[Review] Arc of Alchemist – Nintendo Switch

Written by Thomas Haroldsen
  • Developer: Compile Heart
  • Publisher: Idea Factory
  • Release Date: 30/01/2020
  • Price: £35.99 / $39.99
  • Review code provided by Idea Factory

Intro

Arc of Alchemist was a complete surprise to me. In that it crept onto the Nintendo Switch with little fanfare. I’m a huge fan of Idea Factory and was shocked to see it tucked away on the eShop during one of my weekly scrolls. I nearly missed it, and had no prior knowledge of its history. For this reason I was both excited and nervous to jump into reviewing this mystery title. Continue reading as I unravel the mystery and get into the weeds, or rather desert, of Arc of Alchemist.

I Won’t Lose Any of You

In more RPG’s than I can count, the story orbits some sort of ‘Save the World’ narrative. Well, what happens if the heroes failed to save the world? What happens when life nearly comes to an end and the apocalypse has dealt its cruel, uncaring hand? Arc of Alchemist takes place when all is lost and the world is a barren wasteland. Survivors inhabit remote settlements and only know rumors of the past. Life continues to hang in the balance and those remaining seek hope to restore the land.

Our heroine, Quinn Bravesford, is a fresh change for a character. She’s confident, capable and knows what she’s doing. As commander of an elite squad, Quinn doesn’t need anyone to hold her hand. Quinn and her team are dispatched to find the fabled Great Power. There is little indication of what they will find when they set out to explore the endless waves of sand. Only the hope that doing so will save all humanity keeps them marching headlong into untold dangers.

The story is presented through character dialogue throughout the journey. Traveling back to base reveals branching details about the other squad members. This offers a glimpse into their pasts, ambitions and relationships with each other. One thing I couldn’t quite wrap my head around was how different the writing and style of the main story was compared to the side stories. The main story was well done and posed in a way that felt natural and complimented the strength and demeanor which Quinn exuded. Whereas the side stories were campy and at times unbearable. They distracted from the main narrative and undermined the serious tone it had established. This was all a shame because the main story was interesting with unexpected twists.

A High Price to Pay

Arc of Alchemist is an Action RPG with some unique twists. Combat itself is pretty straightforward. Overgrown monsters and mechs litter the landscape. Each enemy has an elemental weakness which can be exploited to take it down quickly. If you die, there is little punishment. You’ll be given the option to start at the last checkpoint or return to base and check your gear.

There are several loadout options available if you play as Quinn. Quinn can equip any weapon type. If you select another character to control you will only be able to use their specific armament. Each loadout has a standard and heavy attack. As the game progresses you’ll find four magical orbs. Not only are these orbs important to the story, they allow Quinn to cast elemental attacks. You can only have two equipped at a time and they are activated with the trigger buttons. Hold both down simultaneously can place an auto turret in the ground or shield your character. These orbs also allow you to interact with the environment. For example, the earth orb lets you stack boxes to reach high areas.

They make it clear at the start of the game that it’s silly for overgrown insects and mutated animals to drop money. Instead you’ll collect a huge amount of natural resources which can be sold, and later used to upgrade your base. 

Yes there is base building in this ARPG. It’s somewhat barebones but was a nice distraction between bouts of exploration. You can level up certain building types and reposition them to gain improved bonuses or shop items. The base building has very light puzzle elements depending on how you position locations. Though it’s not as meaty as I would have liked, I still had fun with this little mechanic.

The gameplay does a few things differently but is nothing earth shattering. It’s fairly simple unless you stumble into a zone with higher level enemies. As far as the main areas you’ll visit for the campaign you’ll generally be at the right level to clear each boss. There were times when I had to grind, but it wasn’t often. Aside from generic experience gains and level ups, you can spend extra money at your base to permanently boost any of your stats. It’s relatively affordable to do so, giving a pay to play vibe. If you’re short on time and just want to experience the story, it’s a good way to do so.

Quite the Turn of Events

One of the biggest detractors to me is the art style. The characters look like a mix of anime chibi that didn’t turn out right. The characters look like children and for some of the bustier ones or less clad lasses, it seemed like a poor choice. Even the animations come off wooden and dollyesque. It’s certainly not the graphical level that I’m used to seeing from Compile Heart. The background environments are likewise unimpressive and bland. Part of that is the setting but it still has the appearance of an older title.

The sound and music was passable and served its purpose. The voice acting is all Japanese, but sufficient subtitles won’t leave you in the dark. The combat sound effects are pretty stark making the whole audio experience mediocre.

I didn’t run into any technical issues save for some longer load times interspersed through the game. Nothing so outstanding as to ruin the action. Arc of Alchemist performed well both in handheld mode and docked. However, the bigger screen offered by the television made the graphical drawbacks more glaring. 

Final Wrap

Arc of Alchemist is just as enigmatic to me as when I first heard of it. The main storyline had me hooked and caught me off guard with some of the twists. It was well done and should have been more of a focal point than the obtuse side stories. I genuinely had fun with the combat and the limited base building. After each visit back to the station, I was eager to set off again to garner more loot and continue expanding my little empire. The graphics and sound come off as low budget and are detrimental to the entire experience. I really enjoyed my time with Arc of Alchemist but its value seems lopsided. It’s a decent Action RPG which will struggle to find an audience in an already niche market at its premium price. Worth it to only the diehard fan or on a rainy day when the price is slashed for a sale.

Pros

  • Surprising Story
  • Resilient Leading Lady
  • Fun Combat and Collecting
  • Decent Base Building

Cons

  • Poor Art Style
  • Forgettable audio
  • Trivial Side Stories

Verdict
Arc of Alchemist offers a polar experience. It’s a moderate adventure which appears as a budget title masquerading behind a high price.
3/5

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