ArcRunner: A Roguelite With Cyberpunk Flare – PC Review
I remember when games such as Cuphead and Dark Souls emerged, becoming popular and notorious for their level of difficulty. Some people wondered whether it was ethical to make games that emphasise extreme challenges, even though it was a cultural norm during the arcade era. Nowadays, the gaming community has reached a consensus. Titles like Elden Ring receive high acclaim while acknowledging that games can offer more than just competitive conquests. Trickjump Games action roguelite, ArcRunner, adds a cyberpunk twist to the age-old pursuit of the perfect run.
Prior to release, I was unfamiliar with ArcRunner. However, the game’s cyberpunk theme quickly piqued my interest. The neon-lit cityscape is awash with machinery and buildings, with cybernetic enhancements and energy blasts exploding across the screen. The game’s soundtrack perfectly complements the action-packed gameplay, which sees you navigating through various levels, dodging sparks and explosions along the way. Aesthetically, ArcRunner is a marvel, offering a highly realistic representation of a world where you must liberate the Arc from its AI enslavement.
“I found the Ninja to be the best fit for my playstyle.”
At the start of the game, players must choose between two initial characters – the swift Ninja or the defensive Soldier. Personally, I found the Ninja to be the best fit for my playstyle, with its stealth ability and katana combos. The Soldier, on the other hand, is equipped with an AoE hammer and can deploy shields to deflect certain attacks.
Although players start out with a pistol that fires slow-moving energy blasts, they can acquire other weapons throughout the game. Each weapon presents a challenge that, once completed, allows the player to equip it at the start of subsequent runs. I found this to be a great incentive to experiment with different weapons to gain an edge in future gameplay.
In addition to weapons, players can also utilise grenades, turrets, and other devices to enhance their strategy. These items have varying cooldown times and periods of activity, providing players with a range of options to suit their gameplay style. However, in the early stages of ArcRunner, the limited variety of items can be somewhat repetitive, especially when loot boxes offer items that you have already passed on.
Nevertheless, some weapons can boost specific mods, which helps to counteract this issue, particularly for players who are pursuing a particular build. Mods are rewarded at the end of each level, along with Nanites, which are a form of upgrade currency. Players can spend Nanites to unlock new abilities or upgrade stats like health or damage prior to each run.
“Cars and machines are more of a trap than an environmental opportunity.”
Although ArcRunner provides an enjoyable experience, some elements tend to hinder its pace. Standard enemies do not drop medkits or armour shards, making most of the loot feel rather pointless. While occasional challenges offer the chance to earn these items, the limited variety of challenges can become tiresome in terms of risk vs. reward. For example, one challenge involves defeating a group of enemies while in mid-air. However, jumping does not function effectively as a mechanic, and while certain mods allow for hovering, a simple jump and melee combo proves to be adequate.
Furthermore, I noticed that the Soldier’s melee attack feels somewhat underpowered. The hammer takes a considerable amount of time to charge up, offering only slightly more range than the Ninja’s katana. Additionally, the game’s rooms are filled with exploding cars and machines that can be destroyed with a single melee hit, turning them into more of a trap than an environmental opportunity. These objects also act as cover, requiring a lot of firepower to destroy, which had me consumed as to how best to utilise them.
“The diegetic elements of ArcRunner are welcome but should stand out amongst the already flashy environment.”
My biggest complaint with ArcRunner is how inconsistent its communication with the player feels. The HUD, in particular, feels poorly designed, with its elements spread too far apart. The radar located in the bottom right corner of the screen is too small to read effectively while navigating narrow streets and tight corridors.
Additionally, the icons for your gadget, special attack, and special ability, along with the status bars, feel too small and cramped. This makes it difficult to track cooldown times while simultaneously focusing on the environment.
Enemies in ArcRunner also suffer from poor communication, with their telegraphed attacks often difficult to read. The initial standard enemies are flying drones and guards armed with the standard pistol. The drones fire a short-range bolt thrower and are easily capable of swarming and flanking you in tight spaces. Although this enemy type is manageable, it can be frustrating when one spawns just out of view.
The pistol has a charge-up delay, which is only visible at the gun’s tip, and it seems to charge faster when you are closer to the enemy. More advanced enemies use a targeting laser that flashes when they are ready to strike, but I found this ineffective when they occasionally tracked my movements after beginning to fire. While the game’s diegetic elements are welcome, they should stand out more prominently amidst the already flashy environment.
ArcRunner has its flaws, but they do not detract significantly from the experience, and a few adjustments could make the game even better. Although I had to lower the sensitivity to the minimum, I found the weapons enjoyable and satisfying to use. The cycle of acquiring Nanites and modding myself between levels kept me engaged and motivated. While it may not be my cup of tea, I believe it would be a great addition to the library of more enthusiastic shooter fans. At a reasonable price of US$17.99 / AU$26.55 / £15.29, I believe it is a good value for the content offered.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC; code was provided by the publisher.
ArcRunner offers a fun and engaging chance to die over and over again as you aim for the perfect run. Between levels and deaths, you will modify your character and aim for excellence to take down your adversaries. While movement can feel a bit slow at times, the action never dies down. ArcRunner might be a little rough around the edges but it never fails at offering a nail biting rush of adrenaline.