Gremlins, Inc. – Linux, Mac OS X 10.11, Windows 10 Game Compatibility

Gremlins, Inc. Main Menu
Gremlins, Inc. Main Menu

System Requirements

Linux
Operating System: Ubuntu 12.04 or greater
Processor: Pentium 3 or greater
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: Geforce 9XX or AMD graphics card
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Mac OS X
Operating System: Any x86 version of Mac OS X
Processor: Any x86 Mac
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Windows
Operating System: Windows XP or greater
Processor: Pentium 3 or greater
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: Geforce 9XX or AMD graphics card
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Gremlins, Inc. – Linux, Mac OS X 10.11, Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Gremlins, Inc. Main Menu
Gremlins, Inc. Main Menu

Gremlins, Inc. is a computerized board game designed by Alexey Bokulev and Sergei Klimov produced under the Charlie Oscar Lima Tango Interactive Entertainment brand. It was published in 2016 by The Merchant Guild of Rund to the Steam platform. It appears to be fully multiplayer, where players may play online competitively individually or in cooperative teams, or locally competitively individually or on teams as well. It appears the game may be played by 2 to 5 players. There are ladders that track player statistics that may be climbed. There appear to be plentiful mods to customize, enhance, and extend the base game, and the game appears to have been consistently updated since its release.

Players may play as one of five classes of character: the Explorer, the Manager, the Gambler, the Collector, the Thief, or the Damned. I am not yet certain as to the strengths or weaknesses of the various classes since I’ve only ever chosen the random character option. Hovering over each one should give a description of their strengths and weaknesses.

Players are dealt six cards each at the beginning of the game. As these cards are played or otherwise discarded throughout the game, they are replenished immediately from a random deck. At the beginning of the game, all players may discard as many cards as they wish from their hand to be redrawn prior to playing their first turn.

Character Selection Screen
Character Selection Screen

Each card has a name and unique game art that make them easily remembered and identifiable at a glance once you get used to playing. The Gremlinopedia contains an index of each card and what effects they have to be referenced by the player when needed. All of this information is also present on the cards themselves within a players hand.

The number in the upper left hand corner of the card is the movement number. Cards may be played to move around the board or they may be played to execute the card’s action, but never both. Once a card is played for movement or its action, it is discarded. When played for the card’s action, the card must be played on the spot that it corresponds to. A picture of this spot is located on the bottom left of the card. A description of all of the spots on the board is included below. Some cards have an added action effect when played. These cards will have a gear icon located at the upper center of the card. Hovering the mouse pointer on this icon will reveal text that explains the card’s effect when played.

The Gremlinopedia for referencing card effects and game information.
The Gremlinopedia for referencing card effects and game information.

There are numerous Gremlins, Inc. game boards to play on, and none of them that I have seen are fully linear. Be careful to check the arrows on the board to plan your movement. On the board I first played on, there was a primary loop to travel counter-clockwise around in a circle that was fairly low risk. This primary loop had loops to the unique game spots connected to it, so traveling around this loop would provide a player access to those spots. However, there are also places within the primary loop where the player may take short cuts or move to a different place in the loop entirely. The player must take into account the risk versus reward when choosing their particular path. Paths with high reward usually come with high risk, while paths with lower reward come with a lower risk.

The most important and precious resource in the game are the general game points. At the beginning of each game, the game host decides how many game points will be played to. In the game I played, the number of game points was 20. This means that the first player to reach 20 game points would win the game. The number of game points a player has is shown in the middle of a green gear next to their player portrait on the main game screen. Wherever game points may be added or subtracted from the player in a game, they are represented by a gear.

Discard and redraw any number of cards prior to first turn.
Discard and redraw any number of cards prior to first turn.

There are also votes that may be collected or lost while navigating the board. Whomever has the most votes when elections are called becomes the governor. It’s good to be the governor. Governors don’t have to pay any resources when landing on a bribe spot.

Pitchforks are another resource. The more pitchforks you have the more notorious your reputation which counts for something. Be careful that you don’t have the most pitchforks though as some of the nastier misfortunes target the most evil player in the game. Then there is the + and – resources. The – resource is used to pay off the police when landing on a police spot and pay bribes. Money, or G, is the common currency of the game.

