Arc of Alchemist is the latest from developers Compile Heart that have brought us the crazy universe of Neptunia, the lazy adventurer Fang from Fairy Fencer F, the witches of Dragon Star Varnir and so many more. Having all shared some similarities, this adventure brings about a new tale of the squad leader Quinn with her six subordinates as they search for a stop to the desertification of the Earth in a fast paced action RPG that while maybe not the most refined, has definitely set a foothold for more within this style.
While I generally start with the same formula in how I like to go through a title’s high points into its low points, I want to get one thing out of the way first because while it does affect the title mechanically from a performance standpoint, it doesn’t define it. Arc of Alchemist, on the Switch at any rate, was rough performance wise. Even just loading up the first few minutes of my eleven hour adventure, I hit frame rate issues causing everything to lag pretty badly. While it does smooth over time, and the issue didn’t seem to be all that there in the NG+ at the same beginning point, it was persistant through Quinn’s adventure and only ever got worse with more and more enemies on screen.
That being said, while Arc of Alchemist is an Action “Adventure” RPG, and while the gameplay is important to tell the story about traversing the wasteland, the key moments are what make this a title worth sitting down to. Taking place after another great war on Earth, those left to live after are facing an impending death at the fact that the planet can no longer sustain life and is steadily becoming more and more of a desert despite the best efforts of anyone trying to stop it. Tasked by their nation in order to find The Great Power which is rumoured to be the solution to everything, Quinn and her six subordinates head out into various ruins in order to find it.
Arc of Alchemist is not very long and in a way it’s a good thing and not because of the performance issues above. Taking place at almost the end of the tale, you’ll need to collect four orbs, which work themselves well into the gameplay and cross various parts of the desert to find the power that should be able to solve everything. I’m not going to spoil what that great power is, but it was a nice touch when you do find out what it is and what it can do. To cross these locations and hunt for the orbs, you’ll be running around in a team of three and literally mashing either the “B” button for attacks or the “Y” button for a ranged attacks. That’s pretty much it. While each orb adds some magical elements like Fire, Water, Wind and Earth in which some can be used for battle, they are more for exploration than for battle unless we are talking about the last boss.
The gameplay is really that simple so having the adventure more than a dozen or so hours would have been taxing. You run around, you kill things, you go back to town, you sell stuff for money and then you build up your main base that lets you buy new items, get access to new item packs for the field, new outfits for visual prowess and the ability to splurge all of that hard earned cash into stat points. Oh yes, if things are too hard, and the grinding for experience isn’t going that well and you’ve bought everything that you possibily could have? Head back to you main base and drop the biggest down payment for the biggest mansions you could possibly think of to raise those numbers!
Health, attack, two types of defense and luck make up the five stats that all of your chracters have to play with. Better equipment will help raise these, accessories even more so, but the name of the game often was how much money you had which made exploration worth it as without these boosts? Most bosses would simply steamroll right over you. And to be fair, it’s actually not that expensive once you’re a few hours in and loads of money is easy to come by.
It’s what happens when money is no longer enough and you need to start dropping organic fluids and toad oil into the mix. The first becomes easy to find but the other is a bit harder to come by and very much needed for investing new buildings into your base to allow you to get more out of trading your materials and buying various new equipment. It’s a balancing act, and between it and the more basic combat system? The adventure wouldn’t have survived being much longer than that.
Where Arc of Alchemist truly shines is in its characters. Each character, both your original seven and then added three down the line, have unique personalities and the banter between them is really what’s going to keep you going. Quinn is a hardshelled military woman that has one goal other than seeking out the power to save the Earth. Her goal is to keep those that follow her alive as best as she can as they mean more to her than she often shows.
Of the six that follow her, you have the stoic knight that is always by her side and seeing to her every need, you have the other knight in love with the doofus who’s always by Quinn’s side. You have your goofball ronin who loves his cat Meow, you have your super smart half dressed harem girl, the motherly figure, and your traditional lolli to check off your typical achetypes. But they don’t come off as their types as much as they come off as their own persons and this is shown both in the mandatory points to cross on the adventure map as every time you go back to base.
Your main base while obviously being the place to go back and truly rest and gear up, is a feature that I didn’t realize that I had to take more seriously until a few hours in. You’re given camps out in the field to rest and these can be upgraded to do more and be able to restock your items, but what they don’t do is give you cutscenes into the daily lives of your party. Every time you go back, there’s something new to watch and they aren’t just one off either.
While being in the field moves everything forward, the base tells other stories like your party members getting together and learning to make soup, or worrying about mending clothes, or in a particular dynamic, everyone treating the mother figure as an actual Mom in certain cases as they ask her for stuff even if she’s younger than some of them. These bits give a lot of insight to why each character is how they are and it makes for a better story than the constant desert trekking that you’ll be playing through as you hunt the orbs and the power.