A hero’s story takes surprising twists and turns. Will the hero be vengeful or forgiving? Will the hero push toward change or prefer to maintain the status quo? Will the hero find friendship during their journey, or even potential romance? In fantasy visual novel Arcadia Fallen, you decide how your hero’s story ultimately plays out. The game touts no right or wrong answers to the many decision points throughout it. There’s no fear of receiving a bad ending either, only different ways to reach an outcome depending on how you approach and respond to various scenarios. The end result is an enjoyable and rather touching, albeit sometimes flawed, experience.
Arcadia Fallen has you stepping into the role of Morgan, though you can change their name if you so choose. Morgan is the apprentice to a skilled alchemist in the relatively sleepy mining town of Anemone Valley, located within the Empire, where magic and spirits exist but are often treated with fear and suspicion. As the story begins, Morgan inadvertently becomes bound to a cheerful spirit named Mime after a disturbing series of events reveals the beginning of a demon infestation in town: two wind up possessing the only means to seal the malevolent spirits away. Together with a small group of misfits from all walks of life within the Empire and beyond, Morgan and Mime must figure out the reason behind the demons’ sudden appearance and hopefully save Anemone Valley and the larger world in the process.
As if to emphasize the strong degree of choice you have, Arcadia Fallen begins with a simple yet surprisingly detailed character creation process. You can change Morgan’s name, pick between three body types (feminine, androgynous, and masculine), change their hair and clothing colors, select pronouns for Morgan, and choose between two very distinct-sounding voices. I was impressed by the choices presented for the character creation, especially the pronouns! Once you finish the process of tailoring Morgan to your preferences, the story begins in earnest.
Arcadia Fallen is very much a traditional visual novel at its core. You travel to different areas in and around Anemone Valley via map. More often than not, story scenes play out with still character art against colorful backdrops. On occasion, you decide how Morgan should react to something or how to advance the plot. I was honestly quite impressed with the sheer volume of choice given to the player throughout the game. It is a relatively short interim between decision points instead of wading through loads and loads of text before reaching them.
Decisions are set up with a personality system in mind too. For instance, Morgan can react to a certain event shyly, with determination, by joking, or with annoyance. You’re never pigeon-holed into one specific reaction type in a situation, as I often found myself flitting between shy, kind, or determined reactions with the occasional joking or diplomatic comment thrown in for good measure. Considering how multi-faceted people actually are, I felt this helped shape Morgan into a much more believable character. I also greatly appreciate that there are no penalties for decision choices in terms of plot advancement.
Even the potential romances play out similarly. Morgan can choose a “romance” flagged response for four of their friends, opening new dialogue choices with dialogue options fitting the different personality types presented in the game. Again, there is no “wrong” way to approach a romance, just different ways to develop it. Because my Morgan was on the shyer side, I often went with more bashful or timid responses for their romance with Kaidan alongside more encouraging ones given his plot. I found the end result to be quite sweet once things progressed more! Overall, I thought the level of detail and intricacy in dialogue decisions was nicely done and well-implemented.
Still, while Arcadia Fallen does try to present a grander scale for its story, I found this presentation was slightly lacking. The narrative beats are all there, among impressive world-building notes thrown into story exposition quite often to help set the stage. However, because the game takes place solely in Anemone Valley, there is a bit of a disconnect from the larger picture as a whole. You become more invested in the stories of the town and the characters within than the machinations of an Empire that seems far removed from immediate events. It isn’t a bad approach to the story, as it made the plot feel more personable, but I’d often miss the complete scale of the fantasy setting Arcadia Fallen takes place in.
As much as I enjoyed the story and especially the characters that inhabited the game’s world, Arcadia Fallen isn’t without faults when it comes to plot progression. There are times when the story does seem to hit a snag and falters for a bit, feeling as though it drags on before hitting its stride once again. The most noticeable of these instances occurs close to the very end, almost taking you out of the plot entirely as it happens. Fortunately, I’d say the story largely recovers from it once you overcome that particular hurdle, but it could be a close thing for some gamers, and it is a shame that it wasn’t quite as smooth sailing from a plot progression stance as it could’ve been.
