Developers: Compile Heart, Idea Factory
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $39.99 USD – Available Here $89.95 AUD – Available Here
Every so often a developer wants to try out something a little different and Idea Factory has been known to take some big swings when it comes to developing their RPGs. Some of these risks have led to great successes and popular long running franchises while others have simply been misses that are left forgotten. Arc of Alchemist sees the developer take another risk and try out a hack and slash style RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world but was this one that was worth taking?
The Earth is something that many people take for granted and that is the truth even in a fantasy realm as the Earth in Arc of Alchemist, once called the “Planet of Water,” has now suffered from mankind’s machinations as countless wars and overuse have led to the desertification of the planet with nearly all of humanity wiped out or living in small societies that are struggling to survive with dwindling resources in an ever growing desert planet. With resources scarce and dangerous beasts roaming the land alongside rogue machines that remain active from past wars, humanity’s last days are in sight unless some type of salvation can be found.
As such the king has sent out a large scale team into the Desert of Beginnings, a danger filled land where the “Great Power” is said to reside. leading the investigation team is Quinn Bravesford, a skilled soldier and tactician that knows just what type of weight has been placed on her shoulders and those of her team. Equipped with the Lunagear, an ancient device capable of wielding the four elements, Quinn and her team must find this great power even if many think that it is simply a legend.
Almost immediately out of the gate Arc of Alchemist struggles to find its own path. The setting, while fairly generic as far as a post-apocalyptic struggle goes, is established well enough with a solid amount of lore going into detailing just how the world became like it is. Once again though, this is as far as it goes as the story really doesn’t get fleshed out too much more beyond that and unfortunately part of this problem also lies with the characters themselves. Rather than try to introduce the cast to players at a slow burn Arc of Alchemist immediately provides players with Quinn and a number of playable characters that start out as part of her squad.
Eventually more characters do join but their storylines are unfortunately told in an incredibly poor manner as they are only focused on whenever the player returns back to their “HQ.” Returning to HQ to replenish supplies or save can often lead to a number of short scenes triggering to detail a character’s past or try to flesh them out a bit and while occasionally these scenes do end up feeling a bit emotional or humorous depending on the focus at the time, many of them fall incredibly flat. This is also problematic simply due to how forced a few can end up feeling, especially if the player doesn’t return to HQ often enough to space out these events, leading to some rather lengthy sequences that often don’t feel worth the time of day even for some of the better written characters in the group.
As mentioned before, Arc of Alchemist is something a bit different from Idea Factory as the game is a more mechanically simplistic but speedy hack and slash RPG that relies upon fairly basic combos to take down foes and explore. Players are given two different types of attack depending on the weapon type, and occasionally on the weapon itself, that generally range from being a long and close range attack or buffs and healing for the team, while also being able to dodge incoming attacks with a finicky rolling system. While fighting Quinn and her party also build up a super meter that allows for them to unleash a special attack or buff and thankfully this meter carries over between battles.
This is primarily due to the fact that fights in Arc of Alchemist fall into two categories as they either are battles that see the player’s three person party completely dust their foes with little challenge or longer drawn out battles that only come about due to the player being underleveled for that specific enemy. This leaves quite a bit to be desired as there is really very little middleground here especially since most battles that do end up being a challenge are, as mentioned before, only because the player explored an area far too above their level or because of a special “gimmick” that the player hasn’t learned to use yet. It is nice to note that players are given the option to play as any of the playable characters in the game and can even form a party that doesn’t even have the main character Quinn in it should they desire but given her versatility she fits nearly any role the player may need for their preferred party.
Players will find that the Lunagear is the most versatile tool in the game both in and outside of combat as the staff has a limited number of uses per expedition in the field but can deal massive amounts of damage to a foe if used properly. Outside of combat the Lunagear plays into the aforementioned “gimmicks” that are scattered throughout the open world. These range from being overgrown paths or frozen areas that require a fireball to destroy or a blast of water to put out a fire that may be blocking the player’s path. These gimmicks are simple puzzles that are generally easy to solve, though the earth manipulation can be a bit too rough at times given the game’s floaty jumping mechanics, but help break up the standard flow of exploration in a nice manner. That being said, be ready for some disappointment as often extensive side exploration and even some gimmicks simply lead to nothing of worth, which is something that can be a bit of a problem in an open world exploration game such as Arc of Alchemist.
While exploring the field players will occasionally find various gathering points that have special items that can be used back at HQ or locate a treasure chest but for the most part the only thing exploration unveils are more enemies to take down. Speaking of the HQ, this is where players will spend their time upgrading their characters, purchasing items and equipment, and even building up their base of operations to provide special bonuses. This base building mechanic is fairly simple to understand and adds a number of unique little bonuses to the party, as well as access to better items, if used properly but be prepared for a few of these mechanics to fall by the wayside a bit as some elements require an extensive amount of unnecessary grinding.
Visuals & Audio
Arc of Alchemist finds itself in a bit of an odd predicament when it comes to presentation given the fact that the majority of the game is meant to take place in various desert locations. The overall design of these areas fit the theme but also fall into the same issues that the open world mechanics do by being incredibly empty or barren looking in nature and even if players take a closer look at some areas, the textures on many parts of the map are flat out ugly which is rather surprising given the game was developed for the PlayStation 4. The actual character models for the Quinn and the party are nicely designed, albeit a bit on the chibi side, and the quickness of combat allows for fights to flow smoothly which is a nice touch though be prepared to face off against many similar looking enemies throughout the game.
Idea Factory International has released the game with only the original Japanese voice work accompanied by English subtitles and, unfortunately, a lot of the infield dialogue when using skills or finishing combat is left unsubbed. Surprisingly Arc of Alchemist does feature a rather outstanding soundtrack as not only does it feature some great action music to fight to but also quite a lot of variety in general as there is a collective mix of somber, pop, and heavy action music that fits a wide variety of scenes.
Arc of Alchemist was a different risk for Idea Factory to take and it shows. There are hints of something more here and this leads to Arc of Alchemist being a decent enough experience but one that is plagued with a number of issues. Between an interesting storyline that features lackluster characters and some solid gameplay mechanics that quickly begin to feel repetitive, Arc of Alchemist easily could have been something more but in the end this RPG is one that doesn’t deliver on its potential and instead becomes a middling hack and slash with an interesting premise.