The world has dried out, leaving humanity on the brink of extinction in Arc of Alchemist.
With water becoming scarce, alchemy was developed, but that wasn’t enough. Wars raged, precious resources were consumed, and hope was lost. That was until somebody remembered an old legend: that in a desert, there was a power great enough to save humanity. And so the nations that were left sent out teams to find this great power, though none returned. But now it’s your turn. Can you overcome the machines rumoured to be the protectors of the great power? With patience and perseverance, you might just find out.
With such a promising setup, it’s a shame that Arc of Alchemist‘s story is utter twaddle. There’s no meaningful dialogue; no surprising twists or turns. It’s mainly just drama between friends and unsuccessful attempts at being funny. You never find yourself caring for Arc of Alchemist‘s large band of characters, either. In fact, you might actively find yourself being irritated by them.
But hey, the gameplay will make up for that, right? Unfortunately not. Arc of Alchemist‘s gameplay is simplistic to a fault. An action RPG, much of your time is spent exploring a vast desert. You’ll soon discover that it’s actually quite linear though, and also quite barren.
Enemies mostly appear out of thin air, granting you brief but regular moments of combat. There’s no lock-on feature, however, so you’re left to just mash buttons and hope that you connect. Melee attacks mostly hit their mark, but should you decide to use your powerful special attack that’s available when a gauge is charged, good luck. The delay between you pressing the button and the move actually being performed means it usually hits nothing. There’s no guard button either, so your only way of avoiding damage in a pickle is to use a roll manoeuvre that isn’t particularly effective.
Aside from battling enemies, there’s a small amount of problem-solving to be done as you explore. Equipping Lunagears enables you you make use of various skills. Throwing fireballs is great for melting ice surrounding chests or blocking your path, for example; and being able to create blocks allows to you gain access to ledges that you otherwise can’t reach. The effects of Lunagears can be combined, too, creating things like traps. Their usage is limited, however, forcing you to visit camps or go back to base to recharge them, which can be a pain.
Arc of Alchemist‘s progresses as you reach certain points on the map, prompting bouts of inane dialogue. Dialogue also occurs whenever you leave the map to return to your base, which you’ll want to do regularly in order to save your game and manage your party. Many playable characters are available, each having their own strengths and weaknesses; though you can only have three in your active party at any one time. Out in the field, you control just one of them, with the other two controlled by the CPU in line with the tactics you assign to them.
New equipment can be purchased, skills can be learned and assigned, and stats boosted by training. To facilitate this, however, you need to develop and expand your base. By obtaining resources out in the field, you can invest in your base and increase its potential. Then you can build new facilities for functions such as training and trading, improving their level and expanding the range of products and services they offer. If you run out of space, you can grow the size of your base at a cost. But it’s pretty much essential if you want to make your characters as powerful as they can be.
When you get into the swing of things, Arc of Alchemist can be somewhat enjoyable. Its loop of exploring, gathering resources then returning to base to enhance your facilities draws you in. The problem is, everything feels so halfhearted and cheap that you struggle to throw yourself fully into it. The visuals are last-gen quality, performance isn’t great and menus are convoluted and ugly. Ultimately though, it’s the gameplay that really lets Arc of Alchemist down. It’s just too simple, and the combat is too mindless.
With a running time of around ten hours, it speaks volumes that Arc of Alchemist still manages to outstay its welcome. Chances are you’ll be bored of it within two. Even its bosses aren’t noteworthy. If you do somehow manage to find yourself fond of the game, there’s New Game + so you can start again and maybe try a different party, but god knows why you’d want to. Arc of Alchemist isn’t the worst action RPG I’ve ever played, but it’s crushingly dire, and not worthy of your time or money.