Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura Review
(Goosebumps) Arcanum is an RPG that I like to play in the fall if I can. It is a fantasy game, but made by Troika whose founders were instrumental in making the original Fallout games. So as you'd expect this setting already has some bite to it, but if you really take the time to explore the game there are some dark dealings underneath it all. This all comes packaged inside of an incredibly unique game. It has lots of other merits it can stand on and plenty of flaws - like the game engine being an absolute nightmare. Playing it is one thing and recording it nicely is another. Luckily there's a good one-stop solution; this is The Unofficial Arcanum Patch by Drog Black Tooth. He's a Ukrainian modder
who's one of the few people on the planet who can actually wrangle the engine. It has tons of fixes, enhancements, and a few options. I'll be playing without those, but keep in mind you can completely change the XP system or even play some races that you couldn't previously, so there's a lot to dig through. For the vanilla player some assets have been made high quality including the music and you can play the game in proper widescreen. So no more of the awkward stretching. That said you can set the resolution high (like absurdly high). That won't scale well and can lead to weirdness so stick with the Holy 1366x768. This will give you more screen space without making the UI the
size of bacteria. It also keeps a range of view in line with what the developers intended. It does fix a ton of different bugs, but there are also plenty that remain. This was one of the buggiest CRPGs on release and even with the big fan patch it's still a contender, and this could be as good as it gets. Even before the Russian [ __ ] show had gone into full swing Drog Black Tooth had been
offline for about a year. At the time of recording he's still missing and I hope he's okay. So that's where we're at as far as stability goes. With that out of the way let's talk about the setting of Arcanum. It's a fascinating world and the fact that only this single game explores it really is a crime. So the simplest way to put it is that this is D&D during an industrial revolution. You have orcs, you have steam engine trains, you have magic, you have factories, you have orcs forming unions at the steam engine factories. Science is moving at a pace far faster than ethics can catch up. You see the
effects of it all over the game and can dig deep into the implications of it and how it affects everyone. Of course you might be wondering if technology is that far ahead how the hell do you mix that with magic? You know, if you can snap your fingers and make fire then who invents a Zippo? Well for one technology is far more accessible. You could spend years training some wedgiemancer to master throwing a lightning bolt (assuming they're even magically inclined) or you could spend a week or two training a bunch of farmhands how to use a gun. In-universe this idea was put to the test in a
war between two kingdoms with disastrous results, though there is another layer in how technology and magic interact. It's explained in game in a few points, but the manual has some of the best examples and it's just an awesome manual in general. See, technology works within the confines of physical, natural law. A steam engine works within rules that don't change like energy and
gravity. Better technology accounts for more rules and more variations but the law itself doesn't change. An object's weight may change at a higher elevation, but the concept of weight doesn't break. Magic is nonsense that does whatever it wants. For magic to even exist it must break and warp
every physical wall you know of. Casting a reading light might change how friction works in a small radius around you. Now this doesn't matter a lot if you're in some medieval village or a field, but say you're near objects or devices that highly rely on these laws. So what if friction changes for a moment when you're in some room? However this becomes less Fun and whimsical when you're, say, riding on a train. You just want to magic away a little problem so what if things change
Oh right, trains like rules like that working. That's why you get to go through the enchanted TSA before being allowed to board, where carrying a wand and an owl might as well brand you as a member of ISIS. More magic can mean needing to ride in the back of the train where there's no chance of messing up the steam engine. Too much magic means you're not allowed to ride and no
fast travel for you. Though you might be able to teleport around, so who cares. Still, in a world where common people can enjoy more benefits this means magic users are more innately disruptive. Magic adds randomization to how an inclined plane works, let's try electricity now.
You're powerful if you can use magic, but also becoming a kind of social outcast in a changing world. It's interesting because it explores magic as being real as "what if magic was real". It's not something like a shoved in racism allegory, since they just talk about racism. I mean there's a series of books called the Orcish Question they're just [ __ ] going for it. Well, come to think of it some races
are more innately magical, so what happens to them when the world changes too far? There's a different book that explores that. It's just neat to explore these ideas - as these ideas. If there's a social issue they want to explore - they just explore it. So it gives you unique memorable situations instead of an allegorical nightmare casserole . . . you know, like whatever the [ __ ] is going on in Dragon Age.
BATES: "I believe that I am fortunate to have been spared a lot of the problems others have been experiencing with their workers. I do believe it is because I treat my workers better than most. Why, their working conditions are almost human." There's also no dark magic, or "Ooooh, evil forbidden magic." It's all context sensitive. How you use magic will affect how people respond to you, it's just another tool. Though if something like raising the dead is something that would take a mage years to learn and figure out all the dangers of, what happens when any Joe Shmoe can raise the dead? Should they be able to? Should anyone do this? I feel like I'm already getting ahead of myself, but Arcanum just does that. I'll get into where the plot kicks off before I go too far.
