ArcRunner is a roguelike shooter skinned with cyberpunk-style graphics. On the first launch, the player learns that they are nothing more than a personality file onboard the ship’s computer system called the arc, supposedly one of the many wonders of the new universe.
After this, you will be met by Chip, an Artificial Intelligence in charge of the Arc; what follows is a rather brief exposition dump wherein Chip informs the player that they have been lucky enough to be selected for a unique mission.
You see, Chip’s controlling AI, the program that actually makes all the decisions aboard the Arc, has come into contact with a ‘Meta-Virus,’ causing the whole thing to go all T-1000.
Therefore, Chip scoured their databases of personalities to find you, the perfect mind to be continually injected into android body suits in a quest to beat back this mad AI and reinstall its proper operating software via a quantum backup drive.
While this game may not be the typical roguelike, it has all the trappings of one, allowing the player to continually progress through the levels via the acquisition of skills and upgrades. However, there are some things that leave a little to be desired.
If you want to hear all about that and more, stick around and check out my Arcrunner review, it’s going to be a fun one.
Visuals as a Main Selling Point
Between all the promotional material for this game and the general aesthetic of the whole thing, it should come as no surprise that the cyberpunk-style skin this game comes with was one of its major selling points.
Perhaps, it was the entire reason it was made in the first place, with ‘cyberpunk roguelike’ being enough of a twist on the old formula to warrant the creation of yet another roguelike shooter.
In general, it is hard to say that they haven’t nailed the aesthetic they were aiming for; everything feels very futuristic and cyberpunk-like. Despite this, the entire veneer seems rather surface-level, with nothing new being added to the art style.
From the outside looking in, it seems as though a vision board was made on day one, asking the question, “What is cyberpunk?” The team then went off and watched Blade Runner, only to return with the key concepts of night, neon, and metallic everything.
While the level design is always a difficult concept to get right in this genre, wherein your player must traverse the same ground over and over again in order to progress properly to new levels, I do feel as if the levels in ArcRunner are rather basic.
When you spawn into your next level, the concept is the same – run forward until you hit a block of enemies, walk backward while shooting and strafe a little, go around the corner, and there’s the exit door. While there are varying height levels to these maps, there are no real incentives to use these, resulting in the player sticking to the surface more often than not.
Also, there is nothing interesting to look at here; no little easter eggs dotted around the levels or areas to explore. Every neon sign pointing to a bar or shop of some sort leads the player to a blocked-off area where no fun can be had. Essentially, if you aren’t shooting, you’re doing nothing in ArcRunner.
Weapons and Upgrades
Another important thing to the enjoyment of a roguelike is the feel and look of the new weapons or upgrades that the player gets after dedicating hours of their life to this brutal routine of death and rebirth.
However, in ArcRunner, none of the weapons you acquire throughout your journey is all that cool to look at. Instead, they are merely representations of their various classes. A shotgun looks like a shotgun; a rifle looks like a rifle, and so on.
The upgrades are another story entirely; while each new upgrade or nanite tech you receive for completing a level has its own unique graphic in the installation menu, this does not change the overall look of your character whatsoever.
This was a real disappointment for me, as there are so many other roguelikes that do this so well. Games such as Dead Cells allow the player to change their entire outfit and head via unlocks, really helping the player visualize their progress.
Adding this to ArcRunner could have allowed your set of three playable characters to feel more unique and personalized.
Mechanics of Old
Once again, there is nothing new or outstanding to be found when it comes to the mechanics of this game. Much like every other FPS on the planet, the player can jump, dash, fire their weapon and use an interchangeable throwable along with their class’ specific melee weapon. Other than that, there’s nothing to write home about here.
The only salient difference I could find in this game was the adoption of a cool-down mechanic for your shield and melee use.
While this has been done before, I felt the way that the shield operated, how it took damage and slowly depleted over time, was quite satisfying and intuitive, degrading depending on the size of the hit rather than the frequency.
Then again, this difference was only really enjoyable with the Soldier class, as the Ninja class comes with a whole body cloaking style shield rather than the Soldier’s directional one. This means that it was rather hard to tell when the NInja actually had its shield deployed in combat.
Time is Money
The last thing I want to mention regarding the core mechanics of this game was the speed at which the player could switch from a melee weapon to their shield and back to their primary weapon.
Overall, I felt this process was entirely too slow for a game that was all about fast-paced action and fluidity of movement. Between using your melee weapon and firing your first bullet, expect to wait an entire second at times.
While this is something that could be factored into your gameplay style, I just found it rather irksome as it got in the way of my experience more times than I would like to say, taking me out of the flow of combat.
Much like other popular roguelikes on the market today, ArcRunner chooses to use character classes as a way of diversifying gameplay and artificially increasing the amount of content the game has to offer.
However, once you begin playing the game and jumping between the classes, you will realize that the differences between these characters are strikingly small, begging the question of why they were even included in the first place.
Most of my gameplay was spent with the Soldier character class. The player will start out and upgrade the soldier first before being given the option of Ninja, and it is only much later that you are granted access to the Hacker class.
