Arc of Alchemist is the latest Compile Heart game to make its way west under the Galapagos RPG brand, with the Jrpg available digitally on Playstation 4 & Nintendo Switch. Is it worth joining the expedition to search Earth’s desert filled future? Lets find out.
In the distant future Earth is almost lost after centuries of war. The lush landscapes have been replaced by a sprawling desert due to an overuse of resources & alchemy, with minor nations and small pockets of settlements being all that is left of humanity. As humanity is on the brink of extinction, a long lost legend is remembered of a great power that can restore Earth to its former glory. With nothing but hope for guidance, your party will explore the desert in search of this Great Power.
Your expedition is the latest in a long line of attempts to locate the great power, with an optimal mix of classes & abilities aiding the missions success . The protagonist of our story appears to be Quinn Bravesford, a masterful tactician well known throughout the world that places her subordinates safety as high as the success of the mission. What’s interesting about Quinn though is the side she doesn’t share with the others, delivered to us through inner monologues, as she wrestles with the bleak world and her role in it. The story is played out using the in-game engine and is fully voiced, a nice surprise give how these games tend to go with VN styled cutscenes. You’ll also get some side stories too that tend to pop up when returning to base, and these help flesh out the other members of your expedition. Once your all done there is also a New Game+ option waiting for you on title menu….
Graphically the game is nothing to write home about, looking more like a PSVita port from 2014 than a budget Ps4 title. Whilst it’s not all bad, the chibi-styled character models have some nice touches and there’s good enemy variety, the lacklustre texture work is what mainly brings things down a notch. One could point the finger at the Switch for this, but in all honesty the Switch is capable of more than what this game offers. Given the anime & chibi styling of the game, it does get away with it somewhat and does still have a little charm to it.
The upside to this is the games performance rarely skips a beat, offering a fluid framerate even during the most hectic fights with all manner of SFX & enemies on-screen. As you are probably expecting at this point, there are no Pro enhancements from what we can see – Boost mode probably just irons out any momentary frame drop. As noted before the game is fully voiced, which is also the highlight of the games audio in truth as the other aspects don’t really stand out much.
The game will mainly task you with exploring dungeons and defeating any foes that happen to get in the way. Each area of the desert will get progressively bigger as you explore, but the game does throw a curveball every now and again by having enemies far stronger than yourself stopping you on certain paths till levelled up enough. Thankfully the gameplay is primarily of the action based variety, offering both close and ranged attacks alongside special abilities called Gears. These special abilities you’ll collect do spice things up somewhat, with a few equip-able at a time. Early in the game you’ll get fire, which can be used as an attack or to open new pathways etc, followed by Earth that gives you the ability to place blocks within the world for cover or to traverse the environment. These can also be combined to create experimental devices etc with the numerous Gears giving different results. Its a simple enough game really, the ability melding does offer up some interesting moments though.
Another side to the game is the base building. At first you won’t really be using it and will often wonder why you keep returning to it from the dungeons. It doesn’t take long for it to open up and the customary tutorial slides come flying in. To be honest the base is simple to get to grips with and becomes a big help as the game progresses. Researching new items and equipment here is paramount, with added bonuses depending on how you structure the base. Its a neat addition that thankfully doesn’t require too much hands on time.
If you can look past the lacklustre presentation, on Ps4 at least as it may actually look decent on the go with the Switch, then there’s a relatively good action RPG to be had here for the right price. The action based gameplay & base building blend well together and you’ll need to lean on both to get far into the game, with Quinn and her expedition pulling you along when a break from the grind is needed back at the base. Your platform of choice & price available will likely dictate most purchasers view of the game, but it’s certainly worth a try if you’re in the market for a simple Jrpg with a few bells & whistles.