Arknights is a beautiful tactical tower defense RPG developed by Hypergryph and published Globally by Yostar. The game launched in China in 2019, with the rest of the world gaining access in 2020.
Arknights has been met with repeated success and critical acclaim since its release, Silver Daddy is partly responsible for this – remaining one of the 10 highest grossing most played Gacha games around the world year after year, going as far as spawning an Anime adaptation.
But is Arknights really worthy of its crown as the best strategy RPG on mobile? That’s what we’re here today to find out.

I’m currently level 117 as of recording this video. I’ve played this game every single day since January 2022, have completed almost every single encounter the game has to offer, and have probably spent over a thousand dollars since I began my journey in the world of Terra.
Mostly for the Waifu’s. Like the adorable Eyja, the monstrous Surtr, heck, even Silver Daddy and his more OP counterpart Dave. Yes, that’s how you spell Dave in Alien cat man.

Arknights is a beautiful game. It’s not open-world, you can’t really take control of and explore the various environments that populate Terra. That doesn’t make them any less stunning to look at, though.
Such as the collab with Monster Hunter’s rocky forests, snowy tundras, futuristic cities, coastal beaches, heck, we even explore a set of haunted ships with one of the most frustrating mechanics ever introduced into a video game.
The devs took the time to craft a stunning world that has continued to get progressively more detailed, not only the further you get in the game, but also with every side story you participate in. Which is where the game truly shines in diversity and storytelling.

If there’s one area of contention the community is typically divided on, it’s the story. Arknights has a very lengthy storyline with a lot of text. And for the most part – with small exceptions, it isn’t voiced over.
The story is deep and complex, telling the story of numerous characters over many Episodes. And while mostly interesting, I can say, being fully up to date with the game, that Arknights’ narrative is not without its flaws.
Like all games, there are definitely lull-points. Parts you skip or gloss over because you don’t care about specific characters or even the current story. It happens. The story definitely has moments where it feels a little convoluted, and they could’ve effortlessly condensed various story points without the game suffering.

Hey, hey you in the back. I can already see you typing up a paragraph on why the entire story is infallible and every line of text was crafted to perfection. Relax, it’s just an opinion.

But overall, I’ve enjoyed the majority of what I’ve played. The story continues to improve the longer you play through it, which tends to happen with most RPGs. You can’t really judge a story after sitting through the tutorial of a game.
I do genuinely wish it was fully voice acted though. Massive missed opportunity. Maybe in the future they’ll invest in voicing the story.
Thankfully, given there are 11 Episodes at present and dozens of side stories to play through you’re going to be preoccupied for quite a few months. You’ll almost never run out of things to do. 

While there is an extensive number of Episodes, and you can drain through your Stamina quite rapidly by merely playing the main story, there are equally as many if not more side-activities to partake of, extending the life of the game numerous times over, setting Arknights apart from a lot of its competition.
Often I’ll find myself running into an issue where there’s rarely any incentive to continue playing through a game. Most Gacha games I’ve played I’ve finished in a few weeks. There are notable exceptions to this – Genshin, Blue Archive, Azur Lane and a few others.
But Arknights presents you with more side-content than you’ll probably ever really know what to do with. Sure, you could log in once per day, drain your Stamina grinding some resources, doing the Annihilation Simulation for your weekly 1800 Orundum merely fulfilling the objectives for Missions. But you’d be severely missing out.

