Review: Arcadia Fallen
One of the perks of being a game reviewer is learning about upcoming games that may be easy to miss. Sometimes, these hidden gems can provide more entertainment than big named titles, and when that happens it’s ALWAYS the best feeling. I recently had this experience with Arcadia Fallen, a modern fantasy visual novel developed and published by Galdra Studios.
Arcadia Fallen officially released for PC, Linux, and iOS on November 17, 2021. The PC version was played for this review.
We’ve seen it before in numerous fantasy games; the trope of war between humanity and mages can be very compelling. Arcadia Fallen borrows this premise, but with an interesting twist. Instead of playing as a member of either side, you play as Morgan (the main character’s default name which you are able to change, along with their appearance, gender, etc), a young alchemist who does not possess magic but, due to a series of unfortunate events, gets linked to a cheerful spirit named Mime. What follows is a journey filled with magic seals, hidden libraries, and enemies that threaten the world.
I would be lying if I said Arcadia Fallen’s story was unique. As I mentioned, the themes here are a common fantasy trope. Galdra Studios did do an excellent job with their world-building (there was a lot of background information about how the world’s religion, politics, and social statuses worked), but the writing itself felt very basic in that there was hardly any complexity to what was driving each individual character, or the story events for that matter. It was very obvious who was evil, who was not, and what you needed to do in order to be on the right side of things.
Perhaps calling Arcadia Fallen cliché is the right way to go. I don’t find this to necessarily be a bad thing, since the affronted issues tend to be genre-related and are not specific to this game. Despite that, it still feels fresh in its delivery because of how the cast interacts with both your character and each other. They were witty, bickered, and had heart-to-hearts with each other. These portrayals came off as very realistic and endearing, and it made me want to keep reading.
It helped that each character was given an individual reason for being there, although the game works hard to not reveal those tidbits before it’s time. Whether it was Kaidan’s fun facts about his peoples’ customs, Mime’s attempt to name your group, Ann’s informative rants, Victoria’s party-pooper ways, or Michael’s teasing, every personality had a reason behind it, which is something I can appreciate as it’s often not considered in these types of games.
The cast was very likable despite falling into specific character tropes. I just wish some of their more interesting issues wouldn’t have gotten brushed over so quickly, as it made the game’s pacing feel rushed.
In terms of gameplay, Arcadia Fallen is a visual novel through and through. Galdar Studios put a lot of emphasis on the effects of your choices (although realistically the impact is actually minuscule since the story follows a set path) so trust me when I say your input is asked for A LOT. Every other sentence prompts you to speak, which is something I loved because it made it feel like I was a part of the things happening in the story, not just an observer.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the romance! The MC can pursue four members of the main cast (basically everyone except Mime), and I have to admit I had a tough time choosing my lover. You get the option of two boys and two girls, none of them gated by gender. These romantic interactions are fleshed out through encounters that increase in intensity as the story progresses. The game does eventually prompt you to choose a partner, and if you decide to do so, it automatically locks you into friendship with the members of the cast you don’t choose, but it’s pretty clear when you’re about to take that step.
I liked most of the romantic scenes, but do feel like they could have been longer and more fleshed out. There are some changes in the story depending on who you pick as a partner, although the outcomes are generally the same.
It’s also worth mentioning that Arcadia Fallen has an Alchemy system. It’s nothing complex, but by solving color/symbol matching puzzles, you can create potions or take down demons. I didn’t have a lot of trouble figuring these out but it was a fun way to feel like I was having a boss battle as these puzzles normally popped up at the culmination of a story chapter.
Overall, I truly enjoyed Arcadia Fallen’s story. It wasn’t aggressively long and had enough mysteries to keep me going. I do feel like the ending for my particular playthrough was a bit rushed, but perhaps a few more runs will help fill in the gaps.
VAs Save the Day
In terms of visuals, Arcadia Fallen is nothing to write home about. The town map has eight locations and the character models, while vibrant, give me Newgrounds vibes. The cutscenes are presented in the form of still portraits, with some varying animations for each character. Even the customization for the main character is pretty basic, but the style does fit the setting so I don’t consider this to be too detrimental.
The voice acting, however, is EXCELLENT. Seriously, every character’s voice was a perfect match, and while not all lines were spoken verbatim, the tidbits they did say were filled with the right emotions. Even the main character had voiced lines, which really added to their presence in the story.
Unlike the voice acting, Arcadia Fallen’s soundtrack was just OK. There was nothing noteworthy about it besides the intro song, which is fully voiced. At first, I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but after listening to it a few more times, it grew on me.
I’ve Fallen…for this Game
I honestly can’t tell you the specific thing about Arcadia Fallen that made me fall in love with it, but I can promise you that it’s a good time. The lively cast will guide you through a grand adventure, where you will feel like an active participant rather than just an observer, and by the end, you will most likely be sad to see your journey end.
The art style might feel outdated, but if you can look past that, you will be treated to excellent voice-acting and some fun, yet simple puzzles. There’s also plenty of content here, since you get four romance routes to try out and the opportunity to replay the game with different MC personality types, making it a whole new experience.
Review copy provided by Galdra Studios for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.