ArcaneSoul is the quest for a bigger combo. Big, flashy, glorious damage numbers splashing out as you juggle groups of monsters in your crusade for gold, gear, and glory. The stages play out quickly in three to five minute bites, which is suitable for a mobile game, with an option to quickly replay stages if you are up to grinding money or experience before you move on to the next. If you are looking for a good slasher with little thought other than how to better chain your special moves, you came to the right place.
ArcaneSoul was released in August by mSeed, the developer and publisher, as a free game on Google Play and Apple's App Store with microtransactions. The game is quick to get into, simple to learn, but has a bit of depth to the combat system as you progress.
You can choose between two characters during your initial play: Luke, a magic Swordsman and Ellisa, a magic Swordswoman. There is a third character, Lith, the elven archer, who becomes available as you play through the game. Your choice of starting character marks the other as unavailable until you beat the games on the starting difficulty, Easy, after which the other becomes available for free. Lith becomes purchasable after beating the game again on Normal difficulty.
With your initial character choice made, you are dropped into the management screen where you can choose to view the stage selection, your character's statistics, skills, equipment, or shop for more gear if you haven't gotten drops that suit your fancy as well as a supply of health and magic potions. You will spend some time here selling loot, gearing up and training between stages. Gear involves a chosen weapon, armor, and an optional floating pet that boosts stats based on the type chosen. Once you are fit to go wreck some faces, you select from the available Acts and the stage you want to destroy.
The game is divided into four Acts; each Act consists of six stages with a minor boss at the end of each, a mid-boss in the third stage and a final boss in the sixth. The stage bosses tend to be larger, more powerful versions of the stage enemies with additional effects, while the Act end bosses are unique creatures.
Arcane Soul plays out as a hack-n-slasher where the goal is to defeat all the enemies while moving through the stage. You drop into the stage and proceed forward while clearing out sections at a time, gated by a glowing barrier or led into the next area by a portal once done. The monsters come at you in waves, with more spawning in front or behind you as you clear them out. Along the way you can pick up dropped weapons and armor, in addition to temporary boosts or health and mana motes.
Your standard sword swinging combo can be improved upon by purchasing skills with in game coin, and additional options come available over time as you level up. Your Active skills, which are your big special moves, draw from a limited mana pool and have various cooldowns depending on the strength of the skill. Learning to chain both your normal attacks with the Active skills is the key to really controlling the game. As you progress through, the difficulty, number, and actions of the enemies will start taking more thought, rather than simply holding the button down as you move from right to left. You also have a Burst meter that fills up over time by defeating enemies which when activated gives you health, mana regeneration, and speeds up the cooldown of your Active skills allowing your to throw down some pain.
Each character has their own set of Active and Action skills beside a shared Passive modifier skill set, allowing for game play that is similar but with nuanced differences in simple slashing combos and the more advanced combinations of active skills. As mentioned before, Active skills are your big moves, while Action skills affect your standard attack combos, air attacks, jumping and such. Skills are improved with in game currency, becoming more powerful as you level them up. You have a limited number of choices of Active skills you can equip at once, so there is some experimentation and thought put into developing your loadout.
Each of the four acts has its own theme: forest, desert, cave, and castle. The levels themselves are varied between the stages, with platforms or steep drops, but much of the design feels wasted as the game progresses. While there are multiple levels to some stages, most of the enemies will come to you as you progress so there is not too much reason to really explore the space. This felt like a bit of a miss as I would have liked to see more use of the levels other than marching to the right.
Controls were tight, which is important for an action game such as this. I've played many touch screen action games which suffered from significant reaction lag and, except for some moment of craziness, the game responded well to the touch screen input. Unfortunately, even though the game lists bluetooth gamepad support, I was unable to get it to function with my Moga Hero Power controller.
The art design was very well done. The 2D sprite work is an anime fashion with smooth animations and big, powerful attacks. Suitable audio complements the characters actions and spells giving them impact. Each Act has its own song played throughout the stages, which is thematic to the level design but can get old once you get into a money grinding phase.
Speaking of money grinding, the game is free but does have microtransactions. I have not run across any need to purchase cash, which is good because free games that have cash gates really grate on my nerves. If you want to support the developer, or just hate grinding, you can purchase in-game cash which you can spend on random weapons, armor and pets to try your luck on something rarer if you are not getting the drops you want.
As far as noticeable problems, the game likes to assist you randomly with a wandering hero joining you for a single stage. I believe this may just be a way of reminding you that you can buy temporary boosts before entering a level, one of which is the guarantee to have a companion join you. However, I seem to run into an issue with the companion NPCs, their pet, my pet and myself causing the game to lock up during large fights. On earlier stages where it was simply myself and the companion, there was no problem, but once you mixed two characters and two pets, there became significant issue.
An amusing aside of the problem is that due to the game locking up in a few instances, I managed to record a 5500+ hit combo as the game continued to register me hitting the enemies while it was locked up. I adjusted graphical settings down and my device is not cutting edge, but this issue only appears when the additional character joins in, otherwise it ran smoothly. Having an option to disable the "help" would have been nice.
The story for the game was non-existent, and what was there has translation issues, but it was nice that there was something of an attempt. Written dialogue over hand drawn artwork for each character tries to explain the story between Acts as you unlock for new stages, but was rather unnecessary and inconsequential in my quest to murder-hobo across the land.
Overall, I found this to be a very fun but limited game. The action was fast and furious, but there is no real depth to it beyond that. If the developers took the combat system of this game and added into it an actual storyline and some character development there could be a good RPG here, but what was delivered is mindless monster bashing, but there is nothing wrong with that. I would recommend this game for anyone who enjoys big combo action games and is just looking for something to kill time with in short bursts. You'll have some fun with it.
Fun and flashy combat but empty of anything else. Worth playing if you like racking up big numbers and want to kill a few hundred monsters for a few minutes.