Wandering the show floor at PAX, the very first game that caught my eye was a tactical RPG with a familiar SRPG aesthetic called Arcadian Atlas.
This small-dev title from Twin Otter Studios and publisher Serenity Forge takes clear inspiration from Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre. While my time with it was too brief to fully understand how it will ultimately set itself apart from those titans, even this demo sent my nostalgic heart back in time while updating the themes found in such older titles for a more modern audience.
In the land of Arcadia, magic is seen as an evil and corruptive force that will only lead to destruction and death. The practice of sorcery is illegal to the extent that it can be punishable by execution (and potentially is in this demo), which translates the anti-imperialist themes of the older titles mentioned previously into a more timely anti-prejudicial theme.
I can’t speculate too much about this element’s effectiveness yet, so instead, let me offer a play-by-play of the demo being shown on the PAX East floor.
This demonstration comprised two battles and a few story scenes between them. The first one saw protagonists Vashti and Desmond trying to track down the wizard Fennic, who seemingly magically manipulates a group of bandits into attacking the player party. Then, combat begins, and you have a stable of characters to pick from out of the previously-announced classes.
The battle system is familiar, with characters taking turns in sequence, moving across the map, and attacking or activating abilities. The demo characters are fairly simple, and I hope for more complexity in the actual game, but it definitely gets the point across. In the demo, your characters are either Cavaliers (frontline attackers), Rangers, Warmancers (seemingly-magical fighters, which I’m sure will be explained in the full game), or Apothecaries. That last class splits the difference between the typical white mage class and the chemist from the original Final Fantasy Tactics.
At the end of the fight, Fennic escapes but leaves behind a raccoon who lapped up a mysterious potion that Fennic dropped and now appears to be sentient. The party decides to bring him along, he picks up a crossbow, and I instantly decided that he will be on my team in the next fight.
In the next encounter, Vashti and Desmond catch up to Fennic, but the port city they find him in is not friendly towards their country’s military, and the townspeople attack them. This urban fight was mostly the same as the last one, but I encountered another change in how combat plays out.
Rangers can use either bows or crossbows. Bows attack immediately and do not have to fire in a straight line, but crossbows do more damage in exchange for requiring a short charging period before they go off. I also noticed at this point that it didn’t seem like the melee power of my cavaliers was a meaningful increase over the physical attacks of their magical counterparts, which seems like it may need some rebalancing in the final game.
After the fight, Fennic is finally caught, and Desmond and Vashti start to argue over how to deal with him. Desmond argues that he should be executed immediately, lest he slips away again. Vashti counters that his actions do not warrant execution without trial, and Desmond doesn’t have the authority to do it. The decision is left to the player on whether or not Fennic deserves death – personally, I chose not to kill him, though I do not know what would happen in the event that I sided with Desmond. That marked the demo’s conclusion.
The funniest bug that I encountered (which the producer said had already been fixed in the live build, but I found entertaining enough to mention anyway) was that one of the enemy warmancers in the first fight had his position accidentally untethered. The game thought he was standing in a different place than where his sprite was, so when he finally moved again, he rubberbanded back into the right place.
Two fights and a few story scenes gave me a small taste of Arcadian Atlas, which was enjoyable. The sprite work is on-point, though I think the character portraits need a little bit more of a stylistic touch. The jazzy soundtrack sounds totally different from any other game like this that I’ve experienced. I can only hope that the potential I saw here is taken full advantage of, considering the heavy themes being advertised.
Arcadian Atlas is coming soon to Steam.
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