Game Reviews

Arknights

9 min read

This game is talked a lot, and seems interesting, although it is not a genre I usually play. I decided to give it a try anyway.

Tactical play

Arknight's genre can be described as tower defense, one that is quite heavy in terms of tactics. This is not the genre I usually delve into, but the talk around this game convinced me to try it.

Arknights was first released in China, and a global release was teased last year. Since the genre is not what I usually play, yet it got talked quite a bit, I followed the news, and even considered applying for the Closed Beta Test, but RL stuff kept it from happening, so I waited for the official release.

Here's the first official trailer, it's quite impressive:

The first official trailer is dramatic, and cinematic.

At release, the game is region-locked to the Western countries, and it only became truly global on February, when I can really try out this game.

On the first load of the game, you will be greeted with a loading screen showing the terms defining the basic premise of Arknights. The premise of Arknights is basically a world riddled with disasters (called Catastrophes), and leave behind an infectious substance called Originium. Those exposed to Originium too often develop a disease called Oripathy, which has no cure.

After the loading screen, the login screen will appear. You can link with a Yostar account, a Twitter account, and a Facebook account, useful to prevent loss of data.

Login screen
The login screen for first-timers.

You play as the Doctor, a character shown to be quite a genius, and seems to be in stasis for some time. You are woken up by the team from Rhodes Island, a company that treats Oripathy, but also deal with the social effects of Oripathy. Sinec Oripathy infected people are also carriers, they are heavily discriminated against.

Story interface.
Story interface.

When you are woken up, it is noted that your memories are missing, but still retain a bit of tactical expertise, as you fought your way out. Also in this part of the game, you will be asked youe player name.

Story interface
Another view of the story interface. Amiya!

The tutorial part of the game guides you through basic game mechanics,which parts will be explained as part of the home screen tour in a moment.

The home screen allows you to explore every feature of the game. This will be the first screen after starting.

The main screen
The main screen

The combat screen is the way to acces the main gameplay of Arknights. There are Main Story maps, maps for getting certain materials, and the special Annihilation operation.

Combat screen
Types of maps available. This game has quite the farming stuff.

After selecting the chapter / types of maps available, you will be greeted with the map selector screen.

The stamina system in this game is named Sanity, which is a quite unique term to me. Playing a map costs Sanity. There's also a practice mode using Drill Plans, but they obviously don't have rewards. After clearing a map, Auto-Deploy becomes unlocked where the AI remembers the exact timing of how you deploy your Operators. This is basically the auto mode of the game, decided before playing the map. This has implications when you upgrade your Operators.

Story map screen
Story map selection

After selecting a map, you will need to select a squad. Squad selections will be discussed below when we get to the squad management screen. You can also select a Support Unit too here. A Support Unit is a unit that your friends provide for support. You can choose not to employ a Support Unit, because Auto-Deploy requires you not to use a  Support Unit.

Gameplay is similiar to tower defenses where you have paths the enemy will travel through, and units to put. The currency in maps is Deployment Points, and each operator costs DP to deploy. You can deploy Operators in the way of the enemy and block the enemy while attacking them, or you can deploy in the ranged tiles, providing firepower and support.

Operators can get attacked by enemies, melee and ranged. When they are killed, the Operator is taken out of battle for a time, and can be redeployed with increased cost.

There are 8 types of Operators in Arknights:

  • Vanguards have low DP cost since they are designed to be deployed early in game. They also have abilities that help you gain DP.
  • Guards provide higher damage and durability, and can be used to kill difficult targets.
  • Defenders are suited to halting the enemy's advance with their high health and defense.
  • Medics are the healers of the game, since Operators can lose health.
  • Snipers are the ranged units that provides firepower, and also functions as an anti-air tower.
  • Casters attack using Originium Arts, basically the magic of Arknights. They are suited against armored enemies since Arts damage bypass physical defense. Some casters also deal splash damage that is useful against enemy swarms.
  • Specialists are Operators with versatile physical abilities. In the Specialist category are Operators that push or pull enemies away, allowing a way of instantly killing difficult enemies by moving them to a hole, and Operators that function like a spell or rescue button since they have fast redeployment time.
  • Supporters are Operators with versatile ranged abilties. In the Supporter category are Operators that are able to slow the enemy, and Operators that are capable of summoning helpers in battle.

The game progression teaches you slowly the mechanics of the game, so you are not overwhelmed by the complexity, because at later levels, maps got very, very complex.

A map
Early levels are easy to learn. Later levels need some tactics to solve.

