I used to be a pretty random player arcknights, a tower defense game for mobile devices. The situation changed when the developers added a permanent roguelike mode, which forced me to use free gacha characters, which I had long ago abandoned. I found myself playing Integrated Strategy for eight hours a day. It was so exciting that I even let my phone run out of power several times to force myself to spend my vacation outside.
While gacha games usually revolve around story updates and one or two core game mechanics, the growing number of live service mobile games has led to stiffer competition for new players. Players are increasingly appreciating the gameplay as much as the story. Old (Fire Emblem Heroes) and new (alchemical stars) permanent game modes have been added to gacha games so that players do not get distracted from their daily routine. arcknights is no exception and its mini-game is as addictive as any other roguelike game I’ve played on PC.
At the beginning of each run, you have a certain amount of Hope currency that you can spend on a set of characters that you have already rolled in a regular gacha. You are then presented with a flowchart of options: a regular combat card, a challenge card, or a random event. After a few main chapters, you’re forced to fight a boss fight with whatever ragtag team you’ve put together from your meager resources. And it can be cruel. The mod was originally released on Chinese servers, but appeared on the English version last week.
I thought I learned the game in a year. I went through some of the hardest stages in the story mode. I avoided the humiliation of how addicted I became to some of the most powerful characters like Thorns, Saria, and Chen Holungdey. If I only recruited characters that required a large amount of “deployment points” to use, my run might end before I could summon any of them. Mastering integrated strategy required me to relearn a game that I thought I knew inside and out. Even after I completed the entire run, I sometimes died during the first few stages because I was saving up resources for more valuable recruits.
Moreover, characters that are usually considered mediocre for normal gameplay become indispensable in Integrated Strategy. The passenger started so unimpressively that after the exit he turned into a meme. But he eventually became a GODsenger when people found out how valuable chaincasters were in a roguelike. Likewise, Jay constantly requires Deployment Points to stay on the battlefield and I felt there were better options for his role. Its cheapness and quick relocation has saved me on several maps that require killing multiple enemies early on.
I would either learn to use units of different rarity and characters with useless abilities, or succumb to the brutality of the roguelike mode. In most roguelikes, you can overcome the lack of resources if you are an experienced player. In a tower defense game like arcknights, the talent alone cannot overcome the limitations of not having snipers on a map with too many planes or too many shields when surrounded by unblockable enemies. But it’s also how I discovered some incredible strategies that I would never have thought of if I was playing with my most prized characters.
An integrated strategy is a constant mode that makes arcknights feel like a completely different game compared to its pre-update days.