Virtual Reality games always struggle to keep me playing for hours on end. I’m unsure if it is the constant moving around or if my immersion breaks due to my housemate’s dog wanting a pat. Arcsmith, by Bithell Games, does succeed in keeping you engaged in the world by gluing you to your seat.
Initially, Arcsmith gave me absolute hell. I struggled to pick up the mechanics from the tutorial, and I was left to my devices a bit too quickly. This left me to become overly frustrated and I almost quit entirely. Moreover, I feel parts of the tutorial aren’t explained thoroughly enough, making it hard to know exactly what to do. Eventually, I did manage to make some traction. However, in a time where tutorials are slated to “hold your hand”, I could have benefitted from some help.
“The puzzles, themselves, in Arcsmith are kind of like building with Lego.”
Fortunately, once you finally figure out the mechanics of the game, Arcsmith does become quite interesting. In between the puzzles, Arcsmith has some solid and intriguing story beats. You find yourself on an orbiting space station, training to be the next Arcsmith, a fancy, futuristic engineer. Your teacher is Korith Dinn, a seasoned Arcsmith who is quite distant and hesitant towards teaching you. He will assign you tasks to complete such as fixing radios, heating terrariums, and powering solar panels. However, they all look fairly similar, but maybe that’s what the future looks like.
As you complete each given task, you unlock more puzzles to complete. Moreover, the narrative will also play out as well. If you have played the other recent title by Bithell Games, Solitaire Conspiracy, Arcsmith’s story beats play out very similar. Korith Dinn gives you a lot of eye contact, truly selling the virtual reality illusion. There are also moments where he walks over to you and has an engaging one-sided, conversation. While there is a cutscene after almost every completed puzzle, it never feels unwelcome, and if anything, it made me continue playing tasks to witness more of the narrative.
The puzzles, themselves, in Arcsmith are kind of like building with Lego. That is, of course, if Lego had strict voltage rules that required specific amounts of power and heat to function. Every level features select parts in order to complete each level. Fortunately, you can order power generators, radiators and a range of other parts to provide power and manage heat in your constructions. Eventually, the puzzles expand, and you’ll need to provide power to objects with different requirements. This is where it does get quite challenging as overheating a device is relatively easy.
“After some of my devices overheated and exploded, they seemed to remain stuck.”
Managing the power and heat levels in Arcsmith can be tough. You can’t measure any levels before you power up the device. Unfortunately, once you power it up, and if your levels aren’t correct, parts will fly off your device. This can be incredibly frustrating. While it does make a little sense of the tribulations engineers face, I don’t have the patience needed to face error after error.
At its best, Arcsmith succeeds when you are getting lost in the circuitry listening to its sublime radio soundtrack. Once I got into a bit of momentum, I lost track of time and was engaged in creating whatever Korith Dinn required from me. The only time the immersion waned was when I ran into a frustrating bug.
After some of my devices overheated and exploded, they seemed to remain stuck. This left me with floating pieces that I was unable to interact with. Unfortunately, this only furthered my frustration as I had to reset levels to remove the stray pieces. Eventually, I managed to use it to my advantage and complete levels where pieces weren’t connected, but obviously, it would have felt better completing it without the edge.
Arcsmith is a good game for those interested in seated puzzle games. If you come into the game with a bit of patience, you’re going to have a great time. Luckily, due to the game’s seated nature, you’ll never suffer from motion sickness. Arcsmith is available now on Oculus Quest.