By this time, I had already upgraded my soldier enough that I did not feel like there was any real point in diversifying my character portfolio.
Games that have done the character class system well, such as Slay the Spire, have ensured that each character plays in an entirely unique way, forcing the player to try out the different systems in order to find the one that works the best for them or gives them the most enjoyment.
Inevitably, you will always find the character you prefer, but making each one their own being with a unique playstyle offers a lot more to the player than has been done here.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the main quest of this roguelike shooter game is to bring the quantum backup drive to the main AI’s mainframe to restart the system and cleanse the Meta-Virus from its hard drives.
Outside of this and acquiring new upgrades to help progress through the myriad levels of the game, there are no other side quests or little tasks to complete.
While you could spend your time trying to collect all of the weapons in the game and add them to your armory, there is no real incentive to do so. While alternate quests are not often seen in roguelikes, there are ways to add little bits of mystery into the game to distract the player every now and again from the soul-crushing cycle that dominates the genre.
Despite this, many other roguelikes with this same approach have done very well in the past, gathering huge critical acclaim, such as Slay the Spire. For me, though, the game feels a little empty and devoid of activities.
The user interface is really where this game shines; everything is positively a joy to use and very self-explanatory. Once you get a grip on what type of playstyle you want, it will be incredibly easy to navigate your way through the inventory, loot, and character augmentation menus to build your personal character quickly.
This game shines in regards to the in-game loot system, allowing the player to quickly assess dropped items and their usefulness via holographic displays near the dropped items and a color system detailing effectiveness.
I see this as a real improvement on quick looting systems that became so pivotal with the introduction of Battle Royale-style games.
The fact that Trickjump Games have nailed this aspect of their game should come as no surprise, considering that their most successful previous title was a Battle Royale Trainer. Outside of the in-game user interface, the menus are also very easy to navigate and find your way around. Essentially, everything is where it should be, and there are no surprises.
I also spent a great deal of time playing this game on both mouse and keyboard, and controller. Through this, I found the game’s ability to switch between inputs on the fly was very smooth and what you would expect from any modern game with controller support.
The control scheme was pretty good compared to the keyboard and was actually a preferable experience for someone like me who prefers console gaming.
Pros and Cons
- As far as regeneration concepts for a roguelike title, this android personality injection model was something new and fresh for the genre.
- The overall quest of the game is interesting and has a lot of potential from the outset.
- The art style found in the dialogue screens between the player and Chip is really cool, with smooth transitions.
- There is nothing new here; it has all been done before in better-thought-out games.
- Once you get the core concept of the game down, there isn’t really anything else in the game to get its teeth into you. Even for players who really enjoy the gameplay, I cannot see this game having a long lifespan.
- Outside of running forward and shooting, you don’t actually do much in this game.
Whether you have played hours of this game and found yourself wanting something new, or you just don’t fancy this particular title, I have prepared a list of games that may scratch the gaming itch you have. Check them out!
- Slay the Spire
- Dead Cells
- Rogue Legacy 1 and 2
- The Binding of Isaac
- Cult of the Lamb
- Darkest Dungeon
Cyberpunk or Cyberjunk?
While this game may do everything the developers set out for it to do, there is nothing new or inspired here. I think the perfect score for this title is 5/10 – average because that’s what it is. Not horrible or extremely good, merely average and forgettable.
While I have seen other reviews for this game at a much higher rating, I honestly cannot see any of these players returning to the title time and time again as they would with any good roguelike. The toothlessness of the title will prevent the player from coming back, and neither is there any new mechanics or profound messages to be found in the writing.
At its heart, I feel like this game could have been created by an AI, analyzing the current roguelike market, identifying a gap, and randomly generating a game to fill the void, minus any heart or hints of love.
Question: Is ArcRunner a roguelike game?
Answer: Yes, ArcRunner is a roguelike game, coming with all the trappings of the genre, including the repetitive life and death cycle, in the hopes of progressing, turning your character into something unstoppable.
Question: Is ArcRunner worth buying?
Answer: It is difficult to say whether ArcRunner is worth buying for the general PC gamer. After all, I have called it an average game in this article. However, I can see how some players who enjoy jumping into a quick game to help them destress after a long day could find this enjoyable.
Question: Is ArcRunner a hard game?
Answer: As a roguelike, it is hard to say whether the game is more difficult than any other FPS or similar title on the market today. When you come up against an unpassable challenge in one playthrough, you will saunter past it easily after a few more upgrades and some more playtime.
In this sense, I would say that ArcRunner is fairly difficult but never unfair, with every death feeling like the player’s own mistake.
Arcrunner Review: Play Log
James spent over 9 hours playing this title, progressing and dying more times than he could count. All the while, his character, the Ninja, got more and more augmentations, helping him steamroll his way through the opening levels and get a deeper bite into the infected AI system.
While he did not reach the end of the game due to being a truly subpar game player, he did gain a deep understanding of the core concepts of the game and the mechanics that make the whole thing tick, developing a playstyle over this time.