Review: Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius (PC)

So I got led by a Steam curator to this game which promised turn based naval combat, something that’s been lacking so much in games that I’ve recently reloaded early 90s stuff like The Grandest Fleet and Lost Admiral Returns. It had embarrassing anime art and promised equally embarrassing writing, but like The White Chamber it unexpectedly ends up being one of the best in its genre??!! And it’s free?

The story is a wacky anime harem setup. Thankfully you can hold down the enter key and quickly skip through all of it.

But then you get to the combat and wonder how the hell this got tacked on to some throwaway anime novel game?

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The most accurate description of the combat would be Advanced Wars with space ships, but it’s actually deeper and more detailed than Advanced Wars! Lasers are accurate and long range, but are mitigated by shields and armor, but shields also overlap to cover adjacent ships. Kinetic weapons are less accurate, but do more damage and ignore shields but are double mitigated by armor, but armor get shredded the more damage a target takes. There are smaller secondary versions of each, usually used to shoot down less armored but more evasive mechs. Missile barrages are long range and high damage, but are very limited and can be reduced by flak. Rockets are super one shot missiles that cost money to reload and can be easily shot down entirely by flak. Some mechs get a melee attack. What really separates it from Advanced Wars is the tons of special options. You get support units that can temporarily boost your units, shut down enemy shields/flak/targeting, or disable enemies entirely. You get money between battles that can upgrade your regular units, or you can buy allied ships that aren’t replaced for free when they die. You get command points between missions that can be used for special orders like boosting firepower, boosting shields, teleporting your flagship, or firing the giant trans wave gun. You don’t get enough command points to regularly use the special orders every battle, so they’re more of an emergency reserve.

There are a couple of negative quirks though.

It has the same problem as Advanced Wars where long range units are a little too powerful. Missiles are long range and powerful but the units that have them only get one or two shots. Problem is the AI outnumbers you 3 to 1 or more and buries you with missile barrages from across the map. Even if you bunch up all your guys for overlapping flak protection, it’s common to lose one or two of your 2-7 units the very first turn before you can do anything. That’s still happening to me even after I pour 3 battles worth of money into nothing but upgrading my flak. Worse, some battles have the enemy receiving constant unlimited reinforcements (until a special objective is met) and they all show up with full missile banks. They also have specialized missile ships with tons more ammo than normal and they do as much long range damage as much larger capital ships. Contributing to this is the fact that movement draws on the same energy reserve used to shoot, so moving more means shooting less which heavily favors long range missiles over shorter ranged weapons.

Bullshit mission triggers. You’ll frequently have missions where surprise objectives or enemy reinforcements show up and totally fuck you over, forcing you to restart with that in mind. There’s a bunch of missions no way can you beat them the first try. “Destroy the 2 enemy battleships to escape.” So you suicide to take out the battleships. “Great! NOW move the flagship to the opposite end of the board!” What? Fuck! *flagship dies next turn*. Escort mission? A squadron of enemy ships will pop up right next to the escort at the halfway point. FUCK! *restart*

Some of your units are crazy useless. You get a mech that’s very fast, but very fragile with no weapons other than a strong melee attack for enemy mechs. The best you can hope for is zooming up to an enemy mech and taking it out with a single melee attack before being obliterated by return fire next turn. So best case you make a 1 for 1 trade in a game where you’re always outnumbered 3 to 1. You also get a fragile long range sniper mech, but up until the halfway point in the campaign all battle place your units automatically and it always places your sniper on the very front line. It either dies immediately or you waste 3 turns retreating it to the rear and it hardly does anything the whole fight. Most of the time it will be picked off by long range missiles anyway. Sometimes it feels like a waste to upgrade anything but your flagship and buying allied capital ships. Anything with low health WILL be obliterated by missiles in one turn.

It’s one of those games where early on is the hardest part (FUCK that transport escort mission!). To avoid ridiculous frustration, turn the difficulty down to “ensign” level at the start. Bump it up a level if things get too easy.

Still, if you’re into Advance Wars type games at all, it’s really hard to beat this FREE game. Just be sure to skip every story scene and for the love of god turn off the voices.

Fuck yeah NOW we’re getting somewhere!

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