Cross Hearts Arcadia: Interesting Ingredients, but Half-Baked

I find it hard to convey the flavor of this game: the mixture of features has some sweet, some bitter, but the final taste seems somehow flat.
I will list some of the positive and negative features, and then describe them in detail. I’ll focus on play, but note that the story, while not unusual, is a bit above average, and pushed along by more dialog than average. I must add that I first completed the game over 3 years ago, and it didn’t seem as cumbersome then as it did this play through. Maybe I’m just slowing down….

The good

  • Battles are varied enough that “auto” isn’t very useful
  • Party choice varies depending on enemies
  • Equipment choice varies depending on enemies
  • “Bench” characters (you have 2) earn experience so they don’t get left behind (there is a total of 6 characters)
  • Dungeons are easy to navigate
  • Instant escape for dungeons, instant travel to all points
  • If you like long, resource intensive final battles (like Apocalypse in Alphadia), there is one in the post game
  • In-app purchases not necessary
  • You ALMOST always know what to do next
  • Once you get to higher levels, you can usually flee a battle
  • No crawling the world map just to get to the next dungeon/town

The not-so-good

  • You better like tap dancing
  • You are underpowered most of the game
  • “Gold” is needed, so grinding helps
  • Random monsters about every 4 seconds
  • Tap tap all the bookshelves, pots, furniture, etc.
  • No restore points in dungeons
  • Only real money can be used in the in-app shop
  • NPC rarely matter
  • No subquests
  • Mining materials requires multiple visits to the same dungeon
  • Magic seems more important than physical, so uneven balance

The most noticeable irritant during play is the insane amount of tapping on your touch screen that is required. In order to save, about 10 touches are needed. In battle, instead of a list showing your choices, there is a “wheel” that must be rotated to your selection, then tapped, then a second tap on a message box to confirm, before you can open the list of skills, magic, or items.

For most of the game you are underpowered and will find even the random encounters a pain. You gain about 1-2% increase in most stats per level. Until late in the game, improved equipment must be purchased or forged from materials, as dungeons offer little in the way of equipment rewards. In dungeons you gather currency, materials as well as recipes for forging. Game currency (I’ll call it “gold”) is required at the forge. The best equipment in the game comes from forging, not the shops. As in other recipe/materials games, the materials in the dungeons are somewhat random, as each mining point yields randomly from its individual stock. So a mining point might have a focus gem piece, a focus gem fragment, and a focus gem, but when you “mine”, you might get just a piece and a fragment, and of course you would not know that the “focus gem” is available from the point. This means that you probably will traverse dungeons more than once (not fun from my perspective).

OK, so let’s say you do some grinding (almost automatic if you are going to do lots of mining for materials), get “gold,” and finally aren’t overwhelmed by the random encounters. You may not reach this state until late in game, say about 2 dungeons to go. Now you get to experience the variety of tactics available for your battles. The mixture of monster abilities sometimes calls for physical attacks, and sometimes magic. Sometimes you will need to be wary of status ailments, but there is no equipment that protects you against everything. You quickly see that everything is a tradeoff, and you may need to adjust equipment and party depending on the enemy. Here is a simple example of a tradeoff: there are numerous consumable items that protect your entire party, usually for the next 3 battles, that you take PRIOR to any encounter. However, only one of these items can be used at a time. So you must decide which to use (partial list):

  • increase resistance to attributes for 3 battles
  • increase resistance to ailments for 3 battles
  • increase evasion for 3 battles
  • increase speed for 3 battles
  • increase magic attack and magic defense for 3 battles
  • increase attack and defense for 3 battles

You only get two accessories per character, so again you have to decide whether to resist instant death, status debuffs, status ailments, specific types of attacks, or other enhancements. However, I’m not sure these choices make much difference. Party selection, on the other hand, is critical for the two final bosses.

The final boss battle of the normal game is somewhat resource intensive (so you better have piled up the gold to buy the consumables) and a bit long, but manageable. However, the post game final boss battle is the similar but considerably longer (I think it took me over 30 minutes) and requires far more resources. I liken this battle to Apocalypse in Alphadia–as long as you have plenty of resources, a decent level and good equipment, you should prevail, but you will need to work.

For me, the constant random encounters while underpowered for a good portion of the game slowed things down. The repeat visits to dungeons to harvest the mining points got tiresome, but was necessary to get “gold” to forge the superior equipment. The final boss battles were of the resource intensive attrition contests that don’t appeal to me. However, your taste for these ingredients might be different from mine, so you might enjoy Cross Hearts Arcadia more than I did.

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