Many cards require G to play on their respective spots. When G is required to play a card, the amount required will be shown in the upper right hand corner of the card. The more powerful the card, the more costly it is to play. Unfortunately for the player who likes to plan ahead, G is what is most often increased or decreased in all of the in game events around the board which makes the amount of it in your purse at any time highly volatile. Getting a high power card that requires around 1000G to play made my mouth water since it would pretty much settle the game if I were to successfully play it. So I would plan out how to get to the other side of the map to play that one card and save enough G on my way there to spend it solely on that card. I tried three separate cards like this in the game I played and each time there was something that made me lose enough of my money to keep me from playing each of those three cards. This was even with me being the governor for around 80 percent of the game. The fluctuation of G in my coffer was a strong signal that Gremlins, Inc. is as much a game of chance as it is a game of skill. Randomness is hidden by the complexity of the game, but is still present in full, frustrating force and compounded by the actions of each player added to the game.

Game board used in my first play through.
Game board used in my first play through.

Common Spots:

Bribe – Looks like a dollar bill with a G in the middle. When passing this spot, a player must pay -, when landing on this spot double – is paid. If the player cannot pay the full amount, they pay whatever they have and receive pitchforks. The governor doesn’t have to pay when passing or landing on any one of these spots.

Gamble – Looks like a die with a heart, club, and spade on it. When landing here a six sided die is rolled. If a one is rolled, a misfortune occurs. Rolling a two subtracts 50G, while rolling a four or a six will add 50G or 100G to a player’s purse respectively. Rolling a three subtracts a voter and adds a pitchfork, while rolling a five adds two voters.

Income – Clearly a money spot. When passing this spot you get money, or G. When you land on it you get double G!

Misfortune – Signified by ominous red face. Passing this spot curses the player with a random misfortune. Landing on it allows a player’s opponent to choose one of two misfortunes that will befall the player.

Police – Looks like a police sergeant’s hat. When landing here a player must pay – or there is a chance they will be arrested.

Risk – When you land on a risk spot, a six sided die is rolled to see if any misfortune is caused to your player. Prior to the die roll, the player is offered the option to buy insurance for 20G. If accepted and a misfortune occurs, it will be directed toward other players instead of the rolling player.

Tribune – Looks like a bullhorn. When landing on one of these spots you can address your voters. A six sided die is rolled to determine the effectiveness of your speech.

Unique Spots:

The Astral Plain – Looks like a hot air balloon. When landing here a player may choose to skip one turn to lose two pitchforks and draw their choice of one out of three cards from the deck.

The Bank – Signified by a gold G. When landing here a player may spend G based on their + amount to increase + by 10.

The Casino – This spot looks like a dart board. Here a player may roll a six sided die to win or lose an amount of money wagered from their purse. Rolling a 1, 2, or 3 causes the player to lose 100G, 50G or 25G respectively. Rolling a 4, 5, or 6 causes the player to gain 25G, 50G, or 100G respectively.

The Court – Signified by an icon of an angry looking judge. When landing on this spot a player may pay 40G to take a vote from any player of their choice.

The Dump – Looks like a worn out boot. When landing here a player may roll a six sided die to dig through the junk. rolling a 1 causes the player to lose one voter. Rolling a four, five, or six, causes the player to gain 10G, 20G, or 30G respectively. Rolling anything else has no effect.

The Jail – Signified by a grid of bars. Many in game actions can send a player to the Jail. Upon entering the Jail, the player rolls a six sided die for the number of turns they will stay in the Jail. At the beginning of each turn spent in the Jail, the player may choose to engage in good behavior, be neutral, or engage in bad behavior. Good behavior helps you get out of the Jail quicker, but bad behavior increases your notoriety and jail experience while potentially adding turns to your sentence. Choosing neutral allows a player to walk the line between the two.

The Inferno – Looks like a pitchfork, seems a lot like hell. Appears to be the home of evil. Cards related to the Inferno tend to boost your player’s pitchfork resource number.

The Office – Signified by a blue hand. A player may sell 1 voter for 100G on this spot.

The Marketplace – Signified by a green moneybag. When landing here a player may sell one of their precious game points for 200G if they wish.

The Plant – Signified by a golden gear on a green background. When landing here a player may skip one turn to receive 50G and lose one pitchfork if they so choose.

