You have a steam powered mech and you use it to hit people on your way to freedom. If that got your attention then this might be a game worth looking into, as its thematic qualities are Acaratus’ greatest strength.
Set in a world ruled by a despotic tyrant, where technology is suppressed and reserved only for the thugs of the elite, a former slave trader and a serf are hounded by the king’s guards. Retaining an outdated and outlawed battlemech, the two must set aside their differences to survive the constant onslaught of foes. It’s an interesting twist on most character relationships, and the semi-Tzarist environment helps to give a fresh spin on an often-overexposed genre. Even in the middle of battles you might find yourself stopping to marvel at certain ideas, and it utterly nails the charm of the archaic advanced technology.
In terms of its gameplay Acaratus emulates many ideas which were more prominent in tactical RPGs of past eras, especially the PSX. You move your units about a grid, visiting towns, taverns and blacksmiths as you wonder a limited version of the world. Time ticks away overhead as you spend your days and you can bump into enemies at many major points, locking you into a turn based battle. It's a little dated but still effective, and it helps that said turn based combat is solidly designed. While you have a few essential elements for your mech, abilities come in the form of one-shot cards which you buy, loot or build for a brief advantage, while your equipment can be switched out at a blacksmith. It encourages a more conservative approach and means that the brief battles still remain satisfying, but it can be an uphill battle to comprehend certain mechanics thanks to poorly worded tutorials.
Perhaps the greatest failing lies in the execution of the story more than anything else. There are good elements here and while the opening cutscene is an info-dump and a half, it's enough to get you hooked. Yet, even with this, there are many points where it offers masses of exposition but little explanation. An issue hardly helped with a notably problematic English translation and little in the way of character introductions.
Despite the genre differences, Acaratus is in many ways comparable to the AquaNox series. You can tell that there is great lore there, you have striking visuals to work with, and the basic gameplay is solid, but the clunkiness of its presentation and narrative holds it back from real success. Steampunk and tactical RPG aficionados might want to give this one a look on release, but otherwise it's best saved for a sale.
ACARATUS / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: NODBRIM INTERACTIVE / PLATFORMS: MICROSOFT WINDOWS / RELEASE DATE: 25th MAY