You're taking a ride aboard the first blimp in Arcanum's maiden voyage - the IFS Zephyr. Things take a turn for the worst when it's attacked by ogre raiders in airplanes. If you've read the manual or a fairy tale, you'll know that ogres aren't too bright and definitely didn't build these. The very first blimp is being attacked by the first planes. The blimp eventually does go down and one bandit is scratched for the trouble. The only two survivors are you and an elderly gnome. He says he's come to warn about a great evil, giving you a ring and telling you to "find
the boy" and he'll know what to do from there. Then he dies. The second you crawl out of the wreckage you're ambushed by Virgil. He's a new acolyte of something called the Panarii religion and believes you to be extremely important. You surviving the blimp crash aligns with the Panarii prophecy in a Book of Revelations kind of way. Virgil believes you are the Living One - the reincarnation of some kind of elf Jesus who will strike down the evil one who will soon rise. Christ was also called Jesus of Nazareth and in our setting our elf savior is called Nasrudin. That could make it
easier to remember. Not only have you crashed in the mountains directly next to an altar for this prophecy, but there are a group of assassins out to kill any survivor of the wreck. So you can go with Virgil's plan as you try to find where the ring goes or just ditch him from the get-go. You don't have to be Dante just because he showed up, and that's about all you need for now. Let's look at the visuals. VIRGIL: "What is this?" For a 90's CRPG it looks okay, except that it came out in 2001.
All the movement and animation has this kind of clunky jerkiness to it. It's to a point where I genuinely can't tell if the original Fallout did it better or not, and Fallout came out four years before this. Speaking of which the world itself usually has a very similar color palette to Fallout. No it's not as brown because a nuke didn't go off in most of the map, but even when it's more green it's generally a washed out and muddy place unless you're in the most enchanted of forests. There are still some striking buildings and places to see in the game but it's overall washed out and muted. Now this does fit the tone way better than having it be a Skittles fantasy wonderland, but there were points where I think it could have broken from mold a bit more without hurting it. It's frequently dark and gloomy, even when the game says you should
be in the height of comfort. It makes it even harder for my brain to escape Fallout when I play it, even when areas are really prettied up the ghost of it is always there. This is one of the main reasons I like to play it more in the fall if I can. The dark griminess is perfect for what you're uncovering, even if the game can just look downright ugly at points. Also the gore. Getting punched by an elemental and your head flying off is very Fallout. The kills can be damn
brutal, and it's something nice to say about Arcanum's combat. There won't be a whole lot of that. So it's not a great looking game, but there are some neat flashes here and there. As for audio it's a mix of higher highs and lower lows. A lot of the interface sounds are good but the game's soundscape when it comes to the environment in combat is pretty generic. At worst there can be a lot of annoyances like looping sound effects from spell buffs. Drog's patch actually has an option to straight up remove annoying sound effects because there are so many to find.
(Familiar wings flapping intensely in distance) Oh, that's why I never summon the familiar. (high pitched screaming) See that's pretty funny until you have an army of them. (screaming intensifies) Let me switch to real time.
(arrows firing at machine gun speed, screaming, grunts) These moments aren't too often, but it does help combat feel like more of a mess. There are two audio standouts, and the first is the voice acting. There aren't a ton of voiced characters in the game and those who do speak might only have a few lines. Only Virgil and the most plot significant characters will have a lot to say.
LOGHAIRE: "My crime, it seems, is even more heinous than I thought. I deserve much worse than this mere isolation." BATES: "Why do you ask? You're not a labor sympathizer are you? A unionizer perhaps? I can assure you, my workers are happy to have the jobs I give them." There's something like two dozen followers you can recruit in the game, but only a handful of those have a voice. Those that do usually have precious few lines too, there are plenty I wish I could have
heard more input from but they were stretched thin already. Like Gar the World's Smartest Orc. GAR: "Yes Gar like tea. Gar civilized. Gar say Earl Grey best. Made from blend of black teas and oil from the Bergamot plant. Excellent, Gar say." (Gar becomes aggressively English) GAR: "Oh come now, that is rubbish! Green tea is for the foreign constitution not for consumption by those with discerning . . . I mean - GRR! AUUGH! Gar no like green tea."
This is reflective of the whole game really. Arcanum spends a lot more time flushing out the setting than it does going too deep into any of the characters. It gives you a few to kind of unpack, but focuses more on giving you more options for replay. That brings us to our second standout which is the music. (Arcanum Theme) (Towns - Arcanum OST) (Villages - Arcanum OST) (Tarant Sewers - Arcanum OST) The game is set in an otherworldly 1800's and the music reflects it. Instead of big
epic Baldur's Gate orchestra it's string quartet. Not to say a big symphony is bad for an RPG, but there was a different idea behind Arcanum. You're not necessarily playing a heroic character so you don't have a heroic theme. This is why the main theme is a whole mix of different emotions and tone - they're all possibilities. (mix of rising tones, melancholic falls going back and forth from each other) I feel like [ __ ] having to interrupt the Arcanum theme, but if I don't I'll get stuck here. The combat music is more percussion heavy and still very fitting and welcome. The combat
tracks in particular do have that age-old RPG problem where there just isn't enough variety for the amount of time you're playing it. The game could have gotten a ton more mileage out of a few more combat tracks, especially when the one you hear the most is reused for the Dwarven areas. (Wheel Clan - Arcanum OST) It's nice clanking but it keeps coming back. Anyway properly getting started your first
step is character creation. There are some presets too and the ones you don't pick can be found dead around the Zephyr crash site. It's still well worth the time going custom, especially with how many rich backgrounds there are. You can be raised by snake handlers, be an escaped lunatic with combat bonuses or be a "special person" who has intelligence loss from brain damage but this makes people like you more if you're good because they're just so charmed by that. Backgrounds are never brought up directly in conversation, but they add a lot of fun variation. On the other hand your gender and especially your race will be incredibly significant. People who were nice to you when you
played as a human or an elf can completely become different people if you play as a half orc or an ogre. You might lose some quests while new ones open up and you might pay more for a worse room at an inn. You might have to overcome so much more just to reach a simple interaction that another character might not even think about. Though people looking down on you is something you can use to your
advantage too. Because they underestimate your capabilities you can get the drop on them in many situations. So this is one of your biggest decisions. It's not a throwaway "Ah, a half orc" line. It's "get the [ __ ] out of my bar" or cops eyeing you up and you'll never be invited to the Phrenology Department party. Race can be a complicated thing and Arcanum is no different. Actually it might be
way more complicated here. After this is where you choose your initial stats, skills, spells, and schematics. Your stats have all kinds of effects. They also determine how many points you get put into a skill and each skill has five levels. There are 16 skills across four categories: combat, stealth, social, and technology. Though separate from tech skills there are eight different technology disciplines. These can range from mechanical engineering, electrical, chemistry, gunsmithing . . . Knowledge in a field grants you schematics and lets you understand more advanced schematics.
