Arcanum: Day 3


The Magi-Tech Issue


In this relatively short session I spent a good amount of my time slaughtering undead dungeon denizens.  Some of them seem a bit immune to my pistol, which is a pisser since my companions aren't terribly good at combat.  At least the percent to-hit didn't drop by about 100% because of bad character point combinations like on a previous save, where I tried to up my magic too much apparently.  There's something wrong with the character system in that respect: I know that Arcanum is all about the conflict between magic(k) and technology, but making it physical like this, making the penalty so steep as to make a character apparently unplayable, is way too harsh.
 
They could have easily had a slightly increasing pattern of penalties instead, or because the advancement system is so incremental, not had any penalties, but bonuses for people who specialized!  That way if you were trying to dabble in most things you'd be mediocre in most things, but the character system wouldn't come down and squash you like a bug's boot.  There could have been other thematic ways to show this magical technical conflictal thing, I think, without such heavy-handedness.
  
Even if this system was kept, I think the linear dial for mechanical/magical could learn from the alignment measurement in Mass Effect, where you accumulate both Renegade and Paragon points.  In this case, Magic and Tech would each have their own marker on the dial.  Then you could have readout that shows you the effect the DISTANCE between those two markers has on your character. That way it's all right there in front of you, and you don't feel blindsided by experimenting with the machine that's freely given to you to play with.

It also almost feels at times like the game has a bit of a fantasy-side bias to things, but maybe I've been hanging around in ancient ruins a bit too much.   
 

Schematics


I'm in a low ammunition moment right now, which means a bit of waiting while I buy up all the saltpeter in the towns I'm visiting to combine it with charcoal, and scrounge for rags to combine with some fuel for 'splody things.  Those 'splody things work really, really well on clusters of enemies; since they don't usually hit friendly targets I tend to use them when we get swarmed, AND when I'm faced by something with a tech immunity. Thematically a bit funny that they call them 'splodies Molotovs, though, since the guy wasn't associated with the fire bomb until World War II. 
 
I may not understand the system right, but it seems like my companions can't benefit from the schematics I collect, which is a super bummer since I don't want to have to specialize in everything in order to make some of the stuff that I've found. I don't really see the point in preventing the player from having a general schematic pool that can be drawn from by any companion at any time.  I also wish you could be a bit creative with your combinations, maybe to make lesser-quality versions of stuff on the schematics. I'm not sure why I have to find THAT PARTICULAR HELMET in order to get the cool steampunk goggles, Mr. Man.  I did break down and get the formula for healing salve, which creates much more units than I was expecting. I won't need healing stuff for a while :)
 

Random


There's a peculiar problem with text bubbles when you're not part of a conversation. In one instance I watched a conversation start between a bunch of people, and eventually the bubbles began overlapping each other and disappearing so quickly I couldn't read them in time. When the absurdity was over everyone hated me but I couldn't figure out what I did wrong.  I also got into a squabble with someone in a bar, and even though they pleaded for mercy I couldn't figure out how to stop combat. Since I was forced to kill the dolt I then was at odds with the law after that, which meant calling up a save.
 
 (A quick addendum: I mentioned earlier how the fantasy races seem suplerfluous, and while they seem to be integrating some of them better now that I'm further in, there's a mechanical issue at work here too: if you have too many character models, it takes longer to develop. I remember my conversation with an Arcanum developer about their decision to give females different stats, and how not all fantasy races have female versions. They said part of the issue was that they had to create character models for every creature type, male and female, and that added a significant workload, with all the animations.  If, though, this game concentrated on the human element, not only would the cool messages in this game not been diluted, but the workload on the modelers would have been reduced. More time to squash bugs and stuff)  
 
The combat, while repetitive, is still satisfying to me.  Maybe I just like shooting things repeatedly.   HAHAHA!  DIE, SPIDER!  

I'm going to read the manual now, I think.  For reals this time.
3 Comments
3 Comments
Posted by ahoodedfigure

The Magi-Tech Issue


In this relatively short session I spent a good amount of my time slaughtering undead dungeon denizens.  Some of them seem a bit immune to my pistol, which is a pisser since my companions aren't terribly good at combat.  At least the percent to-hit didn't drop by about 100% because of bad character point combinations like on a previous save, where I tried to up my magic too much apparently.  There's something wrong with the character system in that respect: I know that Arcanum is all about the conflict between magic(k) and technology, but making it physical like this, making the penalty so steep as to make a character apparently unplayable, is way too harsh.
 