The characters and their personal development are the true heart and soul of the title. Not only do players get a strong sense of Morgan through shaping many of their decisions and responses, but their companions are incredibly memorable too. Mime is an innocent sweetheart who just wants to help after the mishap that bound her to Morgan, and she becomes quite endearing the more the story progresses. Victoria is a knight originally tasked with keeping an eye on Mime but ultimately gets saddled with investigating the demon infestation as well, albeit begrudgingly given her suspicions towards magic. Ann is a Tinker Mage who grew up in one of the magic academies of the Empire who aims to become a professor so she can continue to remain sheltered within its walls and not have to deal with the harshness of the outside world. Michael is a “chaotic mage” who never had proper training at an academy and wishes to expose the hypocrisy of the Empire and its sordid history. Kaidan is an Outlander (a people who live underground and are imbued with magic that causes their emotions to be visible on their skin in the form of glowing marks) who traveled to Anemone Valley in the hopes of preventing the demon outbreak.
These five people, disparate and exceedingly different from one another as they are, become Morgan’s steadfast companions. Depending on how much time you spend with each one of them and what decisions Morgan helps them make about their own backstories and motivations, they will all develop in interesting ways that shape their full stories and individual scenes, such as a rather poignant one between Michael and Victoria. The game also does a great job providing ambient conversations that reflect story events and character growth between the five companions whenever you visit the map.
Morgan’s teacher Elizabeth is quite the fascinating character as well, with her own detailed backstory that you learn about through advancing the plot and filling out your recipe notebook for alchemical potions. Quinn the Nature Mage is another stalwart ally. I especially liked their friendship with Ann, how they just wanted to help in general, and the teacher bond they later develop with young Kim. Kim and his older brother Ronan are also key figures in the plot whose fates are tied directly with how the player-as-Morgan decides to approach things, and I felt that the sibling bond between the two was heartfelt and touching the more you saw of it.
I was greatly impressed with the LGBT+ representation throughout Arcadia Fallen. Not only can you choose to play Morgan as non-binary, but all four romance options are open to players regardless of the choices you made in character creation and are written exceedingly well. Quinn is also an incredibly prominent character in the plot who happens to be non-binary, and there is even a romance between two older female characters that is quite believably handled. The positive representation throughout the game was something to behold, and I can only hope to see more games that do the same.
Beyond the story progression and decisions in the game, there are occasional puzzle portions centered around alchemy where Morgan has to match patterns together in order to create an item or cast a special spell. For the most part, I thought these puzzles were nice additions, though I think the item creation process is a bit on the simple side compared to, say, an Atelier game. There was one puzzle that took me a lot longer than I care to admit where I just couldn’t find the right pattern and ended up sort of “shutting down” my brain until I randomly got it right. For the most part, they’re easy enough to figure out and are implemented well without being too frustrating. Be wary of volatile ingredients though, as I ended up having to restart a few recipe attempts due to the whole thing suddenly blowing up in my face!
Visually, I found Arcadia Fallen’s graphic style to be quite stunning and eye-catching. The art is bold and vibrant, with colorful backgrounds that seem to have a comic or manga influence. I also felt like I was viewing a more stylized animated series a lot of the time, which I found helped make it stand out. The character art is expressive and features various poses for all of the characters, which helped keep dialogue scenes from feeling completely static. Truth be told, the character designs kept making me feel like I was playing a The World Ends with You game in a fantasy setting. I quite enjoyed the energetic feeling of the art and graphic style overall!
The music was quite fitting for the game and the various emotions at play in scenes, and I especially loved the opening theme alongside its animation. Arcadia Fallen has a wealth of voice acting talent to its name as well, and overall I felt that the performances were spectacular. My only real complaint with the voice direction might be that I felt the voice actors often said their lines at an incredibly slow pace, as I often finished reading the text long before they got to the halfway point for a given line. The script was excellent with little error to it, though I did notice that if you happened to change Morgan’s name, the first letter of their new name would often be spelled without capitalization, which could get quite distracting and confusing whenever it occurred.
Arcadia Fallen is an immensely enjoyable visual novel for those who enjoy fantasy tales with quite a bit of character growth sprinkled throughout them. It isn’t a completely perfect experience, but I fondly remember the time I spent playing the game and I loved how the decision-making was implemented. Those looking for a choice-heavy and ultimately satisfying visual novel would do well to look into Arcadia Fallen, as the outcome of its hero’s journey can be quite memorable indeed.