The Treasure – It looks like the game designers attempted to depict a yellow diamond icon for this spot, but I spent my whole first game thinking it looked like a yellow heart. The player may roll a six sided die to see how much treasure, or G, they receive. There is no losing on this space. Rolling a 1 wins 10G, 2 wins 25G, 3 wins 50G, 4 wins 100G, 5 wins 150G, and 6 wins 200G.

Gremlins, Inc. appears to be more a game of overall strategy as opposed to methodical tactics. Because of all of the probabilities of success and failure on each turn, it makes more sense to come up with a winning method of playing the game that works best in most cases than to tactically plan out each move many moves into the future. A player can plan a general strategy that provides them success a majority of the time and refine their strategy to eliminate those things that cause a loss of resources a plurality of the time. Focusing on the big picture is key.

Gremlins, Inc. is a fantastically complex game. It’s the kind of game I always wanted to play as a kid but one I know I would never find anyone who would want to play it with me. If you are not a fan of complex games, don’t let that statement completely scare you away. The computer takes care of most of the complexity, it’s just the player’s job to understand what they want to do and figure out the best path to winning. It’s wonderful that the game designers have created such a game of vast complexity that is relatively simple to play and provides an interface through which to connect to other fans of complex board games worldwide with no real language barrier.

My wife beat me.
My wife beat me.

I found no evidence of unwholesome material in Gremlins, Inc. There is no violent or sexual content nor bad language that I encountered. It may be a game too advanced for younger children to understand, which could make it frustrating for them to play and for those who play with them. I would say if someone can easily play Magic: The Gathering, they should be able to handily play Gremlins, Inc.

I can’t wait to play more Gremlins, Inc. My wife and I both enjoyed our first play through and are eager to play as a team competitively to see how high we can rise on the leader boards. If you are a fan of complex board games, I highly recommend you get this game.

Jazz Jackrabbit 2 – Compatibility

Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Title Screen

Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 95
Processor: Pentium or compatible
Memory: 16MB
Hard Drive: 45MB
Optical Drive: 2x CD-ROM

Windows 10

  • Installs – Yes
  • Runs – Yes
  • Uninstalls – Yes

Jazz Jackrabbit 2 seems to work flawlessly on Windows 10.

Jazz Jackrabbit 2 – Windows 95 Game First Impressions

Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Title Screen

Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Title Screen

As I alluded to in a recent “Ask Me Anything” article, my parents did not allow me to own a video game console when I was growing up. Atari made computers, of which my father was a big fan. I still have the Atari 800 and Atari ST I played on when I was little. When Atari got sold off in 1995 after the failure of their Jaguar console, my dad purchased a new PC that ran Windows.

Gaming between PCs and consoles has always been a separate experience. While my friends at school were talking about Super Mario World, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Donkey Kong Country, there was no significant Atari counterpart. I used to pass Rick Dangerous 2 off as a contender; I’ll get around to reviewing that one later. When I finally started getting into PC gaming, there were a few well known shareware titles: Commander Keen, Jill of the Jungle, and Duke Nukem. All were worthy titles for the IBM compatible computer, but with awful sound and graphics in comparison to the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis.

One day in the lunch room at school, the new kid in our class revealed himself as a PC gamer. He talked about a game called Jazz Jackrabbit and said it was faster than Sonic the Hedgehog and had better graphics too. I had never heard of this Jazz Jackrabbit before. I really didn’t know whether to defend him or join in the mob that had formed against him because he had publicly blasphemed Sonic. Eventually he invited me over and I got to see it. A little while later I got my own copy of the shareware episode.

He wasn’t wrong. Jazz Jackrabbit was top notch gaming for the time. It was so good it may have contributed to its designers being recognized for their achievement and going on to create more great games. You’ve probably heard of their company; they are now called Epic Games.

But in 1998, when Jazz Jackrabbit 2 was released by then named Epic Mega Games, they were attempting to answer a many years long call to create a Cadillac platforming experience, the last word in platformers. When I first got my copy and played Jazz Jackrabbit 2, it seemed like it was all I had hoped for in a computer platformer. The designers made full use of the expanded screen resolution available to them on modern computers. There is so much real estate to play in, the game feels huge. When Jazz is running fast, I can still see what’s in front of him and have more time to react than I ever did with Sonic. The graphics are crisp and I don’t think I would be wrong to say this title has the most impressive parallax I saw during the era.

