Being a proper strategy RPG fan takes commitment. After downloading a new game, it can be hours before you really know whether it’s any good – before stuff like the fairness of the free to play mechanics, the generosity of the stamina system, and the ease of progress without forking out on IAPs becomes obvious. Till then, one game in the genre plays pretty much like the next.

You won’t have any difficulty telling Arknight apart from its fellow strategy RPG games. Not only does it look refreshingly different from the magic-and-monsters efforts that dominate the genre, but it plays differently too. Turn-based battles and open skirmishes are replaced by scaling difficulty tasks, creating space for a whole new layer of strategic gameplay.

Here’s the setting. You’re diving into a dystopian future in which natural disasters are constantly wreaking havoc. These leave behind them a valuable mineral called Originium, which is both the savior of civilisation and its greatest threat, since it infects people and turns them into highly powerful individuals who have started to organise themselves into a resistance group called the Reunion.  

Arknights casts you as somebody called The Doctor, a medically qualified amnesiac who wakes up having been rescued in mysterious circumstances by a woman called Amiya, who represents an organisation with the slightly distracting name of Rhodes Island.

The purpose of Rhodes Island is to research the disease that has rocked humanity, travelling to the most dangerous locations in the world to deal with the infected. Welcome to your new life. 

Do You Feel Lucky, Cyperpunk?

Arknights is a strikingly different strategy RPG game from the norm, with a slick, cyberpunk aesthetic, complete with futuristic floating menus and backdrops filled with steel and concrete. 

Novelty is present in practically every part of the game. For instance, stamina isn’t called stamina. It’s called Sanity. Units, meanwhile, are called Operators.

The usual array of unit types are available, including Guards, Medics, Supporters, Defenders, Vanguard, and so on, but you place them at strategic points at the outset of each stage and let them do their thing as the Infected try to make it from the entrance of the stage to the exit. 

As ever, the goal is to create balanced teams, with, say, Snipers or Casters to contribute ranged attacks from the rear, powerful Defenders to hold back the tide of enemies, Medics to keep everyone alive, and so on. A reliable formation might be two Defenders, two Medics, a Caster, and a variety of other Operators depending on the situation at hand and the enemies in the field, which differ in each operation. 

For instance, in a tough mission you might want an extra healer in the field – perhaps even one that deals AOE damage when enemy numbers become unmanageable. There are other operators with specialist skills, too, such as pulling enemies forward or pushing them backward, and these are particularly handy in stages with traps. 

Given the number of variables at play, Arknights boasts a huge amount of tactical depth, and it doesn’t force you to rely on your 4-6 star Operators exclusively (though these are clearly the best, and can be promoted to make them even better). 

Base to the Top

And that’s just the battles. Off the battlefield Arknights allows you to build up your base, which comprises a number of different areas. Building more Power Plants increases your power limit, in turn allowing you to build and upgrade more facilities. 

These include a Factory, for producing material, and a Trading Post for selling precious metals and other items, all of which is mostly done to procure Orundum, the material you need for summoning. A thriving Base also helps you to keep your Operators levelled-up.

Interestingly, your Base also contains a Dormitory where you can send Operators who have succumbed to low morale. The more pleasant the ambience in your Dormitory, the faster its inhabitants will recover. It’s a nice touch, adding an intriguing pastoral dimension to your management.

Arknights is an impeccably presented, original, and generous single-player game, which doesn’t turn the free-to-play screws. Surprisingly, it doesn’t feature any PvP, and there are relatively few gameplay modes. There’s still plenty to do, but it feels like the developer has gone for quality over quantity. Which is fair enough.

That said, the core game is regularly augmented with story-driven events, such as the music festival-themed Heart of Surging Flame event that’s happening right now. This lets you pick a band, listen to music from three different genres, do several new operations. And, most importantly, it lets you obtain powerful new Operators and other goodies.

If nothing else, Heart of Surging Flame with the brand new collaborated song ‘After It All’ composed by famous Dutch DJ duo Yellow Claw is an excellent reason to download the game right now. If you enjoy strategy RPG games, Arknights is unlikely to disappoint.

Check it out on Google Play and the App Store by clicking here.