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Alchemist Adventure

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Bad Minions
Release Date: Q1 2021


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Alchemist Adventure'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 5, 2020 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Alchemist Adventure is an action-adventure game with RPG elements set in the mysterious fantasy world filled with the wonders of alchemy.

Alchemy isn't a well-worn subject for games, but it's a familiar one, as several titles have featured alchemists. Aside from the long-running Atelier series from Tecmo Koei, very few ask players to take on that vocation as a primary role. Alchemist Adventure does just that, and we checked it out on Steam Early Access.

In Alchemist Adventure, you play the role of Mya, a budding alchemist who suffers from the often-used game trope of amnesia. Waking up in a cave, she slowly rebuilds her knowledge of the forbidden art, and she starts the process of rebuilding her memory as she embarks on a quest to find her family. For story lovers, this will be the first issue they'll have with the game in its current state: the only way to understand the premise is to peruse the game's Steam page. Within the title, everything is told so disjointedly that the cut scenes lack impact, since you don't know what's going on and things seem to happen out of the blue. To be fair, the game is in Early Access, so it isn't worth raising an alarm yet, but those interested in picking it up now should be aware.

The core combat system will be familiar to those who play lots of dungeon crawlers. Once you find your sword, you'll walk up to creatures and slash them with abandon. You can roll out of the way to get out of mobs, but you have to do it in a staggered manner, since that ability is tied to your stamina, which refills at a decent rate. Your alchemy spells start off with bombs and sword element buffs, and while the latter is instant, you can slow down the action when deploying bombs. Once you leave the cave, you also have a homunculus following you, and like all pets in dungeon-crawlers, they try to help out during battles, especially if you feed them elements to augment their abilities.

While the base combat mechanics work well enough, it could still use some tweaks. For starters, it seems like the health for the enemies is too high. Simple boars can take a decent amount of hits to kill, and the automatons feel like miniboss fights. The bomb system works fine most of the time, but there are moments when your placement cursor is far away from the screen, so you'll need to spend some time locating it again before you can aim it. That becomes problematic since the time slowdown mechanic only lasts for a few seconds, so there can be moments when you finally find the cursor and must scramble to place it elsewhere once things move at full speed again. As for the homunculus, you may not realize that they're meant to fight alongside you, since their attacks are rather ineffective, so its presence is only for those who want to take on the game locally in co-op.

The hook to the game isn't the story or combat but the alchemy system, and this is here where Alchemist Adventure gets fascinating. As mentioned earlier, you start with a fire spell, which can be crafted into a bomb. Level up, and you'll notice that you can have two slots open for one spell. Augmenting it with another fire icon gives you a more powerful fire spell, and the same is true when you discover water, earth, or air. Combine air and fire, and you'll get lightning. You quickly pick up a ton of ingredients in your journey, and the ingredients can be fused into the spells to further augment them. For example, adding iron to fire gives you the same fire bomb spell with some fire resistance. Level up more, and you can open up more slots for each spell, so spells and augments create a system where you'll play around with every element to see what's possible.

There are currently two issues with the system. The first is that you're only told about the bomb move and nothing else. Once you get your second element and open that slot, you aren't told that you opened a slot for sword modification, not a new bomb. The book menu also doesn't make things easy, so you're relegated to tinkering until you learn all of this. The second issue has to do with actual spell selection, especially if you're trying to juggle different elemental bombs. Every time you want to do so, you'll need to pause the game, go to the book, go to the spell section, and select what you want before returning to the game. There is a memorize option, and you'll eventually get to quickly switch between spells, but with no indication that this is possible, you'll need to rely on blind guesses before discovering this.

Presentation-wise, the game is good so far. Music is minimal, but the few tracks that are present sound fine, as do the sound effects. The only voice acting you'll hear is from Mya during the cut scenes, but it sounds fine thus far. Graphically, the environments look good enough, since there's an emphasis on daylight areas with lush colors for the first level. That's a positive, since most games in this genre stick with dark, dank dungeons. The camera tilt works well in open areas but can be an issue when you go into houses and buildings, and the animations are decent enough.

The performance is locked at high frame rates, at least when using a Ryzen 5 2600 and a GeForce RTX 2060 running the game at 1080p, but part of that can be attributed to the use of your alchemist spells, which produce some underwhelming effects. Your air bomb looks small, the fire bomb looks plain, and the fire effects on burning items fail to excite. Hopefully, this will get touched up as the game approaches its release date.

In its current state, Alchemist Adventure shows some promise. The alchemy system is engaging enough to keep players interested in learning how deep the system goes. Elsewhere, the combat is fine but could use some tweaks, and the story is woefully told, but both of those elements (and more!) can be tweaked with enough time. Alchemist Adventure has a planned release window of late 2020, so there's plenty of time for the developers to tighten up the gameplay experience.

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