You can find or buy these in the world and once you do you can craft all kinds of useful objects. If you're playing something like a gunslinger, being able to craft your own bullets can be essential or maybe you want to be a smart boy who doesn't do the fighting and that's what the robots are for. Though a lot of this depends on you actually being able to hunt down the parts and even then there are ways to get around actually having points in the field . . . and technology is a bit of a mess in Arcanum. It's still doable but clunky for a first time build and there are some other
reasons for that too, which I'll get into soon. Then you have 16 schools of magic with 5 spells each. Everything you've seen so far whether it's a stat or a spell or a skill or a technology field, it'll cost the same point. You've got a huge amount of options, and yes, if it seems too complicated you can pick an auto level up scheme based on some classes. What's important is that Arcanum isn't very good as a jack of all trades game. There are some things restricted to Good and Evil alignments and how you actually get up to the ending of the game can vastly change based on that, but remember our laws of magic? Well that carries on into the gameplay. Your aptitude towards tech or magic is
also measured. You can play the entire game with this at zero but when you start putting points in technology disciplines or magic schools then it'll start to skew over. This gives boons to what you're leaning towards and disadvantages for the other side. If you're too magic, tech shops
don't even want you close to their inventory but your spells scale better. As a necromancer the exact same summon undead spell will give you tougher monsters. At the same time tech becomes much more unstable to use. You might just miss attacks more or atomize yourself with your own rifle.
These principles work in reverse too. Like tech characters can't use magic scrolls. Also technology reinforces the laws of natural law around it or some [ __ ] like that, so more advanced technology acts as a magic dampening field. This means a follower like Virgil who's an incredibly effective magic healer becomes more and more useless to a tech character. So they'll need to
seek out more potions or healing skills or other more pain in the ass methods. Unless you build the mechanical healing spider. Skills themselves can be trained more outside of points which gives all kinds of bonus effects, and then master levels can have special missions attached to them so every replay is even more different and . . . man there are so many ways to play. I should go over some. My first character is Windsor McScamington, the protégé of a charlatan. He's all about persuasion
and making deals and has high charisma. Having high charisma in Arcanum lets you recruit more followers, which starts easy enough in the first town by convincing a drunk half ogre to tag along, but as he grows in power he assembles a certified hit squad. Training at persuasion lets him recruit followers he might not be able to otherwise based on alignment. They're also more forgiving of who he murders, which is good because Scammington is also a necromancer. You can kill everyone in the game and still beat it, but conjure spirit still means I could pull information from dead key characters. Several whodunit quests can be made way easier by just raising the victim's
spirit and asking what happened. If a follower dies they can be made undead until receiving proper resurrection treatment. You can summon the undead out of thin air, resurrect the dead, resurrect the undead. It's one of the best RPGs you can play a necromancer, in there are just so
many options. Not many games have ice gorillas you can fight and then turn into your thralls. (gorilla screeching) Most spirits appear to be in horrible pain and not happy to be back in the material world, but the game accounts for them. You can just say "I'm a necromancer and I talk to them". Not interested in doing some shitty quests for information? Well dead men do tell tales when they really want to go back to the afterlife. My other character is an ogre named Klug Slabbrain. He has borderline starfish IQ but he's strong, and wants to do the right thing. Where Virgil had to make an appeal
to a smarter character like Scammington the dynamic is completely different here. Now he's in caretaker mode, constantly on the verge of a mental breakdown finding out that elf Jesus is back in the body of an idiot. VIRGIL: "Why did the gods return your spirit in this defective shell?" Klug is fast too, and even in the first area Virgil can barely keep up. To make matters worse Dr. Steve Brule can't mangle a name like Klug can. KLUG: "What do we do now Voratio?" VIRGIL: "Virgil . . . my name . . . is VIRGIL!" KLUG: "What do we do now Voghhkloorh?" VIRGIL: "I . . . don't even know what you just called me."
