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Visual novel games can be a real mixed bag. Sometimes they have incredible characters but a plot that’s absolutely meaningless. Others, the plot and worldbuilding is so well crafted that the characters playing it out just can’t carry it. Sometimes, they don’t even have any click-and-point gameplay; it’s literally just sitting by and watching, and you aren’t immersed at all.
However, every once in a while, a visual novel comes along that manages to have it all. That one is Arcadia Fallen.via YouTube
A modern fantasy visual novel, Arcadia Fallen puts you in the role of an alchemist’s apprentice. You spend your days peacefully mixing potions under the watchful eye of your teacher, Elizabeth. One day on an errand, you hear a scuffle happening in a dark alley and jump into action! Your peaceful life becomes increasingly chaotic after that night as you begin working with a cast of strange characters, from stern knight Victoria to mysterious outsider Kaidan, to figure out what’s causing all the strange occurrences in town.
For the most part, Arcadia Fallen is a standard click-and-point visual novel in terms of gameplay. You’ll go through each scene, choosing responses to events and characters to form your personality, whether that be cheerful, sarcastic, hot tempered, or any number of other options. At certain moments, you are asked to make choices that majorly impact the route of the story.
All this is pretty standard for the visual novel genre, and I, for one, appreciate that the game lets you know which decisions are important to the story, which are arbitrary, and what personality trait your responses correspond to. This helps you play the game the way you want to, and for those who want to get every ending and try out every path, it makes it easier to keep track.
There’s a second portion of gameplay, though. Throughout, you’ll be tasked with alchemy-based puzzles. These aren’t very difficult and simply involve turning four wheels to copy a pattern. You’ll face these while capturing demons, and it usually just takes a couple of clicks. However, you will also see similar puzzles while mixing potions! Mixing potions will also require you to pick and choose three ingredients to create symbols. Once chosen, you’ll look at the potion recipes in your book and match the symbols in the center wheel to the ones in the book.
The alchemy puzzles are a nice addition to the game and helps to break up the decision making. However, mixing potions does sometimes feel irrelevant to the plot; you’ll only use them so often, so learning all the spells feels unnecessary. The game tries to remedy this by giving small challenges for mixing, such as only turning a wheel once or only using two ingredients. The helps give this little minigame a little more purpose, but it still would have been nice for it to be used more in the story.
This being a visual novel (of course) Arcadia Fallen lets you romance your traveling companions. There’s four characters to choose from, two men and two women, and each has a unique personality. Upon meeting each, you’ll be given the option to romance them. This option pops up pretty often in one on one conversations with them, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do a little flirting.
The characters are a strong point for the game; they all feel realistic, they’re all interesting, and each has an important role in the story. Seeing them interact is enjoyable and helps immerse you in the story. This is something visual novels often struggle with due to wanting the player to be the central focus, but Arcadia Fallen uses the interaction between characters to their strength.
The game also shines in terms of plot, which isn’t just focused on romance or on a specific goal. The plot is blended incredibly well between the action-adventure, mystery, and romantic aspect, and it does a great job of letting you control how much you want to know. There’s never a dull moment, even when things seem calm, and there’s always something to keep the plot naturally moving forward, whether it’s a small side adventure or a character conversation. It’s an impressive fantasy story that stands out in the genre.
The visuals and music are wonderful, too. The art style is nice and pleasing to look at, and the soundtrack is wonderfully fantasy inspired. It’s also worth noting that the game is rather inclusive in how character creation is handled. You can choose between feminine, masculine, and neutral in your pronouns, voice, and appearance, and your chosen gender doesn’t impact the romance routes at all. They all remain available, regardless.
Arcadia Fallen is a bit of a rarity. It manages to have great characters, a great plot, and enjoyable, immersive gameplay when many visual novels struggle to have all three. While the alchemy puzzles can feel a little unnecessary, they’re still fun and add a little something extra to the gameplay. This all-inclusive visual novel experience is as fantastical as it promises, full of demon capturing, magic, and a little romance. Even if you’ve soured on the genre, make Arcadia Fallen your next big adventure.