They could have easily had a slightly increasing pattern of penalties instead, or because the advancement system is so incremental, not had any penalties, but bonuses for people who specialized!  That way if you were trying to dabble in most things you'd be mediocre in most things, but the character system wouldn't come down and squash you like a bug's boot.  There could have been other thematic ways to show this magical technical conflictal thing, I think, without such heavy-handedness.
  
Even if this system was kept, I think the linear dial for mechanical/magical could learn from the alignment measurement in Mass Effect, where you accumulate both Renegade and Paragon points.  In this case, Magic and Tech would each have their own marker on the dial.  Then you could have readout that shows you the effect the DISTANCE between those two markers has on your character. That way it's all right there in front of you, and you don't feel blindsided by experimenting with the machine that's freely given to you to play with.

It also almost feels at times like the game has a bit of a fantasy-side bias to things, but maybe I've been hanging around in ancient ruins a bit too much.   
 

Schematics


I'm in a low ammunition moment right now, which means a bit of waiting while I buy up all the saltpeter in the towns I'm visiting to combine it with charcoal, and scrounge for rags to combine with some fuel for 'splody things.  Those 'splody things work really, really well on clusters of enemies; since they don't usually hit friendly targets I tend to use them when we get swarmed, AND when I'm faced by something with a tech immunity. Thematically a bit funny that they call them 'splodies Molotovs, though, since the guy wasn't associated with the fire bomb until World War II. 
 
I may not understand the system right, but it seems like my companions can't benefit from the schematics I collect, which is a super bummer since I don't want to have to specialize in everything in order to make some of the stuff that I've found. I don't really see the point in preventing the player from having a general schematic pool that can be drawn from by any companion at any time.  I also wish you could be a bit creative with your combinations, maybe to make lesser-quality versions of stuff on the schematics. I'm not sure why I have to find THAT PARTICULAR HELMET in order to get the cool steampunk goggles, Mr. Man.  I did break down and get the formula for healing salve, which creates much more units than I was expecting. I won't need healing stuff for a while :)
 

Random


There's a peculiar problem with text bubbles when you're not part of a conversation. In one instance I watched a conversation start between a bunch of people, and eventually the bubbles began overlapping each other and disappearing so quickly I couldn't read them in time. When the absurdity was over everyone hated me but I couldn't figure out what I did wrong.  I also got into a squabble with someone in a bar, and even though they pleaded for mercy I couldn't figure out how to stop combat. Since I was forced to kill the dolt I then was at odds with the law after that, which meant calling up a save.
 
 (A quick addendum: I mentioned earlier how the fantasy races seem suplerfluous, and while they seem to be integrating some of them better now that I'm further in, there's a mechanical issue at work here too: if you have too many character models, it takes longer to develop. I remember my conversation with an Arcanum developer about their decision to give females different stats, and how not all fantasy races have female versions. They said part of the issue was that they had to create character models for every creature type, male and female, and that added a significant workload, with all the animations.  If, though, this game concentrated on the human element, not only would the cool messages in this game not been diluted, but the workload on the modelers would have been reduced. More time to squash bugs and stuff)  
 
The combat, while repetitive, is still satisfying to me.  Maybe I just like shooting things repeatedly.   HAHAHA!  DIE, SPIDER!  

I'm going to read the manual now, I think.  For reals this time.
Posted by MrKlorox

Damn a lot of the stuff you seem to dislike is what I found most endearing, with the exception on some of the things modern RPGs would do standard (such as schematic pool). The magic and tech not mixing, the fantasy races in the steampunk setting, the drastically varying character builds. Without those specific things this game would be pretty watered down.

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@MrKlorox:  I don't think I said I don't like drastically different character builds :) What I don't like is that the variations one can make may make a broken character.   It's sort of the opposite. I want to try more combinations than the game seems to want to allow.
 
Magic and tech not mixing in less heavy-handed ways would still make this work.  As far as the races, I'm warming to that part now that I'm seeing some better depictions of them as different social classes, of a sort.