He's too dumb to know spells, too dumb to spell words, even some racist characters are more offended by how stupid he is over anything else. Ouugh. I'm honestly angry he's able to read the newspapers. But he's still a good boy and some people find it endearing when he introduces himself as dumb. Sure he might lose followers and understanding most of the plot, but boy can he go through those dungeons fast. This is the most entertaining game
to play a dumbass in, more so than any of the Fallouts. Sometimes you are too dumb for quests but if you really don't want to miss out there are some temporary intellect potions around so Klug can just snort up some Flowers for Algernon before the big test. The sudden shift can make people uncomfortable but they'll deal with him then. Afterwards he could get back to calling the wizard Jongle Dunne - Jingle or Jungle Jim and just get back to doing regular Klugisms. It's a simple example
but shows just how different two playthroughs can be. All these dignified self-important 19th century characters and they have to deal with a Living Rock. BATES: "You go to island where bad people are." There's a lot that's cool about Arcanum's thought out systems, there are also plenty of skills and aspects that could be easily replaced. Scammington is a persuasive character and how persuasion works in this game is great. He can come up with better arguments or better lies but only based
on things he knows. For example the first small town you get to has a gang of bandits guarding the bridge they want a protection fee to pass and their leader thinks he's an educated genius. Except he doesn't know what any words actually mean and calls himself Lukan the Witless. He calls himself a "thief extraordinary" and if you're too wordy with him he calls your words "flatulent". The dude just flat out doesn't know what the [ __ ] he's saying. If you get on his case about it, it'll lead to a fight but naturally you can convince him to let you pass. He's a [ __ ] but he's not Klug, you can
pretend you're from a guild of thieves and that he's muscled in on your territory. The thing is if you try to lie with something he knows beyond doubt is a lie, the jig is up. He knows you're trying to fleece him and any further persuasion attempts aren't going to work. It's like this with
every character. When you're attempting persuasion no matter how good and tear-jerking your story is about how good friends you are with a guy you're trying to get to and his mom, the story isn't going going to work if the guard knows he's an orphan. Persuasion is still incredibly powerful but it's not a magic spell and you benefit more from it the more you actually know about the world and the setting. On top of just having the skill you still have to carefully think and choose your
options. Now you could put a point in persuasion or a different skill like gambling. You can win money playing dice with dock workers and if you do train it up you can win some pretty powerful items with it. It's not nearly as overpowered as Fallout 1's gambling, but it's okay I guess. Okay, how about the beauty stat? This will affect people's initial perceptions towards you but that'll change rapidly once you two get talking. Something like lock picking and pickpocketing could also be useful
skills, but there's ways around that too. For one Arcanum has something called Fate Points which you get by achieving things in the story. You can spend one for a critical success at all kinds of skills, so an item that maybe only a master thief should be able to get you can just fate point away. Something like lock picking doesn't matter much either when you can break open most doors and chests. If you save and recruit Dogmeat aka the destroyer of worlds, not only do you get a powerful melee companion but he doesn't have weapons to lose durability with. He's great
at killing golems and he's a universal guest key. No barrier or lock no matter how ancient or arcane can stop the power of the dog. Honestly your party can still do this too, you don't lose a whole ton of durability by bashing. There are trap disarming skills, but not a whole lot of traps in the game after the hell gauntlet. (Marv) It's fun there are so many options, it's more that this game is extremely easy to break on every level. At the same time they did have interesting clever ideas on how
they could balance it. Going back to the bridge bandits Klug walks up and gurgles at them. Lukan takes pity on him noticing that he is clearly "mentally retardant". "Oh the tribulraties that this man-" Ugh. Klug massacres the entire gang. He gets XP for doing this, not distributed on kills, but on hits. Here's the idea with that. Scammington's persuasive ways means he'll be offered all kinds of quests and can even skip out entire dungeons through dialogue. He has a squad of followers too so if they're all leveling up together he would be absurd. So at the big party they handle the combat
that the necromancer spells and the zombies can't get. The gang as a whole is a lower level than average, but they're an effective fighting force. Klug is getting some quests and murdering most things nearly single-handedly. Him being better at combat and getting more hits in should make up for the loss of XP from getting less quests right? Well it does at first, for a while. You don't need to be max level to beat the game but the balancing feels weird throughout all of it. There can be weird difficulty spikes inside the same dungeon. I've thought for a while about how
to put into words what's wrong with the combat. You can switch between real time and pause by pressing space bar, but it's going to be the same level of pain. Do you want vibrating out of the material plane fast or a DMV on a holiday slow? Combat is either laughably trivial or a molasses wave of frustration. I don't think I've ever thought "that was a neat fight" while playing this game.
Sure it's funny when Klug wipes out the three bears in three seconds, but that's it. At its best Arcanum's combat is extremely funny. Another reason I don't often use firearms is because bows exist. (machine gun bow) You can cast spells or shoot as fast as you can click. The NPCs click fast, and this also goes for your enemies. (bushes begin speaking Dark Elf) It seems like the general rule is if you're just playing the game leave it on real time.
If you start to melt in 5 seconds then switch on turn based. I don't mind when an RPG has a harder encounter that you're supposed to come back to later, but Arcanum can switch things up in 10 meters. Even with a Klug build it moves so fast that it's disorienting, otherwise it will go extremely slow, even with the fast turn based option. There's no sense with what the normal combat speed should be, none of this is normal. So pick your poison. I mean you do have a crazy amount of options for what you can do in combat. There is merit in all those options, but even the encounters themselves aren't great either. Most of the combat dungeons you
go through are so tedious and dull, like some of the largest ones are different sewers. The maps have such convoluted flow to them too and there's rarely anything interesting to find. There can be exceptions to the rule like finding a potential follower inside an ancient temple or looking for dwarves when you stumble upon the lair of Kerghan the first Necromancer. He was a bad enough dude that Nasrudin and the ancient council banished him into the Void. These are neat additions, but again they're neat additions for the story and the Intrigue, not the . . . combat. (bow machine guns) Now luckily after the first third or so of the game there, aren't any more required big dungeons. In fact the gauntlet leading up to the end is mercifully small and straightforward.
If the combat was better this would feel like a letdown, but instead it's a feature. A lot of these are tied to optional stuff around the map and there is a ton of this. You can travel around the map at a faster speed only being stopped for a random encounter, but you can travel the map completely manually if you want. It'll just take something like 30 hours to cross it. That means if you find a dungeon you can just leave. I think that alone seals it, but what about Klug? Combat meat heads like him are going to need more fights to keep up. Sure he's slow, but deserves an arc too. You might have to do more dungeon diving to see it but that's what you signed up for.
