After weeks of following the main quest as closely as I could, something rather unexpected happened: Joachim, Virgil’s mentor, decided to stop sending me from inn to inn and declared that he would find me instead. I told my party to wait in the town for a few days, but Joachim never arrived, nor did he randomly appear as I jogged between dots on the map (as the villain’s ghostly apparition did). Though I was initially worried that I had somehow run into another game-breaking bug, it’s more likely that Troika are pushing me to stray from the path and get lost in a few new adventures before returning to the main event.
Colin was right on the money when he told me Arcanum was all about the side quests, the people and places you stumble into when trotting from A to B. There’s still something altogether discomforting about this freedom; I’m always second-guessing whether I’m going the “right” way, or if I’m dropping into a situation best avoided. If it weren’t for my destiny as the supposed savior of the land, this aimless wandering around a continent would likely put me off entirely. For the moment, I’ve been given just enough direction to feel comfortably tethered, yet free to explore as I wish. Without any overarching goal, I might as well be floating in endless void of space!
This week sees us dropping our weekly goalposts- until now, we’ve been setting stopping points based on story progress, with those being decided by an Arcanum sage I’m acquainted with who knows the game front and back. That’s good, but I don’t know the game front and back, and now that we’re playing content I’ve never seen before, these goalposts have proving almost crippling. Wandering around the world, I discover a town called Stillwater. Wow! I bet that’s really cool! Maybe I should explore… but what if this is story content? What if I’m inadvertently progressing the game, and thus desyncing my progress? This exact thought process has hit me a number of times, causing me to do less exploring, all the while wistfully staring at the places I’m passing by.
Quite frankly, it made the game less fun, and while it’s possible we’ll have some issues when we stop gating ourselves, it’s worth it to make the game more enjoyable again. Seeing all this content I’d like to check out, but not feeling like I’m able to, made progressing start to feel like a chore. Besides, as it turns out, Ben was doing a pretty bad job of sticking to the goals anyway, hahaha!
Yeah, stopping points don’t work all that well when they’re marked on dungeons that aren’t part of the main narrative. I figured I would run into the Ancient Temple if I kept following Joachim’s trail, but when that went cold, I walked off to Ashbury. The mayor wasn’t too happy when I sabotaged his plans for a monument (though asking random adventurers to deliver your speeches is a poor mayoral decision), and soon after, I hitched a ride with a pirate to land on the Isle of Despair.
Sadly, the Isle of Despair runs against the game’s own laissez-faire attitude toward questing; once you land, you have to complete every task available then and there. The captive dwarf held a pair of spectacles required to enter the Wheel Clan hideout on the mainland, and I figured I would pump up my persuasion points to coax them away. Now, my worst fears have been confirmed: there IS a right way to play, and if you misinterpret Arcanum’s unspoken rules, it will punish you.
I may have ruined the Isle of Despair for myself and strayed from the plan, but at least I didn’t royally screw up the Ancient Temple like one fellow Scanline writer whose first name starts with a C!
You say I “royally screwed up.” I say I walked into a room with an undead decaying dude and burned that sumbitch with fire. That he was willing to talk to me is irrelevant- I wasn’t willing to talk to him.