One of the games we covered in our list of the Top 10 most anticipated roguelite releases of the year is ArcRunner, a game developed by Trickjump Games and published by PQube, one of the most renowned publishers today. It’s been on our radar since we laid eyes on it because of its beautiful graphics, futuristic setting, and multiplayer mode.
A little over three months later, the game has been released, and we’re fortunate to get our hands on the game. Did it live up to our expectations? Do we have a roguelite game of the year contender? Find out next time on… nah, just kidding! You’ll find out right now!
Simple, yet effective storytelling
Most roguelite games, to be completely honest, are not exactly masterpieces when it comes to storytelling, but, for the most part, it doesn’t have to be! I do have a soft spot for roguelites that DO have a story though even if it’s just a simple one, so that I could look forward to its progression in the future.
ArcRunner’s story is incredibly easy to understand. You have been revived (or in the game’s terms, re-atomized) as a rogue AI has taken over the Arc, and you’re the only one who can stop it. As I said, it’s very simple, but it works because that’s your motivation to whoop some AI butt!
The entity that revived you, Chip, an AI itself, was able to escape the virus that turned the main AI rogue. It proceeds to tell you more about the situation, but most of the dialogue is just drivel too complicated for my puny simple brain to understand.
One of the main features we liked about the game coming in was its graphics, and it certainly did not disappoint.
As mentioned earlier, you are met with a cinematic when you begin the game. This, along with the actual ambiance of the game, look exceptionally gorgeous, and it’s this ambiance that dictates the atmosphere of danger because, well, everyone’s out to kill you! The characters, enemies, and effects aren’t so bad either.
Being a third-person shooter roguelite, it will definitely draw comparisons from two of the most successful third-person shooter roguelites: Risk of Rain 2 and Returnal. Graphics-wise, even though it’s not as impressive as the latter, it is closer to Returnal graphically than it is with RoR2.
Overall, if we’re simply basing the game’s greatness solely based on its graphics, then ArcRunner is one of the best roguelite games to come out this year, without a doubt.
Few, but well-defined classes
The game currently has three playable classes, two of which are available at the start, and one can be unlocked when you reach a certain point in the game.
The first class is the Soldier which the game calls an “all-round combat class”, but I’m not sure if that’s true because the game also says it excels in ranged combat, so if you’re more info gunfights, then Soldier is your guy.
The second available class is the Ninja, the fastest of the three classes, and is the game’s melee master. You’re at a disadvantage right off the bat because, well, you brought a knife to a gunfight, but good thing you have stealth as one of your kits.
The last class is the Hacker, which, as mentioned earlier, can be unlocked when you get to a certain point in the game. It excels in, you guessed it, hacking. It destroys enemies from within and also manipulates computer-run objects to give you an advantage.
These classes are so distinct in their gameplay from one another and define how you want to play the game very well. You can also defy the norm if you want, like being a more rangey Ninja, and that will still work as long as you know how to play to its strengths.
An interesting feat ArcRunner achieved is that despite being graphically impressive, I have never experienced an FPS drop throughout my playthrough. Not even once. That speaks volumes about the game’s optimization.
Also, the game doesn’t just let you get into the action without getting your feet wet, that is, if you don’t want to. While not the best tutorial out there, I think it explains the basics well enough to get the job done.
The game goes hard, but maybe TOO hard
The game had a lot of good things going for it, but unfortunately, the game isn’t perfect. It had shortcomings that prevent it from being a certified must-buy game (at least for now), some of which are very glaring.
The most glaring issue I’ve experienced is the game’s difficulty. I’m not the best shot out there, in fact, I think I’m below average at best, but even with my potato aim, I was able to get to Risk of Rain 2’s third level, but in ArcRunner, I didn’t even get past the first area. Not the first level, the first AREA!
As I said, part of it is because my aim is bad, but I think the fact that not only there are multiple enemies spawning at once and overwhelming you shortly after, some even spawns behind you, and you won’t be able to defend yourself until you already got hit. And speaking of getting hit, I have yet to find a medkit or something that heals your health back. And no, clearing a level doesn’t heal your health either.
Another issue I had with the game is more of an annoyance, really. Weapons and items are annoyingly hard to pick up. What I mean by that is that in some games, if you focus your crosshair on the item, the game gives you a leeway to have that item picked up even if it’s a few meters away. In ArcRunner, you literally have to be in front of the item, and the comparison screen between the weapon and your currently equipped one appears even if you’re not looking at it. It presents scenarios where you want to try and pick up the item but can’t, and also ones where you’re trying to focus on killing enemies, but the comparison screen pops up out of nowhere.
Another hindrance I’ve experienced is that I feel like switching weapons from melee to ranged is a little clunky. After using your melee weapon (in which you just press an assigned key), if you click on your mouse to fire your ranged weapon, it doesn’t do that at first. You have to wait for your character to draw your weapon, and THEN you can click again to actually fire the weapon. It’s a weird, clunky, and unnecessary mechanic that I hope gets fixed in the future.
Lastly, throughout my runs, I saw only three weapons all the time: my default pistol, the Viper SMG, and the Vanquisher Shotgun. Sure, I saw different weapons later on, but it felt like you had a better chance of seeing bigfoot than a different weapon other than the three I said. Hopefully, the weapon drop percentages improve in the future.
There is no doubt that ArcRunner has what it takes to be one of the big roguelite hits in 2023. Its impressive graphics coupled with well-defined classes and actually good gunplay is a huge plus that put the game above most of its contemporaries. But in order for it to compete with the very best, it needs to deal with some of its glaring issues: from fixing the difficulty curve to some of the annoying clunkiness.
Still, there’s so much fun to be had with the game, and people will get their money’s worth.
+ Impressive graphics
+ Well-defined classes
+ Perfectly optimized
– Unfair difficulty at times
– Annoying item pick-up mechanics
– Needs more weapon variety