VIRGIL: "We need to . . . hey . . . you called me Virgil! Good show! Perhaps you're wising up a bit after all." So combat is bizarre, all kinds of systems are a mess - like alignment. For example if you want to cheese it you could just shower a beggar with money until you ascend to heaven or yell at them to get a job until you become Satan. If it's that rough why would anyone play this? Beyond it being fun to break are the
world and interactions really that good? Yes. It is that good. Beyond the main quest there's tons of stuff to do and so many ways to resolve many of the situations. The Unified Kingdom capital of Tarant is one of the most content dense cities I've played in an RPG. There are obvious places to pick up missions sure, but even random NPCs might have something to offer. There are mysteries to solve,
dark grand conspiracies, and just weird fun little side stories. That Thieves Guild I mentioned before has over a dozen break-in and heist quests to pick up. There are exorcisms to perform in all kinds of missions that cross cities and kingdoms. That war I mentioned before between gunpowder users and sword conservatives is something you can really delve into. The Kingdom of Cumbria lost the war with Tarant and the rest of the Unified Kingdom. Their land is run down and rotting both physically
and politically. The current King's right to rule is dubious at best and the trauma from the war has caused them to outlaw virtually all technology, which isn't practical in this changing world, but it's not all black and white either. Cumbria had honorable virtues before, it's just the current system is the worst most destructive parts of staying traditional at all costs. You can contribute
to restoring this kingdom and finding its place in a new world without destroying its identity. The Unified Kingdom has issues too. Tarant used to be a monarchy but technology destabilized the power there too. When the royal family was all found dead or missing the Gnomish Merchant's Guild took control. Profits and technological progress now eclipse all else even as a ton of people suffer. The fate of the country can be decided by how you handle a side quest about an
orc worker strike. This is all some side [ __ ] you can do. There are 36 ending slides, a lot of what you do is take it into account, though yeah, when the main quest takes you to new areas the amount of quests you get do taper off, but it's still a hell of a lot more than most and plenty of random locations and things to discover all the way up until the end. Speaking of, from here I'm going to talk about the main quest and that quest in more detail, so if you don't want spoilers go to here: 48:42. Right, "find the boy and deliver the ring". Assassins are desperately searching for you and the ring. The
only clue it offers are the initials GB. However a local shopkeeper recognizes it as being from a store in Tarant. There's a dwarf outside the store named Magnus who's also irritated he can't get answers from the store owners, apparently they're reclusive and even the doorman doesn't want to talk about what goes on downstairs. Magnus thinks they might have answers into
what Dwarven Clan he hails from and tags along for the ride . . . maybe. This turns out to be like finding a Diablo level beneath a JC Penny and it becomes worse when you find that the lowest level is full of undead dwarves. The owners are a family of necromancers who found the dwarf tomb long ago and built a shop over it. Magnus is horrified because he thinks this might be his lost clan but there's something strange about these dwarves. If you don't immediately murder the owners they'll explain the situation. What they're doing is perfectly legal but they're keeping it secret because it is
unsavory. It becomes obvious that these aren't Magnus's ancestors but they go farther to say that he shouldn't be offended. Noble dwarf clans always reside in the mountains and this is out in the flatlands. They have sloped foreheads and extra fingers and toes, the necromancers doubt they were
even literate, so they're already dead and even in life were likely freaks and outcasts which makes what they're doing perfectly okay. This can end in violence or nice and politely. This is a minor event in the grand scheme of things but it does establish how far things can go in the setting for those deemed lesser. One way or another you find out the ring belongs to Bill Gates, I mean Gilbert Bates. He's the inventor of the steam engine and the Rival to Cedric APPLEby. Heh. Anyways Bates is very interested in this ring. He's baffled to learn a gnome gave it to you and when
you describe him, it turns out it wasn't a gnome at all, but a dwarf named Stennar Rock Cutter. This is near unthinkable as dwarves have a saying that "they'd rather cut their own throat than their beard" so Stennar had done that and starved himself and withered away to disguise himself as a gnome. Bates is getting a sinking feeling about this. When Bates was a teenager he was a bit of a dwarf weeb, and still is really, but he hoped to be welcomed into the Black Mountain Clan by showing how well he understood their technology. They laughed at him and humored him and Stennar was his only real friend. It's revealed that Bates saw a steam engine in the corner of the
Black Mountain hold, he saw the potential in it and tried to tell them but they all just laughed him off again, so he sold an application of it to a human company and it took off around the world. When Bates returned to the clan to show proof of his success they were all gone. He was then threatened by hooded figures who said he could never reveal the origins of the steam engine and so became known as its inventor. Stennar still called him "the boy" because dwarves live a lot longer than humans and probably got mixed up. It's possible there are still some clues in their old
