With all the import games we see from different regions, sometimes people might forget that there’s a burgeoning scene in China too. HyperGryph and Yostar have come together to create a tower defense title filled with animal people. Arknights is set in a world where an infection is spreading and only the player and their allies have a chance of fighting back and discovering a cure. But what’s really nice about it is how well it introduces people to the genre with stylish characters.
Arknights begins by setting you up with some of the most basic units you might need. Players’ squads, which are all part of the fictional Rhodes Island. You have mages, like the caster Amiya, and characters who can hold the line, like the defender Noir Corne. As you go through your first route, things gradually build up. The Doctor, you, has been rescued by people who claim to know you. You fight your way through opposing forces, trying to escape back to Rhodes Island headquarters and safety. While things may be stark, you have clear maps that designate where enemies will spawn, what region you need to protect, where your units might go and the paths that foes will follow.
The units themselves are the sorts where you can tell their personalities and functions at a glance. While some do have some fanservice elements, as everyone is ridiculously good looking, all characters are properly dressed for a fight. They each all have an animal motif to them, connected to the infection they might possess that is enhancing their skills and giving them the strength necessary to fight the Infected and different terrorist groups. Each one also has a very defined personality present from the moment you headhunt, which is what delving into the gacha is called in the game. These people establish who they are and what they can do in very few lines, suggesting that less is more and showing how effective a good localization can be.
As an aside, what’s also pretty nice about Arknights is how easy it is to acquire good units. The game gives you 3,800 Orundum, the earned or paid currency, to start and lets you go through a a special banner where you could do a 10-roll Headhunt and be guaranteed at least one six-star unit and at least one five-star unit. Its campaign sends you through training missions that give you characters that cover all eight classes and are, at the very least, average. It is also possible to perform scouts with in-game items that could guarantee you at least a three-star unit of perhaps a certain sort if you spend enough time waiting.
But back to the art direction. There’s a sense of minimalism in play in Arknights. While characters may have colorful accents, perhaps with an unexpected hair color or some accessory they’re wearing, the game offers something of a monochromatic approach. There are similar sorts of outfits, but they manage to stand out. During story segments, the backgrounds never tend to be too busy, allowing you to focus on the elaborate characters ahead of you.
It’s like the goal in Arknights is to make you focus on the most important things. In a battle, that can mean being able to tell what someone could be capable of at a glance by the right icons or knowing where you could place them to speedily intercept enemies. During the story, it could be drawing your eyes to the characters who matter and not incidental background people or places. It also is about making people in dark situations stand out, even if they’re meant to be cogs in a machine trying to overcome a terrible infection. It’s the sort of game that pops.