And while the game delivers on presenting a new strategy title for fans to sink their teeth into, Arcadian Atlas struggles to stand out in a sea of other great games.
Rife with political intrigue and double-crossing characters, the story here is enough to string the battles together into a cohesive package, but small issues add up to take away from what could be a great time.
Arcadian Atlas Review (PS5) – A Simple And Classic Tactical Journey
Backstabbing And Betrayals
Players take control of dual protagonists Vashti and Desmond and an army of largely blank soldiers as they are forced to navigate a heavy political conflict at the heart of the country.
After the current King is poisoned a power conflict unfolds in the succession to the throne, with his wife ascending to the throne, declaring her children illegitimate.
Vashti and Desmond take charge of escorting one of the daughters to a monastery before discovering the truth of the conflict at hand through steady revelations throughout their quest.
This story generally serves its purpose and was an entertaining romp throughout as characters learned more about their situation.
There were choices of consequence spread throughout that surprised me and were nice to see in a story all about war. These moments had me briefly considering my actions and had impacts on various relationships throughout.
Despite this, I never felt like Arcadian Atlas ever pushed into new territory for the genre and fell into some traps that led me to see where the story was headed well ahead of time.
I still enjoyed my time with the characters and the dilemmas that they found themselves in, but would have loved to have seen some less-trodden paths covered.
There is a generous effort into the world-building of Arcadia and I appreciated the amount of flavour text that could be found through documents as well as dialogue from people in the tavern that your army haunts. It adds a necessary depth to the world with such political overtones.
Tactics In Motion
As well as having a similar general story to its contemporaries, Arcadian Atlas similarly has a familiar battle system that tactics enthusiasts will quickly be able to learn and master. Battles take place in isometric stages that house allies, enemies and environmental obstacles to take advantage of to be able to succeed.
There are four main classes of units in the game that each offer their own abilities to use and slot into your army. This ranges from cavaliers to apothecaries, with rangers and magic users being present too.
Each class has their own strengths and weaknesses, but I found that some classes were an advantageous pick in almost every scenario. These classes can specialise in several routes as the game progresses but the difference is relatively small.
Because of this imbalance, I found myself over-relying on ranged options to quickly dispatch potential threats before they could even have a chance at getting close to me.
Tactical RPGs should always try to avoid situations like this so seeing such an imbalance was a disappointment as my strategy never really needed to adapt across the course of the game.
Having an army of largely blank slates was an exciting prospect until I worked out the optimal path to victory at the start of the game.
I also found that in spite of maps having clearly defined height levels, these often had little or even no bearing on the battle as a whole. A melee unit was able to easily attack a unit standing significantly above them and without any penalties.
Height is often a key factor in level design for games like this and seeing it be largely inconsequential was a letdown.
This was a shame given the amount of extra content that you can indulge in throughout, offering opportunities for leveling up and extra money to fully equip your soldiers.
There were other issues in battle that led to some awkward moments of confusion during my time with the game. To see the current health of any particular unit, the cursor must be on the unit in question.
For quickly getting a grasp on a situation, this extra step often felt needless and had me juggling numbers in my head to try and remember where I needed to focus my attacks.
This lack of information also had me confused about where I could safely place my units before their turns would end. While it is possible to see where your units can move on their turn, you can’t see where your enemy can reach your units.
Coming up with sound strategy becomes significantly more difficult when their abilities aren’t made clear. This led to moments of frustration as I fell victim to an attack that seemingly appeared from nowhere.
A few small adjustments could be made in this area to make sure that players are able to strategies as best as possible; I never lost a battle due to missing information but I do wonder if the same would be true if I were playing on higher difficulties.
I feel like this kind of information is downright vital to ensuring a smooth experience and so it’s disappointing to see it missing.
Both in terms of visuals and audio, Arcadian Atlas is commendable. Detailed pixel art helps to make each environment pop out and easy to look at as you deploy your units.
This extends to cut scenes, that feature small but emotive animations that help to capture the spirit of the story in that moment.
While the character portraits themselves remain static throughout the game, these animations helped to characterise each one of your main units and give some energy to what would otherwise be quite dry moments.
I appreciated the attention to detail greatly and I could feel myself believing in the emotions that these characters were feeling.
The soundtrack was absolutely the standout for me throughout the entire experience. A really unique flavour of jazz runs through almost all of the soundtrack and it certainly caught me off guard.
That isn’t to say it’s bad – I could easily stand around the item shop for hours just listening to the jazzy guitar tunes.
This goes doubly for the battle music – I wasn’t expecting to hear the range of instruments that I did but it made the relatively long battles feel far less tedious. I only wish the rest of the game felt as fresh and unique as the soundtrack is!
Arcadian Atlas is available on PS5 and PS4 on November 30, 2023.
Review code generously provided by the publisher.