home and you find plenty of monsters and plenty of dead assassins who also picked up on this trail. This is the golem cave dedicated to breaking your weapons and it sucks! After crossing a Korean DMZ level of landmines, you do find a single Black Mountain Clan survivor. He's gone crazy from being alone for decades but says another dwarf clan, the Wheel Clan, banished them. He carved the full story out in a rock behind him when he was less crazy. The crime was sharing technology with humans and to make it even stranger, elves carried out the actual banishment. They sent the Black Mountain
Clan to a lovely retreat called the Isle of Despair. Their disappearance appears to be entirely Bates's fault. He takes it well all things considered and arranges your passage to the Isle of Despair, which is a prison island. And guess what? There's no Black Mountain Clan here either. ABYSS GOD: DWARVES! Every time you think you have a lead it just opens up a new mystery. all of Virgil's Panarii spiel saying you're the Living One and Nasrudin reincarnated, it seems completely unrelated. You do learn that the evil one is Arronax, who's just an ancient elf supremacist. It would be like
saying Christ will soon return to destroy the founder of the KKK, like Panarii is a strange religion. There's some interesting stuff on the Isle of Despair. You can find an ancient crashed submarine which likely belonged to the Vendigroth civilization. They were very technologically
advanced but disappeared about 2000 years ago. There's also a well-educated half ogre prisoner who is a pretty rare find. He talks about books and his childhood memories of living in an orphanage, an all half ogre orphanage which even he thinks is strange. Humans and ogres hooking up willingly is pretty rare but that must have been the fad of the time, otherwise the crime would be so widespread and often that ogres would be hunted down and killed by now. So he's an interesting dude. There's also a prisoner who has a part for an ancient Vendigroth gun. Back on track the prison's leader is a dwarf, but he's a Wheel Clan dwarf. He tells you the Black Mountain Clan never showed up there, so
you should go check in with the Wheel Clan. This is really emphasizing this setting over character aspect I mentioned earlier. Bates is probably the most developed so far but it's not a whole ton. There is some irony in that as much as he loves the dwarves he has a lot of underlying anger for them not accepting him. As a short-lived human he didn't have their aged wisdom and they thought he had nothing to contribute. He felt so strongly against this that it significantly shaped his
life and then he'll turn around to do the same thing to the races working in his factories. So it's something. If Magnus is still around you'll learn he's a city dwarf trying to figure out what being a dwarf actually means and his "how to be a dwarf" culture manual was written by a human. Virgil has an uncanny amount of street knowledge and implies things were very different before joining the Panarii, but he's still not opening up a lot. So it's all about the mystery. When you get to the Wheel Clan they're still kicking along, but have seen better days. Their leader is the prince currently ruling over with the title of King-In-Waiting. The real king, Loghaire Thunderstone, has
been gone for decades after overseeing the Black Mountain Clan being hauled off by the elves. He was so overcome with grief that he banished himself to The Dredge. It's a terrible mud labyrinth inside the mountain and we can skip over that with persuasion. The prince talks to dad just about daily, in fact he's right behind this door. LOGHAIRE: "Quiet! This is insolence is unforgivable. The violation of my ancient right for solitude in exile is not broken so easily." I can listen to Logan talk for hours and while he doesn't go on that long he is enlightening. The other races consider technology
in the hands of humans dangerous because of their short lives. In his view everything humans do is fueled by the fear of death and their relative instant gratification. Humans are fascinated by the effects a new thing can bring now and not thinking about the long-term consequences, which you have been seeing throughout the entire game. Bates did screw up, but his line of thinking wasn't special. LOGHAIRE: "His first thought was what can I use this for? When it should have been what is the cost of its use? Technology exploded in their hands because they are not burdened with our longevity. Humans rarely live long enough to see the consequences of their mistakes."
As for what specifically happened - humans began cutting down trees. Their logging was so efficient that they were wiping out huge areas of elven forests and we know how elves always feel about trees. They were so angry that they personally wanted to carry out the punishment and if the Wheel Clan wouldn't let them they would declare war on all dwarves. Loghaire let them, felt ashamed for letting them, and exiled himself. If you know Dwarven philosophy you can convince him to return to the throne, the Wheel
Clan will be ecstatic about this if you do, but now regardless you have to find the elves. Finding them can involve hunting down Arcanum's Bigfoot but I don't want to get into that. The elves are in the glimmering forest, but where in the forest? In the trees. In what trees? In the glimmering
forest, okay then. GAR: "Please we must cease an attack on such a good soul!" He's not Gar, he's an elf! Sorry sir you're dead, where are the elves. Where's Qintarra? In the forest. Trees . . . Oh god damn i- Look at that it's the elves! And get this.
They've never heard of any of this happening. When you speak to their ruler she only speaks in riddles. They've been living in their collection of fancy trees and have nothing to do with the dwarves. Instead it may have been Dark Elves RAVEN: "Well I believe that may have been so because M'in Gor'ad is a DARK name."
