Arcadian Atlas review: A short but serious tactical RPG

Twin Otter Studios
Twin Otter Studios /

Game – Arcadian Atlas
Publisher – Serenity Forge
Developer – Twin Otter Studios
Platforms – PC (reviewed on)
Release Date – July 27, 2023

I’m going to say this name to get it out of the way, but Final Fantasy Tactics. That’s the first thing you’re going to think of when you see Arcadian Atlas, the latest game by Twin Otter Studios. And while the Tactics series is something Square Enix has slept on for almost two decades now, being compared to it can be both a blessing and a curse because when you borrow enough from something you have to max comparisons.

Arcadian Atlas is a game about two star-crossed lovers on both sides of a major conflict in their fantasy kingdoms. The game lays out these two characters so heavily as potentially tragic Romeo and Juliet parallels I was practically waiting for the map screen to say “In fair Verona, where we lay our scene”.

Much like in Final Fantasy Tactics, the game wastes absolutely no time setting stakes, explaining exactly who’s the baddie and why, and showing that the lines between both sides don’t have a lot of grey area. In this, Arcadian Atlas does it really well. The story is a hot pot filled to the brim with drama, double-crosses, and meaningful deaths.

The downfall of this, however, is that the game is VERY serious and very depressing at most times. The game takes 10-20 hours to beat depending on how invested you are in side quests and this does not really give the game a lot of time for lighthearted side chats. Even in the moments where the game tries to get a little light or goes crazy enough to grant you a character that is, essentially, a raccoon with a dagger (who my head canon named Fourvel. If you know, you know) it feels weird because I kept thinking, “y’all got over the previous events QUICK.” So despite me desperately wanting the game to get lighter, the times it did felt weird and out of place.

The gameplay itself is something that is hard not to compare with Final Fantasy Tactics. While there hasn’t really been a new tactics game since 2007ish, by the time they stopped, they had nailed the formula and Arcadia Atlas borrows HEAVILY from it down to the sprite animation. For example, here’s a character from Final Fantasy Tactics (left) standing next to a character from Arcadian Atlas (right).

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And while, visibly, the game definitely does it’s best to look like FFT, the game play is a bit different. The game tries to go a bit more into the realm of realism and stays away from the fantasy aspects which, personally, I don’t think works for this sort of game. Where as many tactics games have me throwing out big flashy attacks, most of my attacks come at the form of single sword swings.

While spells exist in the game, many of them take the form of a single thing of fire or ice moving across the map into the chosen enemy. And a lot of these attacks don’t feel like they do much. For example, when I realized my alchemist could create a harmful attack potion instead of just healing I got excited, but then I threw the harmful potion at an enemy and it did such insignificant damage I wanted to damage to know where my alchemist studied and if it was accredited.

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It’s not to say it is bad necessarily, it just doesn’t have the flashy excitement of games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea, or many of the other tactics games out there. However, if you’re looking for a more down to earth tactics experience this may be for you.

I did genuinely enjoy playing through most of the game but at the same time it felt somewhat boring as the game, as mentioned many times already, reminded me of a series that 20 years ago, had a wider range of character attacks, locations, creatures, and abilities and I wanted those to pop up in the game but they never did.

The story is pretty good however. It’s predictable to the point where I had a checklist of things I guessed from the beginning that I was crossing off like a morbid bingo card, especially the fountain scene. I saw that from the intro. I won’t spoil it but man, called it.

If you haven’t played a tactics game and can’t wait till October for Disgaea 7, I’d give this a look over as it’s only 10-20 hours and way shorter than most other games in this genre but if you’re looking for a feature rich, customizable showcase of fancy abilities, you might wanna keep looking.

A cut and dry plot that plays out like a 9th graders Shakespearean fanfiction mixed with a lot of greens and browns, can sometimes make the game feel dull and dry, but with a 10-20 hour completion time, the story has to move along at a clip where cliffhangers barely have time to hang on and mysteries become revealed at a fairly rapid clip. Arcadian Atlas understands the assignment of making a Tactics game, but it ultimately left me constantly thinking I was going to get more interesting things to do.

Arcadian Atlas (PC) Score: 6/10

Arcadian Atlas is a serviceable return to the older Square tactics titles of years past; but, sometimes it feels as if they went too far back, missing many of the modern features that make the newer entries more exciting.