Between its established Hyperdimension Neptunia series and its widely experimental role-playing titles like Fairy Fencer F and Death end re;quest, Compile Heart has been incredibly prolific in recent years. Their extensive output continues with Arc of Alchemist, a brand new third person action role-playing game. With straightforward action and an emphasis on base building, the game’s mechanics are simultaneously basic and a tad experimental. While traversing dangerous desert landscapes, experimenting with character and weapon loadouts, and building one’s base can be entertaining, the sparse presentation and inconsistent pacing dampen the game’s impact.
Arc of Alchemist takes place in a desert world in which oceans existed before the ravages of war dominated the landscape. Alongside the sheer lack of resources, remnants of past technology also roam the land. The young leader Quinn heads an expedition team that tries to locate the Great Power, a force that supposedly will save humanity. During her journey, however, she questions the meaning of her journey in such overwhelmingly insurmountable circumstances.
At their core, the game’s combat will instantly seem familiar to anyone who has played an action game. The player controls one character with two AI-controlled teammates and has access to two attacks, jumping, and dodging in a third person perspective. Overall, the global objective is to reach a designated point in order to progress the plot. However, the game’s expansive maps result in wandering around and exploring. Naturally, traversing the world involves engaging nearby enemies that can spawn at a moment’s notice. The game therefore provides a constant sense of danger that keeps the player on their toes at all times, even if enemy spawns can seem a bit haphazard at times. While weapons like lances behave in a fairly basic manner, other weapons like grenades can provide a fun surprise.
Furthermore, the game also features light base management. Whenever the player reaches certain waypoints, they can travel back to base and swap out their party and weapon loadouts. They can sell treasures acquired via exploration and spend resources in order to construct party-boosting facilities. These facilities are rather plainly designed, but the base itself still has a bit of charm in contrast with the desolate desert environment. Players receive benefits for building a whole slew of facilities, so the base can become a wacky cluster of buildings in a hurry. The game features a ton of dialogue skits whenever the player returns back to base that also provides insight into each of Quinn’s six teammates, which can provide some lighthearted reprieve from the game’s foreboding narrative.
One game that sets the game apart from others is the Lunagear system, which acts as a spell-casting, puzzle-solving, and a support system all in one. Quinn can map elements to the trigger buttons, and each trigger activates powers like launching fireballs and creating traversable blocks. The catch is that using both triggers simultaneously creates a synergistic skill such as an auto-firing turret. The system is an interesting novelty, but the uses can feel a bit constrained especially since players can only swap out load-outs back at their home base.
Although the game’s visuals are a bit plainly crafted, the cute and eccentric style is unique. Each of the characters are distinct and have a somewhat regal explorer-like appearance. The characters’ proportions do seem a bit unique as they are chibi-like yet look a tad elongated. This cutesy nature contrasts with the game’s apocalyptic setting, which can be simultaneously endearing and strange. While the post-apocalyptic desert environments do include a variety of props, some areas can still feel a bit repetitive and sparse. While the characters’ movement and battle animations are sufficiently compelling, the cutscene poses do seem overly rigid. Overall, the PlayStation 4 version generally maintains 30 frames per second with some stutters in combat, but frame drops happen rather frequently on the Nintendo Switch version.
Arc of Alchemist’s audio experience is functional, but it can also feel a bit basic and even sparse in some ways. As the player journeys across each barren map, the game will play a high octane flute tune whenever enemies appear nearby. The tune’s tempo is appropriate, but it does play a bit too often. In general, though, the game’s musical experience is soothing, especially when the player returns to the main base. The game also features a heaping of Japanese voiceover, and the voices are appropriate during the cutscenes. The one strange part is the game lacks audio feedback for being at low health and for leveling up, which can feel a little unexpectedly sparse.
The way the game progresses can feel too overbearing at times as well. For instance, the game shows many tutorial pages just in the beginning of the game, and players must choose to exit each tutorial. Players also acquire levels incredibly quickly and amass a ton of materials, and upgrading facilities can result in being bombarded with text.
Arc of Alchemist is a decently crafted action role-playing game that places straightforward combat set within a post-apocalyptic context. The base-building and Lunagear features are basic while giving the game a unique flair. As Quinn’s exploration team journeys from area to area in search of the Grand Power, the characters squabble with each other in fairly compelling ways. While the game can feel basic and even sparse at times, it nonetheless will provide some thrills for anyone seeking a familiar yet quirky action-based experience.
Arc of Alchemist Review
Arc of Alchemist
Anyone interested in a straightforward action RPG experience with a handful of extra mechanics will find something to enjoy in Arc of Alchemist. While the audiovisual elements are primarily functional in nature, the character designs nonetheless have a unique flair.
• Straightforward role-playing action
• Unique character designs and style
• Base-building mechanics give players customization opportunities
• Quirky combination of cute characters and a serious narrative
• Lack of audio feedback
• Somewhat stuttery framerate, especially on the Switch version
• Tutorials, loot, and text can seem a bit overbearing