Acaratus probably has one of the best elevator pitch concepts I have ever come across in a game.
Steampunk battle suits.
If you’re anything like me, you’re now sold on playing this game.
The good news is, Acaratus definitely delivers on that fascinating premise, albeit with a few missteps along the way.
The narrative context for the game relies on cliche, but generally in a way that makes the world feel familiar as opposed to fake. The world is dominated by the Emperor Helios, who holds a monopoly on the technology behind steam powered mecha, you’re predictably part of the resistance to bring him down.
You can feel the passion of the developers in designing this world, and it plays like an adaptation of one of your favourite books, with a cheesey charm that had me rooting for the characters even as I rolled my eyes at certain pieces of writing. However, while the story has definite substance, it’s delivery can be haphazard, with a text heavy approach and a lot of exposition, it occasionally becomes a slog instead of a pleasure.
Thankfully, the core systems of the game are solid. Gameplay is a top down, turn based tactical affair, similar in execution to games like Metal Gear Acid. The player moves through a grid of squares, executing attacks and abilities through playing ‘cards’. That can sound confusing if you’re unfamiliar with card based tactical games, and there is a modest learning curve in this instance, but the gameplay feels intuitive enough that most players should feel comfortable quickly.
Card’s can be combined in interesting ways, so the depth of gameplay variety is impressive. This is added to by the ability to customise your mechs from a wide array of parts, adding a welcome RPG element that had me spend hours tinkering with different loadouts. This is has always been the bread and butter of a mech game, the one element you need to get right, the mechs needs to feel in some way personal to the player, and Acaratus nails this perfectly.
I large part of this is thanks to the game’s art design, the Mechs have such a perfectly executed steam-punk aesthetic, and are excellently animated, so much so that each one you design feels like a character unto itself.
Unfortunately, it must be said that while the Mechs are colourful and vibrant, many environments you pass through are drab and generic. This isn’t a huge concern, as the mechs themselves are what draws the eye, but it would have been nice to have them on a more interesting backdrop.
Acaratus isn’t game from a huge publisher, it feels like the passion project of a small team with some fascinating ideas and a clear vision of the world they want to create. While this means there are certain elements of polish and balance missing, the core mechanics of the game are satisfying and well executed. Acaratus is something fresh and interesting, a blend of two genres that I can’t believe have not been combined before, and I will be very interested to see what’s next from this team.
I mean, come on, Steam. Punk. Mechs. Nuff said.
Released: May 2017
Platforms: PC (Windows 10
Genre: RTS, Action
Developer: Nodbrim Intereactive
Publisher: Nodbrim Interactive</p