Arknights doesn’t feature major patches in the way that Genshin, Honkai Star Rail or Tower of Fantasy does, with each incremental value bringing a slew of content, potential region, story and characters to pull for. Rather, Arknights has events running at pretty much every point of the month.
More often than not, you’ll either get reruns of events that you might have missed, or they’ll be added as a side-story, allowing you to slowly progress through them one by one until you’ve completed them all and obtained their respective rewards.
Side-stories are where I believe the game truly shines. Sure, the main story is fun, sad, and kinda fucked up at times. But the side-stories are mostly light-hearted, filled with very diverse scenery, and typically tend to feature exclusive mechanics.
There was an event that allowed you to deploy vehicles with special passives, knocking enemies back, stunning them. There’s an event that takes place on the ocean and has enemies ride jet skis to attempt to board your vessel.
There’s one where you’re in a prison and need to make sure to leave the lights on. And not drop the soap. I think poor Dave spent a little time there. He has that look in his eyes, y’know?
Then there’s the Interlude – another set of side-stories that are more main-story than the other side-stories but also more side-story than the main-story. These also feature unique mechanics – like Stultifera Navis, arguably the most enraging event for me other than Who is Real.

You can burn through your Stamina if you need something to waste it on via the Supplies area of the game, grinding upgrade materials for operators – which I’ll touch on in a little bit, money, XP items and other useful resources.
There’s the Annihilation Operation, which is a number of maps each with their own theme and selection of enemies, where you are required to defeat 400 enemies – that attack you in waves, rewarding you with Orundum upon each completion, being capped at 1800 per week.
Admittedly I still haven’t gotten perfect scores for every one of these but some of them just feel impossible.

There’s the Stationary Security Service which is kind of like a deck building card game, with players building in essence, a deck of operators and clearing sequential operations with them.
The Training Grounds provides endless opportunities to make the game infinitely more difficult by inhibiting your own operators and increasing the power of enemies, rewarding you with a currency to purchase a number of useful items or outfits from the Trade Center. This is a masochists’ wet dream. Thankfully it doesn’t cost stamina to engage enemies.
Then there’s the Integrated Strategies feature, which is admittedly something I haven’t dabbled in all that much because it’s just not a game mode I really enjoy.
It’s a rogue-like game mode where you build up a team using recruit permits, strengthened by relics you acquire over the course of your playthrough, navigating through numerous possible paths, resulting in enemy encounters.
I wasn’t a fan of the RNG elements present and therefore never truly delved as deeply into it as I should have but there are always going to be aspects of games we don’t enjoy. I prefer using my own operators and having direct control over how they synergize with one another to the randomness of a game mode like this.

All of these game modes are held very firmly together through the implementation of what is arguably the best tower defense combat system in the genre. You might argue Path to Nowhere is comparable – and it definitely is, but I think the diversity Arknights provides leaves it as the Genshin of the tactical genre.
Combat is both very basic, and very complicated. The bulk of the game takes place in combat, which involves deploying a set number of operators on to a grid-based battlefield.
Operators consist of 8 distinct class archetypes: Casters, Defenders, Guards, Medics, Snipers, Specialists, Supporters, and Vanguards. Each archetype has its strengths, weaknesses, purposes and available deployment positions.
As an example, Casters utilize Arts damage, and can only be placed on upper tiles, along with Snipers and Medics. Defenders are tanks that are deployed on lower tiles and are essentially meat shields. And most importantly, Vanguards, who are melee operators that generate DP – Deployment Points, which dictate when you can place an operator down.
Specialists feature both ranged and melee operators and thus allow you to place different Specialist operators on different tile types. They also have unique abilities, like pushing and pulling enemies. Every class archetype serves its purpose, and knowing who synergizes with whom, and what works better with what is integral to your long-term success.
And then there are operators like Surtr or Dave, who you place down, leave for a few seconds, and when their ability is ready to be activated, you merely click, and watch every enemy in the immediate area end up eviscerated.

Once deployed on to a tile of your choice, operators automatically attack enemies they come into contact with after entering their range.
Some operators like Ifrit can hit enemies in a vertical line 5 spaces ahead of her, others like Silver Daddy can hit both in front and to his side. And then you have operators like Eyja who when using her Volcano ability hits enemies all around her.
Creating the perfect team is impossible. There are just so many mechanics that require certain operators or abilities to successfully bypass that you’re going to need to focus on keeping a relatively diverse roster of Husbando’s and Waifu’s ready to deploy at a moments notice.
And Reed. Not only is she absolutely adorable Waifu-material, but she’s also an OP DPS-healer that every player needs in their squad.

