As a fan of innovation, nothing makes me happier than to see something we’ve seen a thousand times before, changed and applied to new technology to create something wholly different. Arcaxer is one of the newest VR games bringing tabletop gaming to the virtual world.
Arcaxer: Simulated Dungeon Crawling
Arcaxer starts you off in a dungeon for a quick tutorial. As you start, you’ll control your character in third-person, top-down view, much like a standard Rogue-like such as Diablo. As you progress, you’ll enter combat. This brings you into a first-person view to face your opponents.
While I appreciate a tutorial level a lot more than I used to, especially in a newer experience like a VR game, this whole beginning feels very much as though it’s holding your hand the entire time. Some may appreciate this, although I felt like there wasn’t really a chance to fail.
Once through the beginning dungeon, though, the next area opens up and you are able to explore a bit, and even wander into a boss fight, if you aren’t careful. Here you’ll also find the Hub. In the Hub you’ll find a “pawnshop” to buy equipment, traps, and health items. There is also a saloon where you can get sub-quests to get you more money and experience points.
After you’ve prepared yourself, it’s off to the massive tower called The Stack to tackle the dungeons. There are about 110 floors broken into 5 uneven “blocks” each with their own theme and enemies. As with most dungeon crawlers like this, the floors are procedurally generated so no two experiences or playthroughs are the same. You even have the option of resetting the stack itself, without starting a whole new game, to tackle a new set of floors with the skills and equipment you’ve already gathered.
Although the main parts of Arcaxer will be familiar to most RPG fans, the new aspect here is the combat. As you explore the various floors, you’ll solve puzzles, explore different paths, seek treasure and run into enemies.
Unlike another incredibly well-made VRRPG, Demeo, the movement around the dungeon floors isn’t turn-based. However, the combat is. To me, this really invoked a classic RPG feel. As does the various menus and icons. It really feels like the creators of Arcaxer had love for games like Final Fantasy and it shows through the aesthetic.
Also like Final Fantasy, once you encounter an enemy in the dungeon you’ll be transported into the combat. This means you may not just be fighting one enemy at a time. The combat here is certainly interesting, and will require some significant dodging abilities since you’ll have to physically dodge the incoming attacks.
One of my least favorite parts of turn-based combat is that dodging is often shown poorly. In many RPGs the attack is shown as hitting, only to have a text saying “Miss” show up. Allowing players to physically dodge attacks and aim spells (called Hax) of their own is a masterful touch.
Another change to traditional combat is the gauges used to complete attacks. Using “hax” takes from a blue gauge on the left. As you level up, you can increase this gauge. However, melee and gun attacks take from your health bar. Although you can increase your health by leveling up and with modifying items, and that there is a fighter class built around melee weapons, in late-game areas it’s unfeasible to rely only on melee and gun combat. It will take some thought when choosing equipment and some trial and error with upgrading hax, skills and some decent dodging.
Fun Combat, Basic Story
Arcaxer is an impressive VRRPG, and very fun combat makes up for its few shortcomings. The story here seems more like a simple framing device to fill in why you are working through a tower full of enemies, but only barely.
It feels like the creators knew what the draw for Arcaxer was going to be (the combat) and put a significant focus on that. While working your way up the Stacks is a fun challenge on its own, you can pick up extra quests for some added goals to reach. Between that and being able to reset the Stacks, you can find a good amount of replayability. You’ll also have three save files so, if you want to try all three classes, you can.
You won’t find Final Fantasy level storytelling here, but that doesn’t feel like that’s what they were going for here. The fighting is a lot of fun, and, while some may find it repetitive, I found it just as much fun as any Rogue-like I’ve played before. I, for one, will be playing Arcaxer repeatedly for quite some time.