Arknights is a fantasy themed real-time strategy tower-defence RPG mobile game. You play as the Doctor of Rhodes Island, a pharmaceutical company fighting against the spread of a deadly infection while protecting the peoples hit by said infection and the strife it brings.
Over the course of the game, you will recruit new operators (characters) by means of a gacha system, power them up, and send them on increasingly complex missions. The game is set in a sprawling universe experienced through the extensive main campaign and the constant supply of events and side stories that drop approximately monthly. It is so vast that the exposition and dialogue can be rather overwhelming at times, especially for those who haven’t the time to diligently read through them. Arknights also includes an element of base building, albeit smaller in scale and significance, that adds another layer of optimization for those who enjoy it.
The Elemental Tetrad
The mechanics of Arknights follows the standard gameplay of most tower-defence games. You are presented a map in which enemies spawn from certain defined spawn points and head towards certain defined goal points. You prepare a set of units you wish to use for that level and place them on the map to prevent the enemies from reaching the goal(s). Variety in gameplay then stems from enemy and player unit variations, map design, map terrain and environmental effects.
The linear narrative in Arknights follows the mission of Rhodes Island as it strives to cure and protect those affected by the infection. As one of the main themes of this game is fighting to protect those who cannot fight for themselves, the story blends exceedingly well with the mechanics of a tower-defence game.
Arknights has a vast array of maps and locales, each bringing forth the feel and theme of the areas each set of missions occur in, not to mention the background art featured during story beats. This is only topped by the mind-boggling number of playable operators, 210 on the global server, all equipped with art, animation and voice lines that reflect not only their personality but also their affiliations, home towns, history and more. These aesthetics presented help make the universe feel that much more lived in and increases the immersion of the story, as well as the investment of the player.
Arknights was developed in Unity for iOS and Android. The load of real-time graphics is not particularly heavy and any cutscenes are pre-rendered. A mobile platform is more than enough to present the game’s narrative and gameplay, while maintaining the ability to be played almost anywhere and anytime.
Lens #3: The Lens of Fun
If it wasn’t already plainly evident, I enjoy Arknights. I find this game fun. Why? Well personally I enjoy the sense of progression, not just when I progress the story or clear a hard level but also and especially when I see the characters I spent time and effort developing perform well.
The sense of continuity and growth definitely increases the enjoyment of many games that incorporate it and this is one of my main pull factors of Arknights.
Lens #74: The Lens of the World
As previously mentioned, the world of Arknights is set in a sprawling universe filled with nations and organizations all striving to attain their individual goals and yet inextricably intertwined with each other. The stories explored fill the world with events and relationships while the art and aesthetics bring them to life. The player is thrust into a beautiful world of fantasy and magic and yet simultaneously a cruel world of war, strife and disease. This world of Arknights may not strictly be better than ours on all accounts but it surely is different, and interestingly so.
Lens #6: The Lens of Problem Solving
Arknights is a tower-defence game, which is a puzzle game at its heart. The map, environment, number of enemies, their spawn times and the route they take are all fixed for each level. The player is then asked to use the tools they have, in this case the operators they’ve raised, and solve the puzzle. At higher levels of play, this requires immaculate planning of unit choice, placement location and timing and more. Boss stages also frequently have a gimmick or three that the player must learn and plan around if they are to achieve victory.
Lens #31: The Lens of Challenge
As expected, a game like Arknights can get pretty challenging at times. New locales bring new maps and new enemies and almost always introduce new mechanics to the game. These can all merge together to form a rather complex and difficult puzzle to solve, especially in the end game content the Contingency Contract levels. These are stages where the players can pick contracts that limit the power of their units and/or increase the strength of the enemies. While aiming for absurdly high Risk, the difficulty counter for Contingency Contract levels, is completely optional and provides no reward nor achievement, many players still strive for as high a Risk clear as they can. I feel this is very well designed as lower level players are not losing out by being unable to clear high Risk and yet the option still exists for end game players to show off their units and strategies.
This game has arguably taken up too much of my time, and truth be told I am very far behind on reading the narrative. But personally, it is the art and the gameplay itself that draws me back time and time again. And I am sure that if I had the time to give the story justice, The Lens of Story would be here as well.