By Henry Badilla / June 28th, 2017
|Release Date||25 May, 2017|
Like many people my age, I remember watching Transformers as a kid. Seeing these huge robots battle against each other is something that I feel we don’t get enough of in video games. Thankfully, the developer behind Acaratus thought the same way, and gave us this interesting tactical game where you build your own battle suits to fight against others in a medieval setting. There’s also a story about slavery and finding out the protagonist’s past, but we’re all here for the robots, aren’t we?
The world of Acaratus is one filled with war. Years ago the Valerian conflict ended, putting Helios at the crown of the kingdom. The battle suits used during the war were declared illegal and everyone in possession of one was forced to return it to the empire. Adina Collora is a slave trader, who also possesses a battle suit. The story begins when one of her slaves, named Bolt, alerts the authorities of the battle suit, and to his surprise the guards try to kill them both. Now they must join forces to try and survive the hunt by the empire.
As you can see, aside from the steam-powered armors this is a miserable world, where slavery is still common, people live in fear of their ruler, and the world is overall an ugly place. However, the story turns into a tale of revolution, as Bolt encourages Adina to lead the people against their tyrannical leader. Or at least that’s the idea. The game doesn’t show us why exactly this person is so bad that we need to overthrow him, but we get enough cliches to get a general idea, I suppose.
Fortunately, the character interactions are really good. The cast is not that big, composed of around eight characters total that you can see talking during the game, but they are likeable and most of the conversations are fun. The setting and plot is a bit generic, but it never gets in the way of enjoying the game itself.
Gameplay wise we are looking at a turn-based tactical game, which has a lot in common with Front Mission. We move through the world map from point to point to the next story event to progress through the campaign. There are no random battles while moving since we can see in advance where the enemy units are. While this is not new, I like that before starting combat we get an idea of which units we will be facing, and we can avoid certain battles by moving carefully through the map.
But the main attraction of the game comes from the battle suits. We can build up to six suits which we can customize to our needs. Each one requires a core, which is the body and determines how many slots we can configure on it. Then we have legs which affect the mobility of the unit, arms which determine the weapons, and some additional slots for accessories. The developers were able to include a couple of fun combos and interactions with this; you can add accessories so your unit shoots more than once (with the effects stacking), or go with a sword and shield, two swords, a catapult, chest cannon, and many other options. As long as you have the parts you can go crazy with it.
This is one of the areas that I have some problems with the game, unfortunately. Most of the game is randomly generated. The map will change on each playthrough, item drops will change, even the items on sale can change. So depending on your luck you can get a rough start, which happened to me. The game is divided into three Arcs. The first one was really long because it took me too long to get enough parts to create more units, so I was running with three suits for most of it. And I didn’t get new parts either.
During Arc 2 I had enough money to use the gambling machine, which allows you to get new parts, something that is not explained in the game. With it I was able to get powerful parts, build two more suits and create an almost perfect strategy of using long-range attacks. From this point the rest of the game became too easy and I completed Arcs 2 and 3 in the blink of an eye.
The last aspect of combat that I wanted to discuss is the use of cards. These are like items in the game—they are consumable and can help us to repair a unit, or as special attacks. However, throughout the game I barely used them. It was similar to the problem with elixirs in other RPGs—you are so scared of wasting them that you keep them until an important battle, then the game ends and you never used them.
There are not many combat areas, so the regular battles can get repetitive. One final quirk I ran into is that one of the final battles requires the use of a hook to open a door. This is something that is never used during the entire game, so assuming that you don’t know that you need it, and don’t use it in combat, you can easily lock yourself out near the end of the game.
In the art department this game falls into the brown category. Everything seems under this dark palette of colors, which makes the game feel a bit boring. While I understand that this is not a happy world, it’s something that usually turns me off of some games. For the character portraits, backgrounds and a couple of cutscenes the developers went with drawn illustrations, which are really well made, and help with the immersion of the game.
In regards to the battle suit design, I’m afraid that at the beginning of the game they look hideous. Some are literally a box with arms and legs, but some of the latter parts are really good looking with details similar to a knight’s armor. Just don’t be disappointed by your first creations.
The music is really well done. There are not many tracks, since we will be switching between combat tunes and overworld tunes, but they don’t feel repetitive and help with the sense of urgency in combat. I feel that they add the extra detail needed to represent the different scenes.
Acaratus was originally sold as an Early Access game, and just recently was released in its final iteration, however there are still a few things to fix and balance in the game. The good thing is that most of the problems listed here were already brought up by other users on the Steam discussion board of the game, and the devs are aware of them, so hopefully these can be fixed in the future.
I have to review the game as it is right now, and while I ended up having a lot of fun blowing suits up with my catapults, the game is far from perfect. For $15 you get around 10 hours out of a first playthrough, but the game can be played several times at different difficulties, so this is relative. If you have been looking for a game that lets you build robots I would recommend Acaratus to you. The customization really sells this game and there are not many like it on the market. If the turn-based combat is not your thing, then Acaratus will not convert you either. This is definitely a game for the fans of the genre, and as a fan I’m thankful.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
AcaratusEarly AccessNodbrim InteractiveSteamTactical role-playing