Arcadia Fallen review: An interesting first step for a small indie studio

Galdra Studios
Galdra Studios /

Title: Arcadia Fallen
Developer: Galdra Studios
Publisher: Galdra Studios
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed on), PC
Release Date: January 5, 2022

Arcadia Fallen is an interactive story from Galdra Studios, an up and coming indie studio with just three employees and a ton of promise. In the game, you create a character and head out on a magical mystery tour to figure out who you really are and what’s going on in your country. Along the way, you meet a cadre of interesting characters who help and hinder you.

When you start the game, you get a few options that help you create your own character. I appreciate the ability to make your character look more androgynous as well as the ability to pick your pronouns. That’s something a lot of long-running companies seem to constantly forget people want.

For the sake of example, here’s the character I managed to come up with, not realizing until it was too late that I had turned myself into a pale Spike Spiegal.

Arcadia-Fallen-Creator /

As you go through the game, your character, the apprentice to a great alchemist, finds themselves in the center of a magical quest. They’re permanently linked to the spirit world as well as a mystery that involves the fate of the entire nation.

Along the way, in a true visual novel fashion, you meet many anime archetypes and choose who you want your character to get inappropriately horned up over. In fact, I immediately knew who was going to be important to the story when I had romance options right out the gate for some people.

The writing isn’t bad. I think the writer did a fantastic job of having every character display a diverse personality and not deviating from it (something a lot of writers struggle with).

But I had an issue with one part of the writing. Have you ever encountered a problem with “show don’t tell”?

Mette Jakobson, who, impressively, did both the art AND the story for this game, seems to want to show AND tell. For example, when you find yourself in a room that looks badly broken up and the art lets you know this, the narration ALSO decides it’s going to detail what’s going on directly in front of you. It got to the point where my wife caught me audibly saying “I KNOOOOOOW”.  With the exception of not being able to see the character sweeping (you never see characters do anything) you get a lot of description like this, which eats up a bit of time.

Arcadia-Fallen-Narration /

It only happens when you go to a new place or when something big happens but it feels redundant. It wouldn’t be as bad if it wasn’t for the voice acting. While a lot of the voice acting is decent, but when the main starts talking it turns a game you can beat in a few hours into a 40 hour a week job. Listen to this line pacing.

I know it felt like it was five minutes, but that video was actually about 12-13 seconds. Many of the characters are fairly well voiced but that main character, dang. Every time he’s introspective or uncertain or flirty — basically anything other than neutral — he goes straight to the Shattner School of Line Delivery.

The story itself is fine. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel and it’s magical mystery 101; but, it does have some nice character driven dialogue and your choices genuinely start to feel like they matter as time goes on.

One nice wrinkle in the game is its twist on “alchemy.” Sometimes you’ll have to use a magic locket to create potions or to seal away a demon. Though simple, I really enjoyed these because it effects the story.

For example, my team is sneaking into a mine and finds someone standing guard. I decided I would create something to knock the guard out, which worked. But if I wanted to, since I also learned a spell called “eternal sleep,” I could have put a sleeping curse on him, and he would be asleep forever. This would affect the story in a way that my teammates would judge me for it, ultimately effecting the dialogue. I really appreciate when games with puzzle solving let me chose different ways to solve said puzzles to create different outcomes.

The sealing demons part is a little more linear. In it, you see a pattern and have to recreate it by rotating the four dials (including the one in the center) in order to match it. Here’s the demon sealing in action.

Ultimately, the various elements of the game combine to create a fairly interesting magical fantasy tale that, while predictable, has a really good feeling of control. Your choices feel like they matter. For such a small team, this is a pretty solid tale. And for $25 it’s nice to actually have a visual novel where the multiple playthroughs genuinely feel different through how the characters interact. I would love to see more from this team should they put together a larger crew as I think it could have used a bit of polish and is a bit light on the detail when it comes to never really seeing characters doing anything, so here’s hoping.

Arcadia Fallen (Nintendo Switch) Score: 7

Arcadia Fallen is a solid visual novel with branching baths based on character interactions, romance options and how you ultimately choose to educate your character. Some of the voice acting is a little rough and the art style is devoid of things we’ve come to expect from visual novels, like splash pages that actually show what your character is doing. Despite its flaws, Arcadia Fallen is a fantastic visual novel game, and a solid first step for Galdra Studios.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.