Arknights takes tower defense on a uniquely different road!
Arknights by Yostar, Hypergryph, and Studio Montagne flew under our radar during its pre-launch phase. However, its release created a certain buzz that piqued our interest. How’re our first few days with the tactics RPG Gacha? Well, read on to find out!
There’s no denying it, Arknights looks stunning. It’s UI is simple and clean and the art style is just as advertised — “Anime”. The menu buttons also fit the sci-fi dystopian nature of the game perfectly, from the intricate backgrounds to the icons. Even the item drops look amazing and detailed. Animations are fluid and entertaining, both in combat and during menu operations.
If there is one thing we aren’t much of a fan of it’s the Operator sprites. While they come out as cute and chibi, they don’t actually coincide with the overall dystopian theme. However, they are also well-made and their skill effects are fun to watch. Overall, the devs put a lot of work into the visuals of Arknights, and it all paid off.
Another department where Arknights shines is in its soundtrack, music, and voice-overs. Just about every scene we encountered so far have voice acting and the soundtrack is just robust. You’ll actually feel that you’re watching an Anime rather than playing a game. Even the background music in menus have a certain theme.
As mentioned earlier, Arknights is a Gacha game. So, expect all of the very enticing and amazing features that system entails. Just kidding, as a Gacha game our dear tactics RPG is rigged with an energy system and the very infamous character pool. However, it does have a lot to offer and is somewhat more lenient than its Gacha cousins.
Before diving into the main attraction which is combat, lets first take a look at the characters we’ll control. Much like in other games where we have heroes, champions, or whatever, in Arknights we have Operators. These are the units we upgrade and plunge into battle. In typical Gacha fashion, they are divided into rarities, depicted by their number of stars. The more stars on an Operator the rarer and harder they are to obtain.
Of course, they can still be improved and upgraded but generally, those with higher base stars are innately better. As an added little bonus, and expense, Operators can equip skins to change their appearance. It will not only change their menu appearance but also their combat sprite.
There are two ways to acquire Operators — Recruitment and Headhunting. Headhunting is your traditional Gacha-way of grabbing Operators. You use an Orundum (an in-game resource) to randomly draw from a pool of available Operators. Recruitment, on the other hand, is a targeted type of acquisition. Players get to select recruitment tags, which are either jobs or roles. Then after a set amount of time, a random Operator with the designated tags will appear.
Operator Class, Tags, Attributes, Skills, and more
Arknights identifies and divides its Operators into Classes, each of which also has subcategories depicted by position (melee or ranged) and tags. Each profession will have a different function on the battlefield, much like what we have with classes in other games. The eight classes Operators can be a part of are as follows:
Tags, on the other hand, are a much more specific identification for an Operator. It is used to differentiate an Operator’s characteristics within a role. For example, Hoshiguma and Gummy are both part of the Defender role. However, Hoshiguma is a Melee DPS Defender while Gummy is a Melee Healing Defender. Meaning, on the battlefield, if you wish to have a more offensive line, go with Hoshiguma but for a more defensive setup go with Gummy.
Attributes, Traits, and Talents
The overall strength of an Operator is governed by their attributes. However, roles also determine the innate attributes of Operators. For example, Defenders will have higher Max HP, defense, and block than any other role. Operators also have traits and talents, which further dictate their behavior on the battlefield.
Operators also have their own set of skills. While these are player activated most are just passive abilities that directly boost an Operator’s stat. At first, though, only one skill is available, the rest are unlocked by upgrades.
One interesting feature of Arknights is its Base mechanic. Although, it does fit into the strategy and tactics genre. Anyway, your base in Arknights is pretty much like the town building mechanics of strategy games. You get to build facilities that aid in your day to day activities. At first, you’ll only be able to construct a few buildings such as a trading post, factory, and dormitory. Although, further down the road you’ll be able to unlock more buildings and areas around the base as well as upgrade existing buildings.
Right then onto the meat of the matter — Combat. Ironically, Arknights campaign and events page is actually called “Combat”. From here on out you’ll be able to engage in quests, which are divided into five categories — Main, Supplies, Chips, Annihilation, and Events.
Main, Supplies, Annihilation, and Events
The Main tab of the combat screen is basically the story campaign. Similar to other games, first-time completion of these quests grant special rewards such as Originium, the premium currency. The Supplies tab, on the other hand, are your daily rotating quests, where you can get resources such as upgrade materials for Operators and Base facilities. Then we have Chips, quests where you can gather materials for Operator promotions and upgrades.
Annihilation is a special quest mode where you fight to defeat as many enemies as you can. The more you defeat, the greater your rewards, this is actually your best source of Orundum, the currency to headhunt for Operators. Although, it has a weekly limit. Lastly, we have the Events tab, which is only active when there is an ongoing event.
Actual Combat (Gameplay)
Right now that all of those are out of the way, we move on to actual combat. Contrary to what the store page advertised, Arknights isn’t really a tactics game per se. Sure, tactics and strategy are involved but what it truly is, is a Tower Defense (TD) game. However, it comes with a little twist. Unlike conventional Tower Defense games, players must deploy Operators who directly block enemies rather than finish them off as quickly as possible when they pass by.
Yet, that familiar TD setting is still present in the form of the ranged characters, which are pretty much positioned like towers. You also have aerial and ground unit enemies. As always, those flying critters can only be targeted by ranged units. Another change is that you don’t really upgrade your Operators during combat, all of that is done outside of the battlefield.
Positioning is still key in Arknights, pretty much like in any other Tower Defense game. The operators you deploy on the map have a certain range and can only attack within that specified space. Then, unlike conventional TDs where you just reconstruct broken down buildings, defeated Operators retreat for a period of time. You can only redeploy them once that period expires. Repositioning Operators also require you to recall them, which will trigger their redeployment timer.
Stages aren’t straightforward “block a single route of the enemy” either as you’ll encounter quests with multiple enemy spawn points. Enemies also don’t arrive in timed waves, although they still do spawn in a similar manner. However, there aren’t any wait times in-between enemy spawns but you do have the option of pausing the game. Plus, during Operator deployment and skill activation, time slows down. So, Arknights is a tad more fast-paced than your usual Tower Defense.
While Arknights is plagued by the ever so infamous Gacha system, it offers stunning visuals, a rather engaging gameplay, and a beautiful soundtrack. We mentioned earlier that it is a little more lenient than other Gacha games. Well, that’s because it generously hands out “Orundum” on a daily and weekly basis. Making it a little easier for players to do some Headhunting without bleeding their wallets dry. Not only that, there aren’t really any useless Operators as the free ones and even the base 3-star ones have their uses.
Whether it be in Niche situations or just to fill a certain role a player is missing an Operator in. So far, Arknights is shaping up to be top-tier Gacha TD that’s generous to their player base. Hopefully, the devs churn out exciting new and unique content in the long-run. So that the beautiful art and amazing soundtrack won’t be drowned out by mindless grinding.