Of course they did. So now you've got to find out where the- ???: "Greetings, traveler. It seems to me that you're looking for answers. Don't you know?" And you then get a random encounter with Arronax. He confirms that whether or not you're the Living One, the reincarnation of Nasrudin, he will be coming back soon and he will face you down. And so far this still seems like it has nothing to do with the main quest. Finding the dark elves will mean locating a book with their location. Back in the capital you stumble across a guy looking for another guy and this leads to a lot of intrigue around a set of skulls. They're
from a set of conjoined Siamese twins and the man who sent you to find them says they're proof of a massive breeding experiment. He wants you to find his partner, who is missing where he tells you to look, but you happen to find again in the same town we are seeking out the dark elf book. The strange amount of half ogres in the kingdom can be explained by visiting an island offshore this is where things take a turn for the [ __ ] gruesome. It's not a breeding experiment, it's a breeding factory. Powerful members of The Gnome Council have been kidnapping women and forcing them to
birth half ogres. At first this would always kill the host but after developing some new surgical techniques they could get a few more out of them. The only items you can find on half ogre Island are pretty grim. This is when you realize whenever you see powerful gnomes they're always flanked by a half ogre bodyguard. They're generally dumb but loyal and controllable. The dissolving of
the royal family makes more sense now. When you go back to report it your contact is gone and a gnome is there. He says he's part of the investigators but it's clear he isn't. He explained that gnomes gained more wealth from investing in technology but the other races didn't like that and would physically overpower them to beat and rob them, so members with influence begin trying to breed the perfect bodyguards. They first kidnapped people no one would miss and then moved up to grabbing
political rivals and their families. The royalty was overthrown and worked into this plan at the same time. The queen birthed three before dying. This continued on for years but they don't need to do it anymore as there are now farms of female half ogres that will constantly create new bodyguards. Then he goes "ahhh maybe it's real who knows". If you kill this creep it says his alignment is good so maybe he didn't participate in it directly or something? I don't know. If you take evidence to
the press the journalist is horrified, promising to write a story and when you come back he's gone. Replaced with someone who doesn't know what you're talking about. If you return to the island all the evidence is gone and that is the end of the quest. It was a side quest. It's a sickening thing to stumble onto the first time you play the game and completely changes how you see the world now. It also makes Klug more tragic though thankfully he's too stupid to even start the
questline. It's a bizarre dark inclusion with no direct way to resolve it. You can't really undo it either, only expose it. You could obliterate every gnome on site but you'll never get the text prompt saying the situation is fixed. You can resolve it indirectly by completely destabilizing the country in the ending slides. That would mean the council would lose its power and maybe the Fantasy Eugenics Program would end, but I guess a whole nation of people would suffer for the crimes of their creepy elite, but nothing is new there. What was happening in the main quest again? Something
about Dark Elves and a prophecy? The big issue with this is that it's a side quest with very direct consequences. You immediately know how it's a problem and how huge it is and you're likely getting it in a period of having no idea where things are going and it immediately grabs your attention away from it. There are interesting ideas happening in the main story but this immediately upstages it. It's one of the most mind-melting horrible reveals in an RPG and it's just a side thing. It's hard to recover from that one. I'll try. To get back to it you gain an audience with the
dark elves by claiming to be one of the assassins who did you in. Honestly they're similar to regular elves just with a lot more racism. Elves think they're the master race even though they won't say it, dark elves know they are and scream it. So this trip to the literal Eagles Nest reveals a lot. The Black Mountain Clan dwarves were banished to the Void this is where Nasrudin and the council threw the most evil people in back in the day including Arronax. Arcanum has magical wards that are keeping him trapped in the Void and the dwarves were supposed to build a machine inside the void to bust em out. Arronax is extremely magical so the wards have a heavy effect on him. Stennar is the opposite so is able to escape from the Void using the machine even though it's not ready for Arronax yet.
The wards don't affect him as strongly so he got out to warn people. Bates wasn't the cause he was an excuse. The dark elves want Arronax back. If you're evil you could join with them from here to get to the ending, but you miss out on some reveals so I'll stick with the path of good for now. If Virgil is still with you he takes off now the stakes were high enough that he has something to take care of in case the world ends. Returning to the elves their leader will cryptically tell you that "the answer lies with Nasrudin". Which if you are him meaning you are the answer or something
like that, but Nasrudin does have a physical form. The main Panarii Temple holds the body of Nasrudin beneath it. The story is really starting to come together now, it's all lining up and maybe as a necromancer I could just bring the dude back and ask him what's going on. Sadly a bunch of
early church records are destroyed, but it is known you're not supposed to mess with Nasrudin's body. From here you get into some shenanigans unpacking their religion. Virgil is also in town murdered by gangsters. With a resurrect scroll you can bring him back and he'll explain how he was trying to atone for his past life. He lost someone because of his actions and couldn't live with it anymore but when Virgil died he saw him in the afterlife and felt at peace. The afterlife is a quiet tranquil place in Arcanum, and Virgil carries that with him now. You celebrate his new Oneness by breaking into
the Panarii temple and digging up their Christ figure. It's not Nasrudin, it's not even an elf. It's an old Panarii Saint. This has disturbing implications and after further research you find out the Panarii faith has been interfered with for hundreds of years. I can't get into why
yet, but it's clear Nasrudin's real remains are in the Island of Thanatos. Also known as evil Tabasco gorilla Island. After a trek of that monkey madness you find an old man who might know where to go. After only a bit of talking it becomes clear that this is Nasrudin. He used his powerful abilities
to extend his life and not much else and Arronax is his son. Arronax single-handedly wiped out the ancient Vendigroth civilization out of fear of their technology. His crime was great enough to be boinked to the Void sentence. Except that he was so magic and it took so much energy it weakened the barrier between the worlds. So the wards were created to help maintain that barrier and Nasrudin
exiled himself. And the last council member put a plan in place. Knowledge of how to maintain the wards can be lost over time so he founded the Panarii religion primarily to include rites to maintain the wards. They'll keep doing the rituals even if they don't know why. At a later point the dark elves made sneaky adjustments to the religion. The wards would no longer be maintained well and Arronax will be hyped up as a mythological Satan figure instead of a very real elf supremacist who wants to break out. That way the threat of him won't be taken seriously. Having a religion formed and then manipulated over the power struggles of very mortal beings is an insane reveal. You're not the chosen one it's all [ __ ] and Jesus is right there. He's deeply unhappy about being
worshiped, but realistically understands he can't do much about it. Fortunately there is a way to Turbo Mega kill Arronax. Before Vendigroth got cataclysmically own zoned they invented a device that would wipe out even the most powerful mage. If you go get that Nasrudin will banish you into the Void and you can take down Arronax. So you go . . . ugh. So you get it. Kiss your mortal coil goodbye and welcome to the Void. The Void is strange, in their eternal wisdom Nasrudin and the council didn't actually know
if anything was over here. There are the remains of some kind of civilization, whether they dwelled here and blew themselves up or colonized this area or what is never explained. There are theories that cycles of tech and magic have gone on forever and without a doubt magic used to have eight spells in a school instead of five. The Void could be one of those sides taken to an extreme end. There's a
lot of combat with void creatures and in the first structure, shockingly quickly, there's Arronax. ARRONAX: "Many thanks for releasing me from my horribly lengthy incarceration sir!" Uh, no, I'm here to murder you. ARRONAX: "Now why would you want to do that?" Aren't you out to conquer the world an- ARRONAX: "I have no such fantasies of revenge. I have been imprisoned here for nearly 2000 years which is more than enough time to regret the mistakes of one's youth." Arronax had nothing to do with any of this. It was all Kerghan. You remember Kerghan, right? The first Necromancer who's barely mentioned throughout the entire game, or maybe his influence has been more noticeable but you weren't looking for it. This is bold. You only know Arronax
on a very surface level and only because you're paying attention and trying to look out for more information about him. As a villain he's been kept so vague that he's not very interesting, now it's revealed the big bad evil guy is a puppet master who we know even less about. Most evil genius puppet master villains will show their hand more for dramatic effect. Only sharply looking for it on replay can you see the tiny hints of Kerghan's manipulation. The dark elves thought they had their hand over a major religion and a large part of civilization - in the end they were being played too.
