Arcsmith for Oculus Quest 2 overview: Chilling out with some difficult engineering puzzles

Archer ratingSource: Michael Hicks / Android Central

Most of the best VR puzzle games go in one of two directions: either they are story-driven adventures that add puzzles to call themselves “games” rather than walking Sims, or tricky puzzles with no story whatsoever. Arcsmith tries to balance between the two categories – scientific trial-and-error gameplay mixed with story beats – and mostly manages.

Arcsmith was developed by Bithell Games (Thomas Was Alone, John Wick Hex) and makes you an apprentice to the world-weary master mechanic (or arc smith) Korith Dinn on a remote space station. As you build life-saving devices for space travelers fleeing a war, you and Korith are involuntarily drawn into the conflict.

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That is the premise behind the real appeal of this game: its brain-wrenching technical puzzles. With every new assigned schematic I had to build, I hit a logical wall and made mistake after mistake – until something clicked in my head and the way forward became clear. After finishing the confusing tutorial and mastering the controls, I found Arcsmith to be one of the most satisfying VR puzzlers I’ve ever played – even if it wasn’t a perfect experience.

Archer logo


Bottom line: Build futuristic devices that properly balance electricity and heat (and hopefully look good doing it). Becoming a masterful archer to a snazzy soundtrack cheered on by friendly NPCs alternates between frustratingly difficult and (once you break through and come up with solutions) extremely satisfying. It’s one of my favorite puzzle games of the year.

The good

  • Wide range of design challenges and components
  • Natural difficulty curve
  • Charming characters
  • Boppin ‘Electronica soundtrack
  • Sandbox post-game mode

The bad

  • Some mechanical breakdowns
  • Difficult to master at first

Arcsmith Review:

I’m (not) too old for this sh% t

Arcsmith: what hurt my brain (in a good way)

Archer rating

Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central

The core of any mechanical puzzle is simple addition and subtraction. To build a working antimatter holder, spore incubator, or any other science fiction machine, you need to make sure that the required power gets right to its core without overheating the device. If you turn your creation on with too much juice or heat, the cluttered part will break off and you’ll have to try a new configuration.

You can slide in the Lego-like block components however you like, as long as the math is checked; There is not a “right” solution or design for every project. However, the game will rate you based on the number of parts used, specifically the number of heat blocking radiators – so simplicity is the goal.

As the process progresses, certain components must point in certain directions, such as upward-facing sunlight-absorbing panels or light emitters that are built at an angle to point to another component. Symmetry and balance are just as important as logic. And the more power a project requires, the harder it is to suppress heat dissipation without making the design a misshapen mess.

Archer rating

Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central

I love puzzle games, but many of them require logical jumps, random guesswork, or give up and come up with a walkthrough. Arcsmith is rightly difficult, especially when you learn the basic electrical engineering behind every puzzle. But basically every machine design makes sense so that you can always find the solution with perseverance.

Every Arcsmith puzzle has an internal logic that feels satisfactory.

Arcsmith has an old fashioned VR game design where you stay in one place instead of moving. Some will find this limiting; I found it relaxing so that I could focus on the puzzles. The game ensures that everything you need is within easy reach and controls are intuitive.

I also appreciated that the game never reprimanded, rushed, or punished me for making mistakes over and over again. There are no statistics for the number of failed attempts. You keep going until you have perfected your design.

Archer rating

Source: Bithell Games

Listening to the otherworldly soundtrack left me with the most difficult puzzles and kept me focused.

After each puzzle, you’ll be rewarded with a few minutes of discussion with your boss Korith Dinn and his gracious (but succinct) robot assistant Toolie, as well as some occasional radio news. The in-game voice acting is top notch and invests me in a fairly simple story about an evil galactic order battling an independent fleet, plus Korith’s reluctant mentor with a mysterious backstory.

The Arcsmith soundtrack (which you can listen to on Bandcamp) is superb. It has a variety of subtle electronica and hip-hop beats, most with foreign language singing for a world-forming atmosphere. They helped me stay calm and focused on the toughest designs. I wish there was an in-game skip button for tracks I don’t like, but that wouldn’t match the premise of the radio broadcast.

With enough puzzles to give the game a decent length, as well as a post-game sandbox mode, Arcsmith is definitely worth buying if you like a challenge.

Not a game for everyone

Arcsmith: What gave me a headache (in a bad way)

Archer rating

Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central

I found the first three construction tasks challenging to the point of frustration. The in-game tutorials will tell you what to do, but after you continue with the main game you will no longer be able to read through the old tutorial text to see how things work. While I do appreciate the tutorials, some people will not like the text-heavy game compared to others who are more self-explanatory.

Arcsmith has a steep learning curve and can put off impatient gamers.

To test that your device is working, you need to turn on the power, quickly pick up your tablet in the game, and point it at specific parts to see the power and heat levels. In my experience, you typically had about ten to twenty seconds to examine it before it overheated, which wasn’t always enough to diagnose a problem. While you’re still trying to understand how parts work, it can get pretty frustrating.

Simply put, if you choose Arcsmith, push the opening pieces through. It will get better over time, but it will take some patience. Younger children probably wouldn’t have it easy unless they are playing on your television and you help them.

Archer rating

Source: Bithell Games

Putting pieces together takes more effort than it should. When they work properly, they snap together quickly. Sometimes pieces would lock crookedly and then fall off or refuse to come together until I dropped them, picked them up, and tried again from a different angle. As the designs became more complicated and the parts had to be attached to a specific port in order to function, the delay in attachment became increasingly tiresome. I hope the developers can patch this somehow.

Aside from the mechanics, I mentioned earlier that according to the numbers, the story of the game plays out normally. Maybe my expectations were too high because I loved Thomas Was Alone so much, but the story didn’t grab me as much as the puzzles. And the puzzles mostly feel separate from the story; For example, I wanted more moments when I could see a satisfied customer.

Arcsmith: Is It Right For Your Brain?

Archer rating

Source: Bithell Games

Unlike more experiential puzzle games like Myst and Sam & Max, Arcsmith roots you at a desk and keeps your mind on your engineering education. There is a plot, but as a silent protagonist you can’t really participate in it. Not everyone will enjoy this type of game.

Still, Arcsmith has a lot to offer for puzzle game fans looking for a change. Instead of pointing and clicking at your surroundings or combining random objects until something sticks, you have to master the rules of the world, with the game clearly indicating if you are getting closer to your goal. Ever since I started playing, I’ve had the urge to build increasingly complex machines and I can’t wait to dive back in.

of 5

Despite some rough edges, Arcsmith is one of my favorite VR experiences of the year, and I hope the developers add more DLC after the game to create new inventions.

Archer logo


Bottom line: On your first day as an archery smith, you and your reluctant mentor will help craft much-needed tools for refugees fleeing an interstellar conflict – and discover that war is upon you. This puzzle game gives you hours of mechanical tests, each of which continues to grow in challenges until you are ready to make it all.

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