I do enjoy using my VR headset, but so many games require a lot of physical activity. That’s fine in small doses, but during the Summer those doses get smaller and smaller. So when I found out about Arcsmith, a puzzle game that sees you sitting at a workbench tinkering with things, my interest was well and truly piqued.
In Arcsmith you are the new apprentice aboard a space station manned by Korith, the master arcsmith. People arrive in space ships, Korith sends you orders to create, you put modular building blocks together. It’s a fairly simple premise, and each puzzle is explained so that you know what to do. This thing uses solar panels, that one suggests using scaffolding to keep heat away… That sort of thing.
Turning on your workbench will activate all of the parts, and let you check out if it will work or not. You can switch it to see heat or power distribution, too. Once you’re fairly convinced it will work, you can make it verify by running the device at 10x speed. If something goes wrong, most likely a bit will pop off and it will give you a warning message such as there being too much power or heat. You also have a handheld scanner which will monitor whichever part you’re aiming at, so you can see when things are going wrong more closely.
The trick with construction (or arcsmithing) comes in balancing heat and power in your creations. Does the battery draw power in the right direction? Do you really need that many radiators? Your workbench will tell you what’s wrong when something fails, but it’s up to you to find out how to sort that issue. Maybe you need some extra power generators, or the radiators need to be placed differently.
Arcsmith’s puzzles can be quite infuriating at times, especially as there’s not a set way to complete them. You requisition parts that you think you need, so I managed to put something together without using radiators, even though they were one of the suggested parts. I’m sure that some of my creations would shock developer Bithell Games from their sheer sprawling size, when it was possible to just make some kind of cube - but that’s just not me.
However, not every puzzle can be solved by rearranging parts. Some you can just flip over. I was trying to find out how the power was flowing in one device, so I turned it over to keep an eye on a specific part. That, for some reason, fixed whatever was wrong and it verified perfectly.
I also had an issue with the audio. For some reason, it comes out of the wrong speaker. I’d worry that I had my headphones on the wrong way, but the speakers were on my Oculus Quest 2, which would be impossible to play upside down or back-to-front. Whenever Korith was speaking to me from their workbench to the left, the audio was louder on the right. Turning around, it all came from the same direction, so I had to face backwards to hear him through the right speaker. Music comes from a radio on their workbench too, so it was weird.
That said, the music is upbeat and kind of catchy, and Korith’s voice acting is great. Along with the writing, it makes them a likeable character as you get to know them better. You get a cutscene after almost every order you complete, so it doesn’t take long before you find out why they’re up here alone. His story is complemented by radio news broadcasts that carry the weight of worldbuilding.
Arcsmith has a great graphical style, which really suits it. Everything is big and chunky, which is ideal since you’re using modular building blocks. Each item is well designed to fit together in a variety of ways, so there really is no reason that anything you design will look like anyone else’s creations. Sure, it’s not like there are an infinite number of ways, but make it again and you’ll create something new.
If you’re looking for a puzzle game, I recommend Arcsmith. The sci-fi atmosphere is an interesting backdrop, and of course the things you’re making are themed accordingly, but don’t let it put you off. The story is well written, and the puzzles are decently made, so you can even overlook the audio issue.
Arcsmith (Reviewed on Oculus Quest)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
A well made puzzle game that lets you have a sit and a think while you connect blocks together. Simple in theory, enjoyable in execution.