Arcana of Paradise: The Tower Preview – A Fun, Atmospheric Roguelike with Emotional Twists


Have you ever dreamed of falling? Descending endlessly without destination or reason, the massive spire at the heart of Arcana of Paradise: The Tower offers a dreamlike setting—and the roguelike’s gameplay surprises will wake you in a cold sweat. Arcana of Paradise twists roguelike survival mechanics, with turn-based combat that emphasizes real-time decisions and strategies, and the use of an intricate deck system in which actions like spells and attacks are represented as cards. 

Straightforward, the story follows children surviving the tower and seeking its secrets. The dreamlike simplicity of Arcana of Paradise veils brilliant design decisions, in which a simple fireball spell can pose advantages and drawbacks at different moments in a battle. Fantastic music and character designs combine with the difficult decisions a player must make, inside and outside battle, to make Arcana of Paradise a game to look out for on its April 20 release on Nintendo Switch and PC.

An Enigmatic, Compelling World

The intro of Arcana of Paradise establishes that the children live on top of a tower and must enter its depths to forage for food. Further information on the tower, the world, and the playable characters makes things clear gradually and organically, as the player alternates between two storytelling settings: relaxed conversations and cutscenes atop the tower, and frenzied dialogue with enigmatic monsters within the tower’s depths.

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The gameplay loop balances storytelling, as affection points gained through adventuring open up new dialogues when the player returns to the tower’s top. The mysterious lore of the dungeon’s secrets pairs well with the concrete insight a player gains into the children’s personalities, as the game alternates between breathers atop the tower and forays into its underbelly. 

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A Combat System That Keeps You Thinking

Loosely turn-based, the battles that the player encounters throughout Arcana of Paradise involve the use of attack, defense, and spell cards drawn from each character’s personalized starting deck, and expanded by cards acquired from battles and side quest encounters. In the battle with demons and witches, a player may use as many cards as quickly as they wish from their deck collection.

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Enemies act independently of the player, and their actions have their own separate timer, represented by a filling circle. However, you can only hold four cards—burning through all forces the player to deal with a new hand, a lengthy process that creates a moment of vulnerability. And enemies will punish haphazard card usage, by guarding and countering sword strikes, or absorbing fire spells while charging their own magic.        

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The strong draw of the game mechanics of Arcana of Paradise: The Tower is the balance between simplicity and uncertainty. Attacks used by the player and the enemy appear straightforward— your cards list damage values and effects, while enemy attacks are described in simple words like “Bash” next to their charging attack circles.

Your swords do a certain amount of damage, while a drunkard demon will heal by drinking alcohol. But then the demon gets dead drunk on the alcohol and can’t act; your sword card is flipped upside down, and you try to attack with the hilt. The interactions between your attacks and the enemies’ moves reward critical thinking and astute players who realize that a flame attack will set the alcohol-drenched foe ablaze.

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The game poses interesting, unexpected deceptions, like a criminal monster whose attack text lies about when they will attack and counterattack. But malice lurks beneath a player’s own cards; enemies and random chance can flip your spell and attack cards, inverting their effects so that a medicinal herb turns poisonous.

This mechanic balances gameplay, disincentivizing card spam which might accidentally use a flipped attack, while playing into the theme of uncertainty and the potential for player’s moves and cards to pose as many drawbacks as benefits. A rare Giant card puts a player into a rampage, inflicting heavy damage on enemies—but these attacks will also target your allies and can decimate your own party’s hitpoints.

Unique Classes That Keep the Loop

Tackling the tricky battles of Arcana of Paradise: The Tower involves the use of a few main types of attack cards. Swordsmen alternate between a barrage of blades and the use of shields to repel enemy assaults. Timing a shield right before an enemy attack will reflect damage and stun the enemy, creating a satisfying gameplay loop in which a player must always be ready to switch between offense and defense to exploit enemy weaknesses. And Arcana of Paradise is about weaknesses as much as strengths—swordsmen will struggle to recover, lacking healing spells.

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Blending magic and physical damage, characters with divine seals can use fist-strike attacks to stun enemies and amplify damage. Lacking healing spells or shields, these glass cannons output massive damage but rely on useful card drops from enemies for their combos. The tricky character type works incredibly well with the RNG element of the roguelike, and a player will have a blast figuring out how to fit these oddball characters into different teams.

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Weakness is a theme of Arcana of Paradise: The Tower unknown to pure magic users, however. Healing spells keep their hit points high, so these characters are not glass cannons, but their damage is unparalleled. Attack spells can be connected together—multiple water spells create a larger whirlpool attack while adding in wind spells will multiply the number of water projectiles.

These benefits increase exponentially and are incredibly fun to use, prompting fast-paced deck shuffles, as a player frantically searches for one more spell to maximize their damage. But the incredible strength of spells seems to reduce the difficulty and complexity of the game’s battles.

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That being said, these statements on the classes are generalizations in a game that hates simplicity. Characters with unique starting cards and abilities can be tricky to effectively use. And, incredibly, character abilities work against you—one character will receive less healing, while another will at times refuse to use a magic card. Small touches like these really make the game world of Arcana of Paradise feel oppressive and uncertain while giving the compelling cast of characters unique quirks that work with their personalities. 

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Characters with Striking Backstories

The character design for the children’s cast is simple but striking, with art like watercolor paintings providing each character with personality but also a touch of the surreal. The writing plays to these two elements; fun and wholesome interactions between the characters give a sense of their very unique personalities. Yet at the same time, there are mysterious and bizarre aspects to the children, like a religious devotion to the tower which reminds the player that they are an intruder in this indecipherable world.

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The mysteries of the tower are unveiled through the various side quests and conversations available while descending its depths. Including helping a man cook meat, and discovering how to make a treasure chest feel less lonely. These chance encounters are not only critical for acquiring new cards and bread to feed the children but also encumber the player with misfortune cards, like a ruinous mask that, when drawn, forces another shuffle, with the potential to absolutely wreck a tower run.

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The eccentric characters met through these missions have a captivating melancholy, pressing the player to descend further in hopes of new meetings and lore. Certain characters have the cards required for particular side quests, adding replayability to a game whose mechanics will have you hooked. And upgrades to the tower, acquired over time, further strengthen the replayability.

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Each piece of Arcana of Paradise fits neatly within the game’s tone, intermingling hope, despair, and uncertainty, but the heart of this feeling comes from its standout soundtrack. A wide range of instruments sweeps the player across a variety of epic tunes, spanning heavenly chants reminiscent of Zelda music, and somber, haunting string compositions. There are fascinating shifts between the game’s various tracks, and within individual pieces of music, as well. Arcana of Paradise offers a world where you will always want to keep your eyes and ears open.

Arcana of Paradise Drags You into the Unknown

The full release of Arcana of Paradise: The Tower might solve the riddles of the tower or endlessly complicate them. Either way, this is a game that draws you in, with an oppressive and mysterious atmosphere woven through great characters, striking visual design reminiscent of a paper puppet show, and captivating writing and music.

Though the title draws similarities from roguelike deck-building games like Slay the Spire, Arcana of Paradise immerses the player in its own world through a theme of the unknown, woven beautifully into the lore and deceptively simple combat mechanics. The variety in the characters and gameplay makes this a title to look forward to, and I eagerly anticipate my further descents into the tower to uncover the secrets which developer Tasto Alpha has in store. 

Arcana of Paradise Preivew

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