Too bad I just preordered Burning Wheel Gold a couple weeks ago. Wish I had the money for this one too. Arcanis was one of the better 3.5 settings and the free RPG sample of their new system was really impressive. Maybe a couple months down the line I'll pick this one up with I have a bit of spending cash.
Hi, I am NOT an employee of PCI, but I am VERY familiar with Arcanis and what's happening with it these days.
Arcanis: the Role-Plaing Game (ARPG) uses a custom mechanics engine. It has a little bit of a learning curve, and works hard to ignore many of the artifacts of D&D, which increases the learning curve for some people.
Initiative is based on an ongoing counter (represented with a 12 hour clock that rolls over). Every action has a speed. You go on your initiiative, bump your initiative by the speed of your action, and then go again when your new initiative comes up.
Experience has shown me that most players take 2 or 3 combats to get a feel for how their character works within the system, and between 4 and 9 to feel good about expanding their options and trying some of the "neat tricks" which are available.
Character creation is AMAZINGLY flexible. Instead of classes there are Archetypes. An Archetype determines the core focus of what your character learns during character creation and it determines what your character gets more opportunities to improve during character advancement, but it does NOT define your character. The archetype simply helps shape your character.
Most of the complexity in the system goes into character creation. Once the character has been built, however, playing the character is usually pretty simple.
The dice mechanic uses the bell curve HEAVILY. All actions have you roll 3 dice and add your modifiers. The average dice totals don't vary much over the life span of a character (Usually no more than 2 points, and that's not a given!), but the additions can go up significantly. A beginning character my have an average action roll (attack, stealth, larceny, persuasion, whatever) of 18, while that same character after 49,000 XP (expected end of life for the character) could have an average of 37 on that same roll. One of the dice used in the roll is open-ended, too, meaning that if you roll the maximum value on that die, you roll it again and add it to the total, until you stop rolling the maximum value. This means that pretty much anybody can manage to get that one-in-a-million lucky shot. But if the die is a D8, the beginning character will have to have the die "explode" 3 times in order to make a lucky shot that matches the normal effort from the end of career guy.
The background and environment of the setting is very rich, very political, and tries to focus on the conflicts between good men trying to do the right thing, while holding conflicting visions.