista and newer, it is also necessary to run it as administrator and use the following compatibility settings: Disable Display Scaling on High DPI Settings, Disable Desktop Composition, and Disable Visual Themes. After these tweaks it may or may not run with no severe issues... if it doesn't, then try disabling fullscreen mode which should work, and if not then try lowering the resolution and also try different GPU drivers.

    Even with these tweaks it will not be perfect. You may or may not be limited to 1920 x 1080 and below, you may or may not be limited to running it in windowed mode, higher frame rates may or may not stutter. This game really needs a remaster, so be warned.

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. WASD's Avatar
      WASD -
      dude I remember by little brother playing the shit out of this game back in the day. I was a Command and Conquer purist so i couldnt be bothered with non westwood games so i cant vouch for the funness level. The repetative dialogue for this game is still burned into my brain looool
    1. Jester's Avatar
      Jester -
      By repetitive dialogue, do you mean party member banter when you click on party members? And party member greetings. Because yeah, there isn't much voiced dialogue so those can become memorable.
    1. strudinox's Avatar
      strudinox -
      Good writeup! This game eluded me. I was heavily invested into Star Craft at the time. We use to do tournaments at the local LAN shack then. Good times. Probably time I get caught up! I like me a good retro game every now and then