Arcsmith offers a unique and challenging puzzle experience that's weaved in nicely with an intriguing story.
Patience and persistence is a requirement of players wanting to tackle the puzzles that Arcsmith has on offer. Whilst the experience can be frustrating at times, it can also be immensely rewarding for lovers of the puzzle and narrative game genre alike.
Arcsmith takes place aboard a space station where you play an engineer in training called an arcsmith. The alien Korith Dinn and his AI tool chest companion also join you to teach you the complexities of arcsmithery along the way.
Arcsmith features a story woven throughout puzzle elements. The game takes on a pattern whereby you get treated to a short cut-scene that progresses the main storyline each time you solve one or two puzzles.
Gameplay essentially involves building electronic devices by snapping blocks together like Lego.
As an Arcsmith in training, you are provided with the instructions to build a device and the various components needed to complete the job. For example, building a radio will require you to snap a battery pack onto a radio unit to get it working.
However, it soon starts to become a lot more complex than that as the battery pack outputs four power whilst the radio unit only requires two power.
How do you remove these extra two units of unwanted energy? You need to attach additional components that draw away the extra power so only two units remain for the radio unit. But these extra components that draw away the additional power also generate heat which can cause the device to overheat and break apart.
So you also need to attach heat sinks to draw some of the heat away. These heat sinks don't allow power to pass through them so they need to be attached in such a way that they doesn't restrict the power from reaching the radio unit.
Now you can see how complicated it can become.
There is a tablet device and a workbench gizmo that allows players to view the power being supplied to each part of the device and the heat transfer throughout the device in real time. This is a cool feature that made me feel like Scotty from Star Trek as I attempted to diagnose issues with the high tech gadgetry at hand.
Whilst I enjoyed the puzzles for the most part, there were quite a few occasions were the snapping together of the components wouldn't work so well. For example, at times a component would take multiple attempts to attach or I would try to pull one part off of my device only to have a different part of the assembly come apart in my hands.
Whether this is caused by a software limitation, a hardware limitation, or both, it certainly caused a lot of frustration. At one point I will admit to rage-quitting because the mechanics just weren't doing what they were supposed to do.
There was also an element of trial and error that came with the puzzle solving. In many instances I would test my device, find that some element was overheating or needed more power, then have to go back to play around with the components before re-testing, rinse and repeat.
This added a layer of grind and monotony that requires a certain degree of patience. There were also instances where I had solved puzzles without knowing exactly how it happened which removed the sense of accomplishment.
At a time when war threatens, you take on the role of an apprentice to master arcsmith Korith Dinn.
As you build useful electronic devices to sell for credits, Korith Dinn starts to open up to you about his troubled past and why he retired to this quiet corner of the galaxy.
Arcsmith offers an interesting plot that has an intriguing element of mystery which provided me with a nice dose of motivation to complete the puzzles and progress the story.
Visually Arcsmith looks quite nice, from the fine details on the electrical devices you construct to the natural looking animations of the big and bulky Korith Dinn.
Some elements could use a little work. For example, the space and stars you can see out of the space station window seem flat and ugly in comparison to the rest of the visuals.
The radio belts out some great inter-galactic tunes as you work away on your devices.
The voice acting is also fairly convincing, but it's a shame that Arcsmith lacks 3D audio. The lack of spacial audio meant that Korith Dinn could be talking in one part of the station or another and it didn't sound like he was coming from any particular direction.
Arcsmith lasted me about three hours, so you can expect around two to four hours of gameplay here depending on how long it takes for you to complete the puzzles.
Once complete, there's not much reason to revisit the game except to try to improve on the designs for the devices you create. However, I don't feel this will be enough to draw most players into another playthrough.
Arcsmith can feel very immersive when played on a swivel chair. I would frequently be turning my head and chair to face whatever part of the workbench I needed at any one time and it all felt quite natural.
Picking up the individual components and manipulating them also felt realistic. The only parts of the game that broke my immersion would be on the odd occasion when a component wouldn't snap onto another piece like it was supposed to or when it would 'bug out' get stuck in the graphics.
The lack of 3D spatial audio also detracted from the realism of the game.
Motion Options: 10
The entire game takes place sitting down at your workbench so there are no motion options. Arcsmith should be a very comfortable experience for most VR users because of the lack of movement.
Learning Curve: 7
There is a bit to get your head around before you start to get the hang of the unique puzzle solving gameplay Arcsmith offers. That being said, there is a handy tutorial at the beginning and some useful explanatory notes throughout that do a nice job of getting you to grips with the basics.
Value for Money: 6
Arcsmith is a bit on the pricey side at $24.99 USD. Whilst I believe it is not too overpriced it is still perhaps a bit too expensive for the experience you get which all takes place in a single environment and lasts around 3 hours.
Summary: BECOME AN ARCSMITH Assemble essential items of the future using a library of modular pieces with master arcsmith Korith Dinn as your reluctant mentor.
Game Modes: Single User
Genres: Narrative, Puzzle, Space/Universe
Platforms: Oculus Quest
Developers: Bithell Games
Publishers: Bithell Games
Release Date: July 30, 2021
Version Reviewed: 1.128