Arcanium: Rise of Akhan, card game review from Netflix



Netflix subscribers can get free access to Arcanium: Rise of Akhan, let’s see what it’s all about in this review.

The most curious element might be that red “N” that now stands next to the logo, but as we see in this review of Arcanium: Rise of Akhan it would be a shame to divert attention from the game itself, as it certainly deserves to be explored further. So, let’s get this out of the way right away so that we can get down to the nitty gritty: Arcanium is one of the new games that Netflix has made available within its catalog of video games. This means that, if you’re a Netflix subscriber, you can proceed with the download of the game in question without any outlay, at least as far as the mobile version is concerned, since it has also been available on PC in early access for several months now.

In addition to the curiosity of dealing with a game distributed by Netflix, the issue also involves an important consideration for the consistency of the game itself: it is not a simple free-to-play with microtransactions, but a real premium game, distributed through the service on subscription, which is already very good news.

Clarified this, it must be said that the choice of Netflix has been quite shrewd because the potential of Arcanium: Rise of Akhan is remarkable. It is a card-based RPG-style deck builder with some elements of roguelite, which is reminiscent in some ways the well-known Slay the Spire, which is already a very good starting point.

Set in a fantasy world tending to fairy tale, where the sinister Umbra moon is extending its power, bringing with it magic and darkness, the game sees us put together a team of heroes composed of various anthropomorphic animals able to fight threats using magical powers derived from cards. Nothing particularly new under the sun (or the moon, better) but the whole thing is definitely well done and with considerable care, although the balancing issues, which are crucial in a game of this type, can only be evaluated more in the long run. What we can detect at the moment, rather, is a certain difficulty in playing it on mobile platforms given the interface clearly designed to work first of all on PC, which may hinder the enjoyment on smaller displays.

Destiny in the cards

Arcanium: Rise of Akhan, a screenshot showing a fight with cards

Arcanium: Rise of Akhan makes us choose the three characters with whom to start the story, based on those we have unlocked in previous games, and one of three provinces from which to start, each of which features a particular setting and narrative background, but all sharing the same looming threat is from Umbra. It is called “open world” by the developers but the definition is a bit ‘forced: in fact it is to move on a checkerboard map by choosing which boxes to move, each of which hides a different situation between meetings with fighting, meetings with NPCs, merchants, treasures or various explorations. Beyond combat, which obviously triggers the game phase with the use of cards, all other scenes are simply told through written text and some nice illustrations. It’s a solution that may be a bit ‘old-fashioned but can not fail to be appreciated by fans of classic role-playing games “pen and paper”, since it seems to recall the more traditional adventures narrated by some dungeon master around a table. The arrangement of the squares and the corresponding events takes place randomly at the beginning of each game, which adds to the roguelite element given by the fact that, when the whole party is defeated, the game restarts from the beginning but keeping some of the progress made previously.

Much of the game is centered on the management of cards, of course, which must be conquered by playing and organized into decks as powerful as possible and trying to balance them between the three characters of the party. During the fight, the three heroes each deploy a hand of cards to be used during the turn, which are then replaced in subsequent turns always drawing from the possibilities offered by the three decks.

The checkerboard map of Arcanium

At the beginning of the turn we can already have a precise idea of the moves that the opponent, managed by artificial intelligence, can perform against the characters, which allows us to develop more complex strategies with countermoves designed in time, all taking into account the energy required for the use of each attack or defense spell. To the great variety of spells made available, which are partially diversified according to the class to which the characters belong (not well defined, but in any case broadly related to those classic role-playing game), must be added many variables provided by the possibility of applying relics and items, while the statistics change with increasing level. To this are added the specific skills of each fighter and the supreme ability that is triggered once accumulated the reference bar, all this to give an idea of the considerable depth in the structure.

Since it’s a game that requires you to spend some time reading the texts, between the description of the game situations and the management of cards and characters within the menus, there’s a less than optimal adaptation to mobile platforms, probably caused by a development that has kept the PC as the main reference point. It’s an element to take into consideration, since reading is difficult and also the response to commands can be uncertain, with a layout of keys and sensitive elements more suited to the mouse than to the touch screen.

Comment

Placing itself surprisingly effectively at the intersection of classic RPG and card game, Arcanium: Rise of Akhan can satisfy those looking for something deep and structured on mobile platforms. Its fantasy world is well constructed though perhaps not very charismatic, while the combat system is well thought out, somewhere between reasoned tactics and brisk pacing. It offers almost nothing new on the front of the card game or even less on that of the RPG, but who is looking for a new title in this genre should give a chance to Arcanium, which also benefits from the distribution through subscription avoiding, in this way, to expire in the negative drifts of free-to-play with microtransazini. The problem, with regard to the version reviewed here, lies mainly in the adaptation to mobile format: the interface is not perfectly optimized for this type of use and the text, present in large quantities, is difficult to read on smaller displays, unfortunately.

PRO

  • Deep and well-structured card system
  • Very classic RPG elements that recall the tradition
  • Very clean and cohesive, even on the stylistic front
  • Nothing new, moreover with characterization not very charismatic
  • On mobile platforms the interface and texts are not well optimized
  • Have you noticed any errors?
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