Impressions: Arcanium

Arcanium is a lane-based, multi-character deckbuilding roguelike. You control the actions of three different furry characters with their own distinct card pools, passive abilities, and equipment. There are always three different enemies in the opposing lanes, although you can spend resources to get them to retarget other lanes (Taunt cards) or swap lanes with your own characters to distribute damage and/or fire off attacks. Defeating foes grants you rewards, new cards to add to your deck, and all the sort of things you would expect from a deckbuilding roguelike.

And, uh… that basically sums it all up.

I’ve played a lot of deckbuilding roguelikes over the years and Arcanium is OK. Fine, even. What it reminded me most of was Roguebook, in that you have multiple characters with their own decks, traverse a hex-based map trying to uncover new nodes, and there being incentives to maximize deck size. I also appreciate the new trend (?) for these games to allow banked energy – you start with 3/turn, but can carry up to 5 over to your next turn, if you don’t have a use for it. That part, along with the equipment, reminded me of Across the Obelisk.

I do have some issues with the game, although they are difficult to articulate. For example, a lot of the enemies feel the same: they attack for X amount, deal a debuff, perform an area attack for Y amount, or gain armor. That sort of reductionism can be made for Slay the Spire too, right? Perhaps it feels worse in Arcanium due to the lane-based nature of the game. After all, enemies always target down their lane, and you cannot target things more than one lane away.

Another issue I have is that the sort of highest-difficulty fights reward you with Heirloom Equipment, which are character-specific items that synergize with their passive abilities/cards in various ways. Getting all three characters their Heirlooms is very important… but once that’s done, those hard battles thereafter become mostly pointless, as you’d rather get regular equipment for the other slots. Technically you get an already-upgraded card choice from the rewards and closer to unlocking character upgrades (more energy/cards per turn), but again, it just feels bad doing these fights with the Heirlooms being wasted. I wish there was a way to scrap them or trade for regular equipment.

Overall, Arcanium is a perfectly serviceable deckbuilding roguelike. Unlocking new characters by doing specific things during each run feels rewarding, and cards are similarly unlocked and added to the pool all the time. Each character and their card pools feels unique, and you can be rewarded for discovering synergies between them. Having said that, I have played Arcanium for 15 hours and feel like I’ve seen all that I want to, whereas most deckbuilders taper off after 40 hours for me. Take that for what you will.

Posted on April 24, 2023, in Impressions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Thoroughly off-topic, but I’m curious what you’d make of Against the Storm, the ‘roguelite’ city-builder.

    The combined randomness of resource availability, dweller races, what building blueprints you have at the start, hostile events, and most importantly the effective time limits (forest ‘hostility’+your sovereign’s impatience) of each run prevents the emergence of reliable cheese strategies, at least as far as I can tell presently. Metaprogression stabilises some of this, but it’s not too quick in coming.


    • There is a spectrum of action where on the one side you have deck-builders with effectively infinite time to make decisions, and then the more twitch-like versions such as Dead Cells and Binding of Isaac. I enjoy roguelikes on both ends… but stuff in the middle, such as RTS games in general, not as much. I find that is the case even when you can pause the game. Something about sitting around and waiting for things to unfold is a bit much for me, especially in context of potentially losing a run.

      On the other hand, I enjoy(ed) Oxygen Not Included and Frostpunk (to an extent) so… who knows.


      • I see; that’s fair, and I wouldn’t have considered it. The balance between ‘waiting for something to happen’ (which includes repeatedly ending turn or whatever) and ‘acting to make something happen’ is an interesting design facet in general. Although with a bit of a galaxy-brained squint I guess we can think of waiting as acting to spend the resource of time.


      • So… I decided to take another look at Against the Storm. It was on sale for $15 and the price was set to double as it comes out of Early Access, so I bought it. And it’s been the only game I’ve been playing for the last two days. I blame you.

        I’ll have an Impressions post up soonish, but while I does have the “hurry up and wait” gameplay I dislike, there’s a lot of “optimization” considerations to be made that get the juices flowing.


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