Yo dawg, I heard you like parallax.

Yo dawg, I heard you like parallax.

I stayed in contact with my PC gaming friend and we talked on the phone about Jazz Jackrabbit 2 after we both got it. We talked smugly as if we had finally been vindicated. If only all of those kids around the lunch table could see this game, they’d finally agree PC gaming is better. We were such losers.

It was 1998. The N64 had come out in 1996. We had all played Super Mario 64 by then, a great platformer in 3D! The last great 2D platformer of the era, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble! came out in 1996 as well. Jazz Jackrabbit 2 was too late; it was the last word in a debate most no one had broached for two years.

These walls are filled with hidden spikes, and this hoverboard sucks.

These walls are filled with hidden spikes, and this hoverboard sucks.

It was exciting for me when I reinstalled Jazz Jackrabbit 2 and realized it runs successfully on Windows 10 without any additional tweaking. I had so many fond memories surrounding this platformer. After all, it was the chosen one to save us from the PC platformer darkness those few decades ago. It was in playing through this time that I suddenly had some objective clarity.

You can choose to play as Jazz or Jazz’s brother Spaz, or if you want to play with a friend you can play with Jazz and Spaz locally or over LAN. Both Jazz and Spaz have slightly different abilities that get triggered when pressing the jump button immediately after jumping. Jazz’s ears turn into helicopter wings and help him glide down softly at a reduced rate of descent. Spaz can jump an extra half jump into the air. Spaz is fun to watch when left idle. He shoots UFOs out of the sky and eats birds that land on his finger.

The first level is a tutorial of sorts, helping you get familiar with the character chosen. So far so good. Everything is as colorful, bright, and fun as I remembered it. The catchy chiptunes that were such a staple of PC gaming are here. I’m in my happy place. I jump, skip, and most importantly hop through the first few levels and past the first boss. On to the rest of the game.

I found a friend.

I found a friend.

It was at this point I realized Jazz Jackrabbit 2 isn’t the bed of roses I remembered. While the increase in screen resolution was welcomed as it makes the game feel bigger and easier to navigate, the collision detection was not increased to compensate. It seems like pixel precision is required to land on some of the tiny platforms. This is not a complaint about the game being too hard, it’s more a complaint of the game not allowing me to progress until I have jumped perfectly across these in game objects that I won’t land on or grab on to if I am not at the precise position and angle to do so. It often looks like you are falling through objects because you are just slightly off from them. It’s time consuming and greatly frustrating. Also, given that the characters move quickly, there are some places they will not occupy when jumping from a particular starting position. Imagine a knight moving in the game of chess. A knight will only move in an “L” shape and all at once when it does. This is the same idea with Jazz. Just because there is a platform right next to him, this does not mean the game intended for you to jump on that immediately close position. I think the game developers strategically placed many platforms in many places so you could hop over some to easily get through to others further beyond in the places you wish to go. If you are having problems hopping onto something directly next to you, try to hop onto something beyond it instead.

Jumping to the hook on the immediate right may be impossible, but easy for the one beyond it.

Jumping to the hook on the immediate right may be impossible, but easy for the one beyond it.

There is not much original in Jazz Jackrabbit 2. There are two or three similarly themed levels and a boss for each episode for six episodes. The episodes are all a parody of something that was pop culture relevant in the 90s. The game itself appears to be a parody of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, though it seems to flatter rather than to poke fun. They even included their own pinball level. Jazz and Spaz can swim, however, so there are water levels as well.

There are a lot of collectible edibles strewn throughout all of the levels. Eating carrots will restore health. But eating enough of the other foods will make the Jazz’s sugar level increase. Once enough foods have been eaten, Jazz enters a Sugar Rush and becomes invulnerable for a countdown of seconds. Use this time to kill off as many enemies as you can, and don’t simply discount the collectible items throughout the game, they can be used to your advantage.

Sugar Rush!

Sugar Rush!

Be careful about what you do collect, however. Some of the items you pick up will provide power-up ammo to your weapon. I got really frustrated because I would pick up flamethrower ammo at the worst time to be using a flamethrower. It got to the point in some levels where I wish I hadn’t picked up any ammo at all and I could have just stuck with the default weapon with infinite ammo.