Some people compare Arknights with another popular defense game, Plants vs Zombies. I think Arknights is much more complex, but some map designs have a similarity to Plants vs Zombies' lane levels.

A map with three lanes
Now I can see why the comparison with PvZ exists...

The Squads screen allows you to configure the Operators you bring to battle. The variety of enemies that exists means that there is no one squad tha fits all maps. One time you will need to deal with aerial enemies, other times there's a lot of armored ones. This also means that you cannot upgrade only a single Operator, everyone must be upgraded.

Squad screen
Squad compositions can vary wildly depending on map. 

The Operator Management screen allows you to see and manage your current Operators.

Operator Management screen
Managing operators.

Upgrading operators is accomplished in four ways: levels, skill levels, promotions, and potential.

Leveling up Operators increases their stats up to a limit depending on rarity. In Arknights, leveling up uses Battle Records of varying levels. Maps usually give a recommended Operator level, but this doesn't have to be followed as long as your tactics are correct. Be sure to level up everyone so that clearing becomes easier.

Level up screen
Leveling up an operator exclusively uses those items.

Each operator has a skill they can use, and it can be upgraded to be more potent. Upgrading skills requires materials that can be obtained from maps or be purchased.

Skill upgrade screen
Upgrading an Operator's skills

Promoting an operator unlocks new skills, talents, and increases the maximum attributes of operators. Their levels get reset to 1, but the base stats are carried over from the previous rank.

Promotion screen
Promoting an Operator. Yes, I got Skadi.

Improving an Operator's potential requires a token which can be gained from duplicates of the same operator. Potential gives beneficial stats such as reduced DP cost, redeployment time, and other perks.

Potential screen
Duplicates mean a more powerful Operator.

There are two ways of obtaining Operators, recruiting, and headhunting.

Headhunting is basically a gacha system, where you roll for operators. When you start the game, there will be a gacha banner that guarantees you at least 1 6* operator, which is nice. The gacha currency is Orundum, which can be obtained from Annihilation operations, mission rewards, or converted from Originite Prime, the actual purchasable currency.

Headhunting screen
The gacha system in Arknights.
Headhunting results
The first roll I got is a bit nice. Istina and Siege is still in my squad to this day.

Recruiting Operators allows you to specify which type of operators you want by using tags. You will then set the length for recruitment. The longer the time, the higher chance you will get higher rarity operators.

Recruitment screen
The other way of getting new operators.

The Base screen allows you to see your base buildings. The base is where you can earn some resources and support your operations. There are multiple buildings that can be built, and they can be assigned operators for bonuses:

  • Factories produces items such as battle records, gold that can be exchanged for money, and certain rare promotion materials.
  • Trading posts allows you to exchange gold for money and exchange Originium shards for Orundum.
  • Power plants provide power for buildings. Every building needs power.
  • Dormitory is the resting place for Operators, where they can restore morale. The time working on buildings reduces their morale, and when their morale is depleted the bonuses they provide disappear.
  • Reception Room allows you to obtain clues by searching with Operators and getting them from friends.
  • Workshop is where you can craft items such as building materials, promotion , and skill level materials.
  • Office unlocks more slots for recruitment and allows you to refresh tags if you didn't find the one you need.
  • Training Room allows for skill specialization training.
Base screen
Base building is important.

The game has daily and weekly missions that are pretty unique. Those missions' rewards are structured like milestones, where each mission contributes to the milestone. You can finish the milestones without finishing every daily missions, so you can obtain rewards with a variety of missions.

Mission screen
Daily and weekly missions so you play everyday

The store is where you can be things. There are a lot of different sections with different currencies they use. You can buy Originite Prime with real money, buy costumes and packs for Operators with Originite Prime, use the Certificates obtained from rolling, buy furniture with parts, and buy an assortment of stuff using credits obtained from the Reception Room.

Store screen
For your purchasing needs

Having in-game friends provide you with benefits such as Support Units, and the ability to get clues from them. Searching for names uses a username#discriminator format similar to one you would find on Discord. For example, my username is Damillora#0835. You can also set your Support Units here.

Friends screen
I chose Silence as my assistant because of Akari Kitou.

Complex, but enjoyable

The game actually feels quite complex, but the way it introduces them to you will ensure that you can learn them at your own pace. I focused on farming for levels and promotions at first while not progressing the story by much.

At higher levels the tactics are more prevalent, such as the effect deployment order has, strategic retreating, utilization of map terrain, and others.

The strength of this game is in its complexities, getting you invested into the game. If you like tower defenses and also like to think about tactics and strategies, this game is for you.

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