Speaking of Husbando’s and Waifu’s, there are a lot of them. And I’ve obtained so many that I genuinely don’t have the resources to fully upgrade them all. Or even level them.
Operators in Arknights have levels, with each level increasing their strength. After reaching a certain level, you can promote them, increasing their maximum level cap, and allowing for them to reach even greater power.
Higher rarity operators have larger caps and more promotion options, with 4* operators being capped at level 70, 5* at level 80 and 6* at level 90. This does of course mean that logically, level 90 6* operators will likely always be superior to 5* and below, unless you’re Lappland of course.
There is no traditional gear system present in Arknights, meaning the only way to upgrade operators is through leveling them, promoting them, unlocking their Potential – which is what you use duplicate tokens on – that you get through the Gacha system, increasing the level of their abilities, or equipping them with more powerful Modules.
Which I believe are still slowly being rolled out, as my Ifrit just got hers yesterday.
Arknights has some incredible characters and character models, although when engaged in battle they are deployed in chibi form, which isn’t something everyone is into, and I totally get that. Thankfully I’m a fan of both styles, so this doesn’t directly affect my enjoyment of the game.

Obtaining Husbando’s and Waifu’s – which is probably the most important part of every Gacha game, is honestly not bad. At roughly 2 points in the day you can pull for 4 new operators – at the cost of a recruitment voucher. Or you can use premium purchased currency or premium currency earned in-game to pull via the Gacha system.
Rates are pretty free to play friendly – you’re guaranteed a 5* minimum hero for every 10-pull on a new banner, with 6* operators having a 2% chance of acquisition.
Hard pity is also guaranteed to give you a max rarity 6* operator at the 99th pull, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever reach that point as chances of obtaining a 6* operator increase with every failed pull after your 50th.

Operators can be deployed into numerous buildings in your Base. The Factory, Trading Post, Power Plant. You can place them in Dormitories, the Workshop, Training Room or Reception Room.
Each building has their own purpose, ranging from upgrading skills beyond their basic limitations, to crafting unique materials that are difficult – or at times impossible to obtain otherwise. Or merely just as a means to generate resources.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for resources, you could also opt to use the Store – Credit Store, which you can use daily with accumulated Credit, the Furniture Store if you wanna decorate your Dorms, Certificates for operators, leveling items, Orundum, and other resources.

The soundtrack for Arknights is phenomenal. Absolutely incredible. This is proven during stages, this is proven in trailers released on to Youtube, this is proven during event cinematics. The sound department have gone above and beyond and created perfection.
The voice acting present – which unfortunately is not designated for the story is also surprisingly good – in Japanese, and even some of the voices in English. I love the live2D models that are used for many of the characters as well.

Overall, Arknights is probably in the best state right now that it has ever been in.

I know I’ve spoken almost nothing but positives – but that’s because at the end of the day, there’s so very little wrong with Arknights. Yes it’s not an open-world RPG, but not every game needs to be.
In terms of tactical gameplay, Arknights doesn’t disappoint. It has a good story – although a bit drawn out at times, some great music and characters that only lift the story up.
There is engaging combat that requires you be aware of enemy types and how your operators synergize with one another. Friendly-ish Gacha. A gargantuan number of things to do.
And it continues to make anywhere from $8-$20 million dollars combining Global and China every single month, making it one of the most played, highest grossing Gacha games in the world.

If all of that isn’t a reason to download and play the game, I don’t know what is. The only thing that could make this better was if they released a PC client, like NIKKE and Punishing Gray Raven did. That’d open the game up to another large market of players.

Is Arknights worth playing in 2023? Yes and no. To some people, definitely. To others, not a chance. Don’t let people tell you whether something is or isn’t worth playing. Go download and try it out for yourself. My tastes won’t align with everyone’s and probably differ to certain extents from your own.