GAME REVIEW: Acaratus (Steam Early Access)

When I was younger, I got into Front Mission. Front Mission is a series of turn-based strategy video games. I’ve played many turn-based games since then. So after playing Acaratus over a few days, I weighed it against all my years playing these board game style experiences. It’s hard to stand up against some of the best strategy games of all time, but let’s see what Acaratus can offer to the genre.

Acaratus has an online and campaign mode, but only the campaign is available presently. It also has a skirmish mode, where you can practice freely. The campaign’s story is told in motion comic style, a method of animation that is not always a successful form of storytelling. I did not like the style as it is used here. I liked how the story progressed in game much better. The dialogue is presented in text, with portraits of the characters presented as they speak. That is a duller way to tell a story, but the level of quality of the in-game dialogue is a better fit for the game than motion art.

Acaratus begins with two characters, Bolt and Adina. Adina is a noble, and Bolt, for whatever reason, has become her slave. Bolt had been a soldier, which prepared him to use a steam-powered mecha, called a battle suit. Their lives have been thrown together as they oppose the forces of Helia, the kingdom of Emperor Helios.  As you can expect with a master/slave relationship. Adina and Bolt don’t have a perfect relationship. They banter back and forth, trying to see eye to eye with each other. As the story plays out, you are occasionally given dialogue options, but it doesn’t seem to change the story much. The dialogue options only allow you to control what you think a character would say. I don’t find the story to be extraordinary. It’s fairly well written, and I enjoy the characters, but I haven’t felt too invested in what happens to them. I’m more concerned about how well I’ll fare in the next battle.

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While Adina  tends to take the lead in dialogue, Bolt handles the battles. You move on the overworld map on what looks like a peg board. When you run into enemies, you have the option to either fight, or flee. This is a good option, considering that you can be outmatched by forces too strong for you. There are helpful points on the map, like merchants or blacksmiths, that allow you to set up your battle suit. Camp sites are also very important points on the map. If you’re ever defeated, or you need to modify your equipment, you need to go to a camp site. It’s not even optional; if you get defeated, you cannot go on to another battle.

Battle can be won or lost depending on not only your battle suit, but also your choice of cards. Cards are your buffs in a fight. One card can repair your suit, while another can allow you to jump away from danger. There are debuff cards as well, causing debilitating effects on enemies. I enjoyed the speed of the battles, but not the animation. I don’t always feel satisfied when enemies are struck, or when ranged attacks hit. It all feels as if I am watching toys fight each other, because rounds will bounce off their targets, and weapons will hit, but don’t look like they’ve destroyed anything. I think the aim is to make the battle suits look stiff and robotic, but they also move fast, so the animation ended up turning me off.

Even though Bolt does all the fighting, the perks of leveling up are represented by Adina. When you level up, you click on Adina’s icon in the center of the screen, and choose one perk, whether it’s better critical damage, better  ranged damage, or any number of positive effects. I think it’s when I began to level up and improve my character that I began to really enjoy Acaratus. Strategy is not just in the heat of battle, but when you pick your equipment. I love getting new items that improve my chances of winning, and I love making short work of enemies because of the battle suit I’ve built.

This being an Early Access title, I think player feedback will help streamline the look of Acaratus. I think that there are too many bars, numbers, and indicators on the battle screen. I primarily want to know what my health is, but there are numbers on top of the health bar, and other numbers on the left side of the screen. I don’t focus on all of these. I know they are important, and people who are stat nerds can use this to their advantage. I think that all the data could be cleaned up a bit, to create a more comfortable experience. I hope that this and my issues with the battle animation are something that the developers also want to tweak, and that the final game looks much better. Gamers can have a lot of fun with Acaratus, but Early Access presents a great opportunity to make the game as good as it can be.

Acaratus is £10.99 (£10.99 , €13.99) on Steam.

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewer: Vichus Smith

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