C'mon, don't be a loser. Be a stud.

C’mon, don’t be a loser. Be a stud.

Despite being let down by my outrageous expectations of nostalgia, would Jazz Jackrabbit 2 be worthwhile to a newcomer to PC gaming as a stand-alone platforming title? Yes, yes it would. It’s not the savior of the PC master race, but it’s a really good game that holds up today. It won’t win a modern or even historical beauty contest, but it is a clever platformer that offers a new challenge to fans of the genre who may have missed this one when it first came by provided they can get their hands on a copy. I was shocked to discover copies going for around $25 on Amazon and Ebay on the cheap end. I’m not sure I would pay that much. If I grabbed a working one for $15, I’d say I would have received my money’s worth at this point. I suppose I need to take real good care of my copy so I won’t have to replace it.

Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Game Disc

Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Game Disc

As I am already starting to come out of my nostalgic stupor, I’m seeing Jazz Jackrabbit 2 in a new light. It really is a charming game. While I probably placed greater stock in it when I was younger than I probably should have (so much was at stake!), I realize this game still resonates with me and, judging by the demand for it among PC gamers online, others as well. Like a good joke where you just had to be there, I can’t guarantee everyone will see this one with the same rose color glasses I do. The more I realize I have lots more to say about it, the more I’ll have to leave this first impression article stating that it’s certainly a wonderful game filled with wonderful memories for me.

Ground Control II: Operation Exodus – Compatibility

Ground Control II Title Screen

Ground Control II Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
Processor: 1.5GHz Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon
Memory: 256MB RAM
Video: 128MB AGP video card
Hard Drive: 1.5GB
Optical Drive: 24x CD-ROM
Windows 10

  • Installs – Yes
  • Runs – Yes
  • Uninstalls – Yes

Everything with Ground Control II appears to work flawlessly in Windows 10.

Ground Control II: Operation Exodus – Windows XP Game First Impressions

Ground Control II Title Screen

Ground Control II Title Screen

I must preface this article by stating that the majority of my current real-time strategy game knowledge comes from games that came out prior to the year 2000. Starcraft was a LAN party favorite, though we were known to crack out Warcraft II, Command & Conquer, Total Annihilation, and Age of Empires II. I briefly played Supreme Commander with friends when it came out. When the first Ground Control came out, I had a friend who continually badgered me to play it. He talked like it would change my paradigm with regard to strategy games. It’s possible it may have, had I played it. My friend and I were both in high school at the time with limited money. He wanted me to play his game and I wanted him to play Starcraft instead.

Years later I purchased Ground Control II: Operation Exodus at a used bookstore. I’m not really sure what kept me from playing it until now. Perhaps life just got in the way. I know I picked it up and played it a couple of times but couldn’t really get into it for some reason. Seeing that it works in Windows 10, it’s time to give it another chance.

Ground Control II: Operation Exodus is a real-time strategy game developed by Massive Entertainment and released by Sierra in 2004. As I stated earlier, it is the sequel to Ground Control that was released in 2000. The thing I noticed at first glance when playing that makes this game unique is its emphasis on tactics and the elimination of base building.

Ground Control II Pro Tip

Ground Control II Pro Tip

In Starcraft, Command & Conquer, etc., a certain quantity of a needed resource is provided on the game’s playfield. When that resource is extracted, it can be used to build buildings in the player’s base and from those buildings construct various unit types to be used in combat. Ground Control II gets rid of this by giving you a starting number of units and then giving the player what are called acquisition points. Acquisition points are granted whenever a player overtakes another player’s capture point or drop ship base. When enough acquisition points are accumulated, the player may use them to purchase units that are delivered via drop ship to their own drop ship base. If a player has no drop ship base, there is no way for them to spend acquisition points. This makes Ground Control II more of a hybrid between games like Starcraft which is truly a real-time strategy title and something like Myth where starting number of units in battle is finite, which falls squarely into the real-time tactics genre.

