Arcadian Atlas is a story of two characters who become star crossed lovers due to a war they never wanted. The story is very fantasy-themed in the way it’s put together. You have kings and queens, working class, magic users, and later in the game, creatures from the sky. We follow the stories of Vashti and Desmond as two sides fight over the Dantalion Throne. The wife of the newly deceased king and his daughter Lucretia are both fighting for what they believe to be their rightful place in the kingdom. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? That’s what you’ll find out as you go.
At times, you’re together as one big party. Other times you control either Vashti or Desmond. Each time, you see different sides of the same war, flashbacks from older times, and more. During the times you’re together, you have control over your full forces. While separated, Poncho (the fighting racoon) goes with Desmond while Eda (the fighter/healer friend to them both) goes with Vashti. This means you’ll need help when separated.
You have the ability to visit three places while in towns: recruitment stations, taverns, and item shops. Recruitment stations allow you to recruit new companions. These seem fully randomized, so you generally don’t get too attached to them, but they definitely come in handy, especially when you are in a section of the game in which characters are separated. Taverns are where you can gather side quests to get money and items, as well as talk to locals to learn about the world itself and what’s going on around you. Finally, there are item shops, where you can fully equip your characters with the best equipment available. If you’re doing every side quest and main quest, you’ll generally be able to access the best items for your squad. While you can recruit quite a lot of characters, I kept my squad smaller so I could specialize characters. Considering most of the early battles only allow for five characters on the map, you won’t need too many anyway.
You have a few different things you can do on the world map. You can improve your troops, whether that be changing their abilities, managing skill trees, or leveling up their reputation. You can visit the cities, which I’ve covered earlier. You can see the side quests that you got from the tavern, which will show up as little waves (that look like wifi symbols) above the area you need to travel to on the map. Then you have the red dots on the map, which are either cutscenes or battles and cutscenes. These dots make it extremely easy to know what you need to be doing next. There was never a moment that I felt lost or that I didn’t know what I could do.
Now, let’s get into the gameplay. This is a tactical grid-based fighting system similar to what you would see in Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics. The maps are generally pretty small, which is why you only have five to six characters on your side early on in the game. As you get to bigger moments in the game, the maps also get bigger, but don’t expect anything the size of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. This adds a lot of difficulty to the game, considering that the enemy is almost in firing range after turn one, so you’ll need to be planning everything out from the very beginning. On top of that, you don’t get to see enemy locations before starting the battle. I lost quite a few battles just from having characters in bad positions to start the fight.
While this adds a lot of difficulty, it’s where one of my first complaints comes into play. If you die, you don’t restart the battle, you restart from your last save. That means you need to be saving after every cutscene, item purchase, battle, etc. Otherwise, you’ll be repeating things over and over. Thankfully, you can skip cutscenes if you need to, but I was a tad annoyed multiple times by having to redo things because I simply placed characters in bad situations that I knew nothing about.
Another big issue that I had was clicking around the battle map. It was sometimes difficult to get the mouse to focus on the square I actually wanted to be in, especially if there were different levels to the ground. This impacted my long range characters, since they were usually the ones traversing the outskirts of the map the most. In games like Fire Emblem, you’re able to use the left stick to hover the block you want, but you don’t have that kind of option for Arcadian Atlas.
It also took me a bit to fully understand the combat system. Once I got it, combat became very quick, but for the first 10 or so battles, it felt slow, especially since you can’t make the enemy movement go any faster. This seems like a small complaint, but it made replaying battles quite tedious.
On a technical level, this game runs smoothly…when it runs the whole time. I had some issues with the game crashing when I first tried to play it. I would boot up the game and it would make it to the first splash animation and then it would just stop and go to a black screen. However, after I got past the splash animations and started a game, I never had the issue again. During load screens, if you click on the black screen, the game sometimes shuts down. This was rare, but it did happen. Other than that, there were some long load times for a few of the bigger battles on my computer.
There are a few different classes for you to pick from while playing. Apothecary, Cavalier, Ranger, Warmancer are all classes you get pretty early on in the game. Vashti and Desmond are both Cavalier, so I had them as my main ones and recruited another when in the separation sections. The class I had the most characters using were Apothecary and Ranger. With the amount of damage you’ll take in this game, I highly suggest having two Apothecary classes for each battle, as they have both health and harm abilities. Thankfully, Eda is a magnificent healer, so she’ll be one you want to bring in Vashti sections. Ranger classes, such as Poncho the racoon, utilize bows and crossbows to deal long-range damage. Crossbows can do much more damage, but take time to prepare. Bows, while doing less damage, are faster and act on the same turn that you activate them.
After you reach level 18 and give 18 ability scores to your character, they can get a class promotion. This gives you the choice of two different directions your characters can go. Each class has two subclasses, so make sure you have characters that do each one. With characters like Vashti and Desmond, these don’t change their looks at all, just their abilities. However, it does change the looks of all of your recruited characters. This gives you even more customization ability to let each character specialize in something different that helps your team. Each class is fun to play with and trying characters out in different classes isn’t a bad idea.
The characters are where this game shines. I absolutely fell in love with specific characters early on, and you get to see their transformation as early as the first chapter. My favorite character quickly became Eda. Everything from her personality to her character model art drew me in, and I used her for almost every battle I could. Without giving anything story-wise away, there is a choice you make as Vashti that impacts Eda immensely at the end of the first chapter. Depending on what you choose, something big will happen with her character shortly after. Surprisingly, I grew to like the character of Fennic after just a few cutscenes, especially when he and Annalise (Lucretia’s sister) become friends. Characters like Wulff (the captain of the guard for the Queen) and Lucretia were also fun to watch grow in their own ways.
With a game like this, you really need strong characters to keep people invested, and Arcadian Atlas hit the ball out of the park here. As the game progresses, things change when it comes to alliances and who you’re cheering for during a cutscene, and that was a big deal for me personally. The character art is adorable, the character models are very well done, everything is just fantastic from this perspective.
The music was really confusing to me. As someone who listens to soundtracks while doing almost everything, I really look to the music to set the tone of the game. The title screen has very epic music making you feel like you’re about to embark on an epic adventure. Followed up with a load screen that has, what I could describe as, elevator music. It really does sound like the music that would play in the elevators in a spy thriller as a comedic moment. This throws off some absolutely beautiful cutscenes. The music will be either epic for a battle or sad for a tender moment, and then here comes the elevator music again to take me out of it and away to a different floor. That being said, the saxophone player for this soundtrack needs a raise for how brilliant the part was throughout the game. There were a few moments of repetition, but that’s unavoidable with how long some battles are in general. So, I would consider the music a hit or miss type of situation.
Arcadian Atlas truly has some major hit or miss elements for me, but my feelings overall are very positive. For those looking for a challenge, there are multiple difficulty levels. However, it should be noted that even the “story” level can be challenging at times, so go in with that in mind. The game as a whole is pretty solid and the characters and story twists make it worth playing through. You can play Arcadian Atlas on Steam right now!
Adam is a musician and gamer who loves his partner in crime, Regan, and their two pets Rey and Finn. Adam is a fan of Star Wars, Mass Effect, NFL Football, and gaming in general. Follow Adam on Twitter @TheRexTano.
Arcadian Atlas has some amazing character designs and character development. The gameplay can be a little unstable at times, but the story keeps you going with its creativity. With some great side characters like Eda and Poncho on your team and more down the road, nothing is impossible. It’s a love letter to older tactical games, and does the genre justice.