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June 2023

Arc of Alchemist

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Release Date: Jan. 30, 2020 (US), Jan. 31, 2020 (EU)

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


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PS4 Review - 'Arc of Alchemist'

by Joseph Doyle on April 16, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Arc of Alchemist is an RPG where you Search through an endless desert in hopes to save the future of mankind...

Let's face it: Humanity is going to die someday. Whether it's from global warming, the heat death of the universe, or a superior alien race wiping us off the cosmic map, we must recognize the inevitability and work against it in the best, most productive way. What if we do everything right, and it still doesn't work out? Arc of Alchemist focuses on a group of military adventurers aimed at combing through society's remains in the hopes of finding the elusive Great Power and figuring out why Earth's civilization died en masse. Additionally, they must deal with a warring faction, fight mutated beasts and automatons, and contend with the usual anime friend-group hijinks. Compile Heart/Idea Factory International delivers an incredibly solid gaming experience in Arc of Alchemist, which is equal parts musou and JRPG with a touch of city builder. It's lacking in originality and controls, but it makes up for it with a charming narrative and enjoyable gameplay mechanics.

While the main narrative is simple, the mini character arcs add some fun and allow the player to invest more in them and enjoy the game that much more. Quinn leads her loyal team as it explores the ruins and desert of the dead planet in search of the Great Power. Our team consists of seven different characters (all playable, but I'll get to that later), each with a rigid stereotype that plays out in two very different but fun ways. For example, near the beginning of the game, we see Quinn instilling hope and determination within the team by pledging that she'll keep them safe and reassuring them that they're meant to be there. You reach the first save point, where you learn that Quinn has to perform at a talent show and becomes flustered because she doesn't know what to perform. This leads to a series of hilarious cut scenes where she tries to rap, imitate, and figure out other performance possibilities. This can come off as cloying, but I don't know what you should expect from a game that features a cast with a majority of chibi anime girls.

Gameplay in Arc of Alchemist is rather basic but ultimately fulfilling. Wandering through the wastes, the majority of your time is taken up bashing the hell out of the fauna and automata erupting from the planet. Your chosen trio of fighters cast, jab and slash through static and stagnant enemies. While playing, these packs of enemies will spawn in, and if you're playing as Quinn, you can smash the two action buttons until they die. If you're playing as the other characters, they can take too long to attack or simply don't have the power necessary to manage the enemies, so being able to switch characters is kind of a moot point. The game controls well, but it can feel a little chunky at times, like playing a PSP port on a current-generation console. (My fellow dorks, think about playing Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep on the PlayStation 4.)

The base-building aspect of the game makes this whole experience a little more interesting; it's accessible via the save crystals that you find throughout the dead planet. It's exciting to tap into the Ni No Kuni spirit by investing in different types of buildings with currency and items that you picked up throughout the game. By investing in these buildings, you can build a certain number of them on your base, and their level is based on their position relative to other types of buildings. For example, putting a certain type of weapons building next to a manufacturing building may give them both a boost, resulting in a leveling up of both buildings; this allows you to buy more powerful weapons and more powerful accessories, as opposed to just one or the other. This makes the game more intriguing in your hunt for the Great Power as well as the search for new resources and things to sell for more powerful items. Of course, since this is an RPG, you can boost your characters' stats in many different ways, organize things as you'd like, and plan out the positioning and attack patterns of everyone in your party. The title may not have the most in-depth aspects of either the combat or city-building aspects, but everything functions relatively well and is entertaining.

Aesthetically, Arc of Alchemist doesn't bring a lot to the table. The aforementioned chibi design of all the characters is a twist that adds a lot of fun. The character designs are distinct, and they even have different outfits, but none of them are particularly memorable. You could switch Quinn (the main character, essentially) with any other party member in terms of design quality. The enemies don't seem particularly inspired, just a series of generic animals and tanks. The world isn't well modeled either, boasting the rigidity and assets of a late PS2 or early PS3 game, perhaps even a title from the PSP — pretty disappointing for a game this late in the generation cycle. While nothing is out of place visually, the game offers a different type of character model than most other games, but that's pretty much it.

The music in Arc of Alchemist is incredibly varied and bolsters what's going on during gameplay and cut scenes. One of the biggest and perhaps most distracting aspects of the music is the almost certainly MIDI-controlled instruments. While it works in most of the pieces, it can come off as chunky in certain tracks, where the strict timing of notes doesn't work to its benefit. For the most part, the music creates the mystery and intrigue of discovering and sifting through a dead society. The rest of the soundtrack bounces from electro-metal to orchestral pieces, with heavy rhythms and bright, metallic melodies throughout. The whiplash is palpable, pivoting from a cerebral loading screen song to a tune that sounds ripped from a slice-of-life anime.

At the end of the day, Arc of Alchemist delivers a decent gaming experience. The characters' personalities are fun, and their antics are worthy spectacles. The building mechanics are a fun respite from the otherwise ho-hum aspects of the game. Those who are interested in the genre may find this to be worth their time, but the music, art, and significant chunks of the gameplay are too blasé to talk up.

Score: 6.5/10

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