Drop Ship Location

Drop Ship Location

There are some interesting concepts introduced in Ground Control II that I have not seen in other real-time strategy games. Infantry units, while weak like in many real-time strategy titles, can be sandwiched in all sorts of places you wouldn’t expect on the map. They can be hidden inside buildings, or hide out in forests. Directing a tank can be unwieldy. Blindly right-clicking in a direction may or may not work, depending on what the unit thinks your direct orders to it were. Whenever I tell an infantry unit to move, however, it always seems to move. Infantry can just go anywhere and squeeze into any place. They are easily underestimated, and a delight to use to come up with improvised strategies. The player may also use acquisition points to call in air strikes on enemy base locations. The air strike takes a certain amount of time to occur after it has been ordered. Be careful you don’t blow up your own units when you use it.

The tutorial is fairly boring to play through – it actually put me to sleep the first time I played through it – but it is quite informative. I would recommend starting there if you are new to the Ground Control series. Some of the things discussed apply across all real-time strategy games, but others do not. I recall jumping in without the tutorial one of the times I tried to pick Ground Control II up and being a little confused.

Capturing Their Drop Ship Location

Capturing Their Drop Ship Location

Of course, if you like playing games with the sound turned on, you may be confused anyway. The units under the player’s command will talk like they are completely out-numbered, surrounded and about to be slaughtered when they first witness an enemy unit a hundred yards away. It gets frustrating microing units on one side of the map, feeling like you are doing pretty good as the enemy is on the run, and then hearing chatter like you are losing the entire game due to one little unit from the enemy making its way across enemy lines on the other side of the map. At least I learned to ignore those sounds once I had played the tutorial.

And Their Main Base

And Their Main Base

In my gameplay thus far, the Empire has come back from Earth to reestablish control on their former fringe colonies that have since flourished in their freedom from the Empire’s oppressive rule. In the first campaign, the player plays as the resistance forces of the Northern Star Alliance working to remove the Empire from their worlds. In the second level of this campaign, a UFO crashes into the capital city of the Northern Star Alliance, Morningstar Prime. As the game progresses it appears the player may also play a campaign as an alien race. I’ll need to play through Ground Control II, and Ground Control for that matter, and then review further to know more about what happens.

Ground Control II game disc

Ground Control II game disc

Ground Control II: Operation Exodus has mostly been a forgettable and largely uninspiring experience for me thus far. Its plot and gameplay mechanics are interesting. Its cutscenes are well made. The graphics and sound are alright. As far as science fiction real-time strategy games released by Sierra go, this one blows Outpost 2: Divided Destiny out of the water. But Ground Control II is missing that spark for me. When the infantrymen die in the unmoving cutscenes, I feel like I am watching clay figures or toy soldiers; I don’t have any emotional feelings for these polygonal people. The character’s chatter feels canned. I have yet to receive satisfaction from the game telling me I did a job well done. The only satisfaction received from this game is beating the level and flanking the enemy. It could be for this reason that playing the multiplayer mode would be far better than the single-player campaigns. If I can find someone to play with me, I’ll give that a try. Until then I would only recommend Ground Control II to collector’s who must have every game, and strategy buffs who feel they must beat every real-time strategy title.

Arcanum – Windows 98 Game First Impressions

Arcanum Cover Art

Arcanum Cover Art

Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magic Obscura is a role-playing game developed by Troika Games and published by Sierra in 2001. The game is played from an isometric perspective and combat occurs in real-time. I would say Arcanum feels most like a cross between Diablo and Fallout.

Upon starting the game the player first creates a new character or selects a pre-built character. The pre-built characters have compelling back stories regarding who they are, where they are from, and why they are boarding the IFS Zephyr air ship on their way to Tarant. The entire world of Arcanum has this steampunk feel to it. Some players are best with magic, while others with technology, and a few walk the line between both. There seems to be a great tension in the Arcanum story as to which type of power is stronger and will ultimately win out over the other. After selecting or creating a character, the opening cutscene plays and the player sees the air ship shot down by some unsavory fellows.

Many character background stories are fascinating

Many character background stories are fascinating.

After the crash, while fumbling in the wreckage, the player hears someone crying for help and moves debris in order to get to the person pinned down. Upon inspection, it appears the person is an elderly gnome. He gives the player possession of a ring and tasks her with bringing the ring to a boy while talking of unspeakable evil saying that the boy will know what to do. After breathing his last, a shadowy figure is seen approaching through the smoke of the wreckage and the game enters its first load screen.

