Flames are shooting out of the windows. They're almost reaching the roof where the last few inhabitants have fled to. The crying and screaming can hardly be heard through the crashing sounds of more and more of the buildings support structure being eaten away by the flames. The helicopter lowers a rope through the dense smoke and pulls them up to safety one by one.
Has it ever occured to you that none of Maxis' classic Sim games are actually simulations in the strict sense? Well, OK, of course they are, but only in the way that all computer games are simulations: they simulate something, like a city, a planet or an ecological system. I guess that makes Monkey Island a simulation, too.
Successful games like Zelda, Ultima, Baldur's Gate and others dazzle us with an atmospheric fantasy world, challenge by fighting against hostile forces and offer a lot of experience for further survival. The top-down perspective – i.e. moving on a kind of world map – is a striking common feature of the aforementioned classics. The player has a top-down view of the environment and his avatar, but without taking over the avatar's field of vision and thus his role – as is usual in 3D shooters. In this kind of flight over the actual scene, the player is a bit further away from the action and gets a more abstract picture of the game's progress. The mentioned game titles nevertheless manage to captivate the player without much effort and integrate him into the story. This is achieved by the perfection of the well-known technical elements like graphics, music, game mechanics and also the psychological incentives, which reward a fight with progress in the story and increase the experience points.
At first glance Arcanum looks like a role playing game full of great ideas: Its main attraction is its fantasy world, which is set at the time of an industrial revolution, that is about to turn it into a science fiction setting. It is a refreshingly unique place, full of whimsical magic and technical marvels, that has great potential for interesting twists to age-old cliches: How does an ageless being, like an elf, react to the rise of science, which is about to make the magic, that has kept him alive so far, obsolete? Is there a cheaper workforce than orcs, which can be exploited at will, for they are obviously evil and therefore deserve no less? Or what about safety: Should a wizard, whose magical power has an unpredictable effect on machines, be allowed to get close to steam engines or trains? There are so many new stories that could be told…