Arcadian Atlas Review
A Royal Family’s Dysfunction = A Good Time
Twin Otter Studios’ Arcadian Atlas funded a Kickstarter campaign that met its goal back in 2016. After seven years of development, the classic tactical RPG indie game finally arrived on PC for RPG fans to experience it. Arcadian Atlas presents an enriching narrative and characterization that should leave players satisfied and decently impressed. Fans of tactical turn-based RPGs will find familiarity with how the game plays through the customization of job classes and equipment loadouts. Its simplicity of gameplay and pacing of events through themes of treason and overcoming adversity emboldens the medieval story Arcadian Atlas tells.
The game’s story begins in the kingdom of Arcadia with a king on his deathbed, and a power hungry queen ready to rule. Queen Venezia’s absolute rule creates turmoil for the kingdom as Princess Lucretia and her sister Princess Annalise are declared illegitimate. Princess Lucretia accuses Queen Venezia of poisoning the King with proof, but Princess Annalise inadvertently shatters the bottle of poison through a loving embrace. This causes Princess Lucretia to flee the kingdom and is exiled, prompting her to plot her revenge to overthrow Queen Venezia and become the new ruler of Arcadia. Wullf, Queen Venezia’s right hand man, orders his troops to chase after Princess Lucretia and becomes an integral plot of the main story. Players themselves take control of Vashti and Desmond, soldiers called upon by Queen Venezia to escort Princess Annalise to a monastery per orders of the queen. Vashti and Desmond eventually encounter Princess Lucretia and this leads to a multitude of plot twists, character development, and intrigue as the story dives into tale of fate and the supernatural power of the Atlas. The Atlas is a supernatural force similar to yin and yang, having both light and dark influence upon the world. Its power manifests in the form of tarot cards that foretells the fate of those connected to it.
Vashti and Desmond’s journey allow players to see the history of their companionship in how they met and their love for one another. Vashti and Desmond’s lives become tangled in the royal family’s drama, and it creates an interesting plot development. Both characters become at odds with one another as it relates to learning more about Princess Lucretia’s goals and the Queen’s ambitions.
Arcadian Atlas’s strengths reside within its story and character interactions. Storyline choices occur that change the outcome and way the story is told, which can warrant another playthrough to see how each decision differs. For example, players encounter a dark mage named Fennec and are given a moral choice as it relates to his fate. Fennec plays an important role in the story as he becomes intertangled with Princess Annalise and from there players see the power of the Atlas at work. As a whole, the story is well written and ends well as final scenes play at the end of the game’s credits.
Turn-based tactical combat provides players with the ability to control five recruitable units to command in square grids in facing off against armed forces ranging from militia to animals and even monsters. There are four job classes to start with: Warmancers, Cavaliers, Apothecaries, and Rangers. However, more job classes become available — up to ten in total — through the Skill Tree system as players assign skill points into abilities until that unit can promote. Once the new job classes become available, players can customize their party to their liking. While learned skills carry over to the new class, the drawback is that once a unit is promoted then any unlearned skills from the previous class cannot be acquired later. This can be a little annoying as if there are any skills from an earlier class that players want to get, then players will need to start over with another recruit. Players can easily recruit new units at the exact level of Vashti and Desmond and assign skill points into abilities they might have missed.
Players will have to strategically initiate battles between the main story and contract sidequests to gain the necessary levels and skill points for their forces. Contracts also net players Command Points, which can be used to acquire benefits from reducing shop prices to reselecting a protagonist’s class. Players are given a clear indicator of where to go next on the world map, and there aren’t any random encounters. Hovering over to the red marker will provide a preview of content for what is next in the story and whether it features a battle or cutscene. Meanwhile, a black symbol indicate where the sidequest contract battle is. The difficulty is largely dependent on how many contracts players do, as it can make the party higher levelled than those they will meet in story missions. The balancing means that players aren’t forced to take time out to level grind and should be able to advance the plot as they wish.
It’s straightforward to command units through visual icons that indicate attack, flee, wait, or inspect a character’s stats/equipment. Certain actions, like advanced spells or archery techniques, have a cast timer that usually runs a few turns, with each combatant take turns individually. While not particularly standing out or offering any great strides forward, the turn-based combat as a whole is well done and comparable to other tactical RPGs of recent memory.
Battle music comprises of a saxophone plaything throughout fight. Outside of combat, the music uses a mix of saxophone and keyboard to highlight pivotal scenes and invoke the right mood for. The music’s different instrumental melodies and sounds definitely exhibit a jazz vibe for players. Arcadian Atlas offers minimal voice acting where the characters make sounds from attacks, dying, or expressing a singular word to show the tone of the scene playing out.
Scenes in Arcadian Atlas play out with the pixel art-style in an isometric environment. Players can see facial expressions with eye movements that give the characters personality as scenes playout and the character portraits are nicely drawn as well. The graphics of animation in cutscenes helped convey pivotal moments in the story. Especially, as it relates to the Atlas. However, there are some scenes that don’t convey a clear message of what occurred and players have to decipher the meaning of what just happened. It can be a little confusing, but not terribly, since those events make more sense as the story progresses.
Overall, Arcadian Atlas is a good indie game to recommend for fans of turn-based tactical RPGs. Its focus on narrative is the best aspect of the game as the plot twists become interesting to see when characters make unexpected decisions. Combat is not too difficult and provides variety for players to customize their units with job classes to their liking. Arcadian Atlas delivers an intriguing tale of treachery and mystery through the power of the Atlas.
Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Enriching story and character development
Soothing music with jazz vibes
Unit customization options for job class promotions
Can't undo long cast actions in combat once selected
Unable to learn new skills from previous job class after promotion