Arcanum summed up in two words: Steampunk

Arcanum summed up in two words: Steampunk

Arcanum is incredibly rich in story but chock full of technical difficulty. The game lagged constantly while I played it. You can make your character walk smoothly or you can scroll to see more of the surrounding area in a given direction smoothly, but if you try to do both at the same time you will have problems. Entering new areas causes the game to seemingly lock up, though it really just seems to be an extension of the really long load times.

After the first obnoxiously long load time the player meets the shadowy figure from the cutscene, a man by the name of Virgil. He informs her that he is a recent follower of the Panarii religion, that she is the chosen one, and that she must fight the evil one while babbling about her like a half-wit. He suggests they go into the nearby town of Shrouded Hills to meet one Elder Joachim to get some answers. Once she agrees, he joins the player’s party.

Arcanum Gameplay

Arcanum gameplay

I decided to take this time to scavenge among the wreckage and hunt wolves and other hostile creatures I found. From just killing all the unsavory creatures around the downed air ship I was able to reach level 2 and I picked up a sword that was twice as good as my starting dagger. Combat is achieved by clicking on an enemy using the left mouse button. Once a player has successfully slain all nearby enemies, combat mode does not always go away. Clicking the right mouse button will exit combat mode in those cases.

Notes are kept of vital in-game info you can refer to later.

Notes are kept on vital in-game info you can refer to later.

Satisfied I had explored everything and received as much experience in the area as possible, I traversed the clearing that seemed to be part of a road. On the way the party of Virgil and I was greeted by a strange cloaked figure that wanted to know if I had survived the crash. It doesn’t matter what dialog options you use with this guy, he will attempt to kill you. He was apparently there to ensure no one survived.

Arcanum Overworld Map

Arcanum Overworld Map

Once the party is done killing the assassin, it is possible to bring up the overworld map and travel to Shrouded Hills. Alternatively it appears it is possible to just continue to walk through the entire world map without any fast travel, much like in more recent role-playing games such as those in The Elder Scrolls series. Upon fast traveling to Shrouded Hills, after fumbling about in town looking for it we entered the Shrouded Hills Inn. There we found dead assassins in Elder Joachim’s room. He had left a note and bid us to travel to the place where he was safe. It was at this point that I began looking for a way out of town. While looking we ran into an incredibly lucky wolf that got a fatally critical hit on yours truly.

The graphics are superb for when Arcanum was released. The cutscenes are emotionally stimulating and truly make you feel a part of the story. The in-game graphics are a step above Fallout and Fallout 2 though obviously similar in design. Arcanum was developed by Jason D. Anderson, Leonard Boyarsky, and Timothy Cain, all former designers of the game Fallout. The sound and background music is also superb and really places the player in the mood and environment of the story the designers intended to tell.

Arcanum contains great cutscenes

Arcanum contains great cutscenes.

It’s obvious I am going to have to spend much more time playing Arcanum. There is so much story here, all of which appears to be incredibly deep with well crafted lore. The question will be whether my patience will hold out with the technical difficulties presented by the game’s issues. This would seem to be the perfect title for a remastered version, one where all the bugs are fixed. Troika Games closed their doors in 2005, but given that Arcanum can still be purchased on Valve’s Steam platform, I would imagine that someone would have the rights to make such a remastered version possible.

Arcanum Game Disc

Arcanum Game Disc

I would say Arcanum is worth owning for serious computer role-playing game fans who have already played through all of the other more approachable classics such as those from The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Diablo, and Dungeons & Dragons series. Even without the technical difficulties present in this game, it seems to be geared more toward the experienced role-playing gamer. The setup application even suggests the player get familiar with certain chapters of the manual while waiting for the game to install on their hard disk. At the moment I am writing this article, Arcanum is selling on Steam for $5.99. I feel that is a worthy price to have this one in my collection, but be advised this game does not hold your hand at any point. I look forward to exploring this game further as time goes on; perhaps as an angry Twitch stream, that could be interesting.

Arcanum – Compatibility

Arcanum Cover Art

Arcanum Cover Art

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 95, 98, ME, or 2000
Processor: Pentium II 450MHz
Memory: 128MB RAM
Hard Disk: 1.2GB Required
Video: DirectX certified for version 7a. 16MB video RAM.
Sound: 16-bit DirectX compatible sound card.
Format: 2 CD-ROM Discs

Windows 10

  • Installs – Yes.
  • Runs – Yes.
  • Uninstalls – Yes.