A revitalization of a best-selling TRPG series seeks success outside of Japan on Mobile.
Arc the Lad R is part of the Arc the Lad TRPG series that began on the original PlayStation in 1995, with the “R” standing for “reboot.” While the series didn’t see release outside of Japan until 2002 and remains obscure here, the first game was a best seller in its home country. The series even had an anime adaptation in 1999. Arc the Lad R was developed by FowardWorks—a subsidiary of Sony—and saw release Japanese release in 2018, and a Western release May 2021. One may wonder if Sony hopes for success outside of Japan; the answer is not likely.
Low-Effort Localization Ahoy!
Boltrend Games, a Chinese company, is the listed publisher. They handled the Chinese localization in 2019 and the English localization for the 2021 release. And boy, they sure did a poor job. One will find things such as formatting errors with the letters and punctuation appearing on the line below, typos (e.g. the word “yeah” being often misspelled as “yea”), occasional grammatical errors and awkward translations. The sloppiness of the text is something one would expect from developers in the late 80’s or early 90’s; a company as big as Sony should have the resources to invest in proper localization. The game features voice acting for battles and during character recruitment, but not during story sequences—although the voice work is only in Japanese. Players expecting their favorite dub voice actors to ravish them with dulcet sounds will be sorely disappointed.
Decent Gameplay Ruined by Tedium
The turn-based tactical combat is intuitive, especially for those familiar with the Tactics Ogre/Final Fantasy Tactics-style gameplay of the original. Unfortunately, the unavoidable tutorial rips control away from the player as it paternalistically forces one’s hand to do what it demands before the player can progress. Such a thing may disgruntle more-experienced players to the point where they simply quit.
If one can make it past the intrusive tutorial, the rest of the game is fairly satisfying with the various character skills and abilities allowing for interesting strategies—although trying to upgrade the characters outside of leveling up is a slog when trying not to spend any money, and the lack of terrain & elevation effects typical to Tactics-style games makes the game seem limited. The title at least boasts a lot of content and sidequests to keep players busy. It can become monotonous after a while, though. Moreover, Boltrend Games only localized half of the game into English.
The game makes use of the ubiquitous gacha system as its primary means of generating its revenue. Players must use the gacha to recruit enough characters to fill out one’s party. Fortunately, the game is quite generous with its free rewards. One can earn the currency needed for gacha pulls—Soul Stones—by just playing through the story. One should still be careful not to spend too much. The fact that the game entices players with characters with limited availability and time-saving packs of upgrade items is scummy.
Is It Hardcore?
Overall, the game is an adequate TRPG that really doesn’t break any new ground. The issues with the text make the game seem like Sony didn’t care that much about allotting the necessary resources to make it succeed outside of Japan, and just wanted to make a quick buck. In fact the game’s Japanese servers are set to shut down at the end of June. Although the game isn’t terrible, one is better off playing the original Final Fantasy Tactics if one wants a good TRPG on Mobile. At least there is, indeed, a lad named Arc in the game.