Arcadian Atlas was provided by Serenity Forge for review. Thank you!
Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, Fire Emblem, these games have brought me deeper into the love for tactical RPGs and, after playing Arcadian Atlas at PAX East, I was really excited about what we could be seeing. Now that I have played it, I feel there is a lot of charm in the world that Twin Otter Studios created, even if there are some polish and quality-of-life improvements that could have been integrated to elevate the experience further.
There are a couple of very key elements that I wanted to see Arcadian Atlas hit and they made sure to do a great job with that. The story is dramatic and engaging, almost immediately hooking me. Star-crossed lovers, Vashti and Desmond, are caught in the middle of a brewing civil war that will ultimately bring the continent of Arcadia down in flames. The stakes are set high and it feels well thought-out in this wonderfully dramatic setting with a unique artstyle I can't say I often see.
Also Poncho is the best.
The gameplay is quite similar to other tactical RPGs like the ones mentioned above. You place down your units, each with their own specialties, weapons, and armor, and move them across a tile-system to wipe out the enemy team. Each unit has their own skill tree that you can invest points into, which leads to filling skill-slots that give some passive bonuses to help define the play style of my choosing.
Unfortunately, there are some knocks against it that could have really been fixed with some QoL changes. Being able to rotate the map would help those levels that have tiles blocked by vertical terrain (there is transparency, but I would have loved to see multiple angles), health bars above enemies would have made it easier to plan instead of looking at each enemy's status screen, being able to move a cursor around multiple titles instead of 1 tile at a time when looking around the map or moving, and showing what ability enemies are using on their turn would have helped a lot.
While I did enjoy the combat, it did feel a bit slow and clunky at times. Animations were not super intricate, which is totally fine, but I didn't feel like there was enough weight in the moves I was making. I was hoping things like attacking an enemy from behind or flanking would have given me some bonus damage or a critical hit, but it did the same damage as a regular hit. There are also some aspects of the game that aren't explained as much, like the Command Point system, which gives you permanent upgrades or the ability to respec characters. Also, renaming characters costs in-game currency, which I wasn't a fan of.
I did like the game and the story kept me going until the end, and I can see the passion that was put in, but some of these quality-of-life features would have really made gameplay feel a lot smoother and more interesting. I went in hoping for a more refined tactics experience, and while there is something good buried deep down, it can feel muddled when these issues crop up.
And then we come to performance on the Steam Deck. I ran into a couple issues with playing the game on the Deck myself. First, my pre-release copy of the game didn't have a working Linux version with it, so the only way I could boot it was forcing Proton 8.0-3 and downloading the Windows version of the game. Even now, I have tried multiple times but it will only download 0 bytes and say it is missing an executable, which isn't right since the game is supposed to be 6gb.
As I was about to post this review, it appeared that the Linux version of the game finally downloaded. But when I tried to play, it wouldn't launch, so I will take it as this version still isn't working and will update the review once it does.
Everything else on the works well on the Deck and performance was in-line with a game that looks like this one, but as I kept playing, I ran into a different issue. On the fourth mission, you are battling enemies in a town and there are some serious drops here. Upon further testing, it seemed that the game itself was throttling as without any caps, the battery would drain at 16W max and hover around 52 - 54 FPS. But for the most part, the game runs at around 8W - 11W.
I did notice that when looking at your skills or equipment, it appears that some of the menu is cut off as well.
Other than this, the game looks and performs well. There aren't any graphics settings to change, other than resolution, so we just have to go with what we get here. For the most part, the game will run around
Arcadian Atlas has 16:10 resolution support, so you won't have any black bars, and it has controller support. There is no cloud save support, but they have plans to implement cloud saves in the future (as answered in our interview).
Arcadian Atlas is an interesting tactical RPG game. The story, artstyle, and soundtrack are top notch, but the combat feels a bit on the bland side at times. And some missing quality-of-life features would have really made up for some of the faults, which makes it harder to enjoy overall. The narrative does make up for some of this though and I enjoyed seeing what happens and how the story elevates to the scenarios it ends up at. I do wish it ran a bit better on the Steam Deck, but for the most part, it will run well.
Our review is based on the PC version of this game.
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