The Arronax they want to come back can never come back. He's had time to reflect and grow past what he was on the other side. Kerghan has been in the void longer. He was the only human on the ancient council. For all we know they chucked him into a new civilization and he broke it and twisted it to his will. Whatever he's up to it clearly was wasn't for ego he's been masquerading as someone else and
promising a dark savior who will never show up. Said savior who was a living holocaust has been there two thousand years and still barely knows what Kerghan's up to. This dude is deadly. Arronax can join your party. You can even wander the Void recruiting history's literal greatest monsters to join you in the fight. They've all been banished here too for a similar unspeakable crimes. Entering Kerghan''s Castle most of the Black Mountain Clan is slaughtered, though there are a few survivors. The device is ready and Kerghan awaits.
KERGHAN: "Greetings, long have I waited for your arrival and finally this moment has come. I am Kerghan, first of the necromancers, voyager in the lands of the dead." His delivery will change a bit based on whether or not Arronax is present. No matter the case you're still gonna have lots of questions and he's happy to talk. In his mortal life he was obsessed with necromancy and death and here in the void that's only gone farther. He's gained some new insight into the matter after thousands of years.
KERGHAN: "Yes look at me. What do you see? A monster? An abomination? You've no idea what I've discovered you see with eyes tainted by life, and all which that accursed state embodies. My vision is clear because of those magics you hold and disdain and the council . . . It is they have to thank for it." you don't age in the void and it's hard to measure the passage of You don't age in the Void and it's hard to measure the passage of time.
This explains why Stennar actually called Gates "the boy". While Kerghan kept in the shadows until now, it's clear that he actually does have a gigantic ego. The dark elves had no clue. KERGHAN: "Yes I know. Ironic isn't it? it was on my ears that their feeble and pathetic cries had fallen. To me, Kerghan, who had defeated their master and thrown him in chains. Kerghan, who had manipulated them into subverting the Panarii and weakening the wards. Kerghan, who used them to send me the dwarves of the Black Mountain Clan who have now finished the bridge back to Arcanum."
His plan is to obliterate all life. On its own this is nothing new. We've seen edgelords in media do this all the time, what makes it interesting is that Arcanum's setting has established a lot more here. There is without a doubt an afterlife. Playing as a necromancer you're even more hyper aware of that. You talk to spirits unhappy to be back all the time. Kerghan sees life as being pointless and painful. If there's a serene and peaceful afterlife then why bother with the torment of living? we've seen the horrors this world can unleash on its people and he wants to end all of it. No more struggle, no more suffering, just peace.
Virgil who has died and come back thinks he has a point though he doesn't agree everyone should instantly succumb to dying. VIRGIL: "Of course not, I made my choice a long time ago and I choose to stand with you. Yes there is pain in life. Pain and loss and sorrow, but there is also joy and the pleasures of growing and learning. Can't have one without the other. I wouldn't want to sacrifice either, but in the end I stand with you whatever your choice. KERGHAN: "I can no longer tolerate the atrocities that this thing, this life it has brought about. There will be peace, there will be quiet. Life will no longer be
and so I go to Arcanum to be an end to it, and then I will join the souls of the dead when it is done." You have a few options. From here you can join Kerghan, join him then betray him to try and become a new god, fight him in an awkward bad boss fight or convince him out of his plan and to let you kill him with the Vendigroth device. To persuade him you have to convince him that his perspective is flawed. Not every soul is in pain when it comes back, not to mention our perspective of reality is incredibly limited. Our very views of life in existence can be flawed and skewed not everyone
is miserable to be alive and the dead don't all wish they never were. It does seem silly to convince him with this after so long but even he seems to be embarrassed by it being pointed out. His own ego is growing to a point where he thought he had the best answer for everyone and not just himself. It's still his ultimate conclusion but he accepts it won't be the same for everyone and they should make their own choice. I can also forgive it because he drops one of the hardest hitting lines I've heard from a villain. KERGHA