Gearing Up With Swords And Crossbows In Acaratus

Acaratus is the first game out of Nodbrim Interactive, who according to their website, describe the games they want to create as being “…challenging, exciting and a bit different”. So with Acaratus, they’ve opted for a tactical RPG that claims to be inspired by Heroes of Might & Magic and Hearthstone, within a Steampunk Medieval setting.

It’s timing for Early Access coincides with the popularity of XCOM 2, though thanks to its setting it is worlds apart: an odd blend of Steam Punk and Medieval settings. Each unit is comprised of parts that govern how they move, going from a melee class to ranged artillery units, and how tough they are on the battlefield. This certainly gives it a unique look out of the gate that’s immensely appealing, but is this Early Access worth investing in at this time?

In this very early stage of the game’s development, the skirmish mode was the only thing that I was able to access. This is down to the online component requiring that players are either friends on Steam or have the direct IP address of their opponent. As such, I had no opponents to try the multiplayer against except for the AI. As it stands there are four maps available for either skirmish or online play, all but one of which are similar to the size of a chess board and feature little in the way of detailed terrain.

From what I can currently ascertain, the skirmish mode allows you to construct a team of several units from scratch with few limitations on the parts you can attach. Certain weapons, legs, and other components have certain properties, such as feet that allow a mech to move diagonally, like bishops in a game of chess. Being able to customise the robots is a nice feature, but it’s unclear what the limitations are beyond space available on the mech. An assigned general gives certain bonuses to movement.

At the beginning of each turn, players automatically draw from their deck of 16 cards that are configured with army setup. These include actions such as counter attacks, dodging, and the overwatch mechanic found in XCOM. Each card has a value assigned to it, preventing players from dumping their hand. It’s an interesting idea, but with what little is available at this time, it is difficult to establish how effective it is.

So what needs changing? Well, I hope that among the list of things to overhaul is the user interface. In the pre-Early Access build, the game doesn’t lean on many of the established conventions found within similar games, such as right clicking to confirm movement of units. It also doesn’t make clear what exactly you are damaging when attacking foes.

Other things that need changing include needing to provide proper camera controls that give the player the ability to customise their view, rather than tilting the angle when zooming in and out. I’d also hope that a proper tutorial is in the works for the game, as the current Wiki does an appalling job of explaining a lot of the mechanics in the game.

At the moment, there isn’t a lot to look at in the Acaratus Early Access and there’s a lot to improve on as time goes by. While the campaign mode will come to cater to those looking for a more focused single player content, there are some fundamental things that need to change in what’s available right now. Online play needs some form of matchmaking in place, while the interface could do with some tweaks.

This is certainly one with promise, but I feel this one hit Early Access a little early.