In an enchanting world where alchemy and ink bleed from an anthology of war-torn tales, Arcadia Fallen follows suit with one of the most compelling chapters of them all. Despite being a lot like marmite, in the sense that visual novels can either make or break a player’s appetite, its vibrant narrative definitely has a lot to satisfy its customers. The question that burns at the back of most hesitant necks is this: does Arcadia Fallen live up to the pre-Steam hype, and is its ink as blotchy as we had hoped, or a mere coffee stain on what should have been a technicolored canvas? Well, let’s see here.
Trouble in Anemone Valley
Arcadia Fallen follows the story of a young alchemist in training, who’s bound to an illegal spirit after suffering a fatal blow to the heart. Combined, the two unlikely heroes go hand-in-hand to protect Anemone Valley from a dark force that shrouds its balance of tranquillity.
Locked to an unlikely collective of companions, the alchemist moves to forge a legacy in stone as the newfound protector of the region. Little to his or her knowledge, Anemone Valley possesses a whole lot more than evil spirits. The question is: can alchemy conjure a powerful enough remedy to cure the darkness that plagues the land?
Of course, being a visual novel, it comes as no surprise that its core gameplay is mostly made up of cycling through dialogue options and simply going along for the ride. And other than the odd molehill that uproots every once in a while, the gameplay itself is as simple as tapping a few buttons and completing a few relatively simple puzzles. But again, echoing the fact that Arcadia Fallen is a story-driven game — its lack of challenge is partly the reason why I for one loved every second of it.
Arcadia Fallen doesn’t thrive to become a best-selling action game, nor does it aim to be on the same page as most triple-A games you’d see in today’s market. Instead, it taps into a niche and it does it remarkably well. It discards most challenges and opts for telling a story, in which you’re given the front row seat to listen to. And honestly, tuning in to a quality story for a few hours is sometimes a remedy in itself — even when brewed by a trainee alchemist.
Gearing up with a pair of quality headphones and immersing myself into the fluent conversations and natural ambience of a quiet town was an absolute highlight in itself. Anemone Valley felt surprisingly natural, and most definitely left me wanting to branch out and explore its every nook and cranny. And although the game ushered me along a one-way track for the most part, I still couldn’t shrug off the feeling of wanting to go back — if only to analyse the abundance of stones left unturned.
Customization is key
From the get-go, you’re given a character to mold into the soon-to-be trainee alchemist. With a somewhat limited selection of customizable elements, you’re nudged on your way and thrown into the world in which your legacy is told through the choices you make. Whether it’s being sarcastic, heroic, brave, or downright petrified — Arcadia Fallen allows for you to mesh your character’s personality with your own moral judgement.
How you play the story, of course, is what determines the outcome. And honestly, after a good nine hours of breaking the ice, I’d like to say I was closer with my alchemist friend than the majority of real people that populate my own hometown. And as for Anemone Valley, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t mind applying for an internship with the alchemist next summer.
A picture speaks a thousand words
Reiterating the fact that Arcadia Fallen is a visual novel, it comes as no surprise that its gameplay features mainly still images, with perhaps the odd gesture or animation. But look beyond its imagery, and you’ll notice a whole lot more simmering from within its chest of magical components.
Music, playing a key role in the narrative, is what amplifies the atmosphere in Arcadia Fallen. Whether it’s nature swilling through the faraway hills or the hustle and bustle of the nearby townsfolk, Anemone Valley lives and breathes just how you’d expect it to. And where the images lack in motion, the village itself most definitely makes up for in vigour and enthusiasm.
So, what’s the verdict?
Galdra Studios evidently carried out all the necessary fact checks and homework when drafting Arcadia Fallen. Knowing how niche visual novels were, the ambitious developer was still able to tap into it and retrieve a wide array of components to help draw more open-minded players to its debut centrepiece.
As well as delivering a pretty solid nine or ten hour story, Arcadia Fallen also manages to cram in enough character arcs to invite you back for another take. Personally speaking, I’d happily return to Anemone Valley for another course on alchemy. Though to be fair, I’d probably avoid the induction and dive headfirst into the masterclass the second time around.
Arcadia Fallen doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, though it does do a pretty spectacular job at showing off its many functions. Its challenges are few and far between its rich narrative, though many would argue that that’s more of a plus than a reason to steer clear. Of course, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but when you’re studying alchemy — you’re bound to brew a few sour notes from time to time.
Has Arcadia Fallen piqued your interest? You can check out the official trailer for the game below. Or if you’re wanting to know a little more, then you can follow the updates on Galdra Studios’ handle here.
Arcadia Fallen is out now
You can pick up your copy of Arcadia Fallen on PC and Nintendo Switch today. Let us know your thoughts on the game over on our socials here or down in the comments below. If you have any Switch games for us to review — let us know. You can reach out to us here.
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