Sierra gave us an opportunity Tuesday to look at Troika's upcoming RPG Arcanum. The game is set in a fantasy world recently upset by an industrial revolution that effectively pitches magick and technology to two incompatible extremes. The game fills 19th-century Victorian cities with a rich cast of characters who could very well pit magic missiles against firearms.
Two years ago, Troika was formed by team members who created Fallout, 1997's most celebrated postapocalyptic RPG. Like Fallout, Arcanum brings strongly innovative design and story elements to the genre. Eschewing a class-based character system, you choose your character's background from classic fantasy race choices (humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, and halflings) and familiar attributes - four physical and four mental. Then you'll flesh out your character with basic combat, thieving, social, and technology skills.
The main technology-vs.-magick dichotomy is represented by the difficult trade-offs you will make in choosing proficiencies from among the 80 spells and almost 50 technologies. The technology disciplines are a completely new game concept, letting characters manufacture increasingly complex devices from items found in your travels. As if it weren't enough that even the most experienced character will only be able to master a fraction of either skill set, you'll also have to watch what items you carry - a strong tech presence can make a spell fizzle, and a magical aura makes it more likely that a gun will misfire.
Character freedom seems to be Troika's watchword, as Arcanum provides many side-story arcs and alternate endings to complement a player's affinities and decisions. And your character certainly is not alone - 280 different types of monsters and 300 NPCs populate Arcanum.
Arcanum is aimed at a September ship date. For more details, look for our preview next week.