Arcadian Atlas - PS5 Review

Arcadian Atlas by developer Twin Otter Studios and publisher Serenity ForgeSony PlayStation 5 review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes.

Arcadian Atlas has been on my radar for a long time. Having originally spotted it on the social media platform formally known as Twitter, I had sadly lost track of it on its original PC release. Having just launched on the PlayStation, I dove right into this Final Fantasy Tactics inspired adventure.

And I'm not sure how I feel about it. 

Country at war. Check. Country having just finished the last war? Check. Weirdness occurring and people are stuck in the middle of it? Check. Close friends finding themselves split by personal convictions? You guessed it, check. Though in this case they may be a bit more than just friends. In either case, the stage is an easy one to set up as all you need to know will be given to you as you start to move from battle to battle in this top down third person isometric square based strategy. 

But what of the RPG? Isn’t this an SRPG? In some ways yes, but in others no. As the story unfolds and you take to the field, only those that take to the field level up. Not obtain experience points to level up depending on how well they performed compared to others, but simply level up. The exception to this is that your main characters will level up regardless of if they were used after every story mission so they’ll never fall behind compared to the hired help. With more than just the story missions however, it’s possible that the hired help passes right by the main cast if you use them more. 

It’s an interesting approach to be certain, but, there is a but here, there are no random battles. There are no battles that you can simply go have for the sake of having. So you really need to pick and choose who goes into battle which is part of the strategy. This said, if you do all the main battles and the secondary battles, you’ll probably have more money than you know what to do with and can simply just buy new hired help that comes at max level. The best part here? You can assign their skills however you see fit.

This all sounds good in theory, but how does it work out in practice? It’s ok? Characters have their unlocked abilities which should be used and not held onto as otherwise the enemy will mop the floor with you. Where things do not work as well is that you're often outnumbered 2-1 and the enemy are designed the same as you. Same character classes. Same skills. Same passive abilities. But there are more of them than there are of you and it can be brutal especially in the beginning to win, and to win with enough characters left over for the next fight. If a character dies in battle, that’s it for them, they are gone and off to the underworld.

This approach wouldn’t be so much of an issue if it weren’t for a few other odd details. Combat is on the slower side and there’s no way to speed it up. So if you’re doing something for the second or third time only to fail again? That’s a lot of wasted time. The camera angles are also odd. You’re either very zoomed in with the interface taking up at least half the estate, or, you’re very zoomed out. There’s no in between and there is also no rotation of the camera making some stages awkward at best to figure out if you can even move into certain locations.

Then there’s the music… it's lovely, but it more often than not doesn't fit the gameplay. The gravity of the situations, the clashing of steel on the battlefield, the burning of fire magic and the spilling of blood, light jazz that you could hear in an elevator doesn't really fit. If you actually listen long enough, you can pick up on the deeper and darker tones that come out to play, but these are very easy to miss. Especially when you're concentrating on your next move and all of the damage numbers crossing your screen. 

There are a few other issues here and there that I had. One of them is that the story scenes in the beginning chapter often feel like they are leaving before the last words have been said. It cuts off and always makes you feel like you were torn away before it was finished. It feels like the story was trying to go for one of those narrative techniques where you don’t get to hear the last word because of a shocking reveal down the line. Instead, it simply moves onto the next thing and you're left filling in the blanks based on what you see next. It would have been nice to have that one or two extra words or sentences. 

Another is that once your characters are around level 10 (ish), they’ve pretty much mastered the subclass abilities that you've decided to go with. From here, there are some core class abilities to unlock, or, you can get the other subclass for some rather dangerous combinations. So where's the issue you ask? The issue is that there's no real indicator on when you can promote your characters up to a new class or what that really means. 

Promoting your characters is awesome. Each base class leads to new classes which can be vastly different such as an archer going towards a hunter, continued range, or a reaver which is more of an up close and deadly assassin's class. This part is awesome. Where there's an issue is that you will no longer have access to the previous skill trees. They are locked in the state that you left them in so if you wanted to make something better? Too late. You'll need a new character for that. 

So overall, did I enjoy Arcadian Atlas? Yes. But. There are a lot of small things that add up that could easily detract from that enjoyment. Would I recommend it? I would, especially  if you’re curious about it and don’t mind some odd quirks. Otherwise? Maybe hold off for some adjustments and quality of life improvements to be applied because there is definitely a gem hidden in here. 

Score: 6.25 / 10



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