Arc of Alchemist Review – Gold Dust or Bust (PS4)

Originally a 2019 PS4 and Switch release in Japan, Arc of Alchemist has made it to Western audiences with this localization from Compile Heart and Idea Factory International. Has this short RPG been worth the wait? Time to find out in our Arc of Alchemist review.

Arc of Alchemist Review- Another Day, Another Apocalypse

Arc of Alchemist takes place a distant time after a world war decimated the Earth’s water resources, and much, perhaps all, of the planet has been reduced to a desert. Major Quinn and her subordinates are on a mission from their Lord to discover something called a Great Power, which is a legendary artifact purported to contain the power to save the world. The world is rather bland, and it is inhabited by massive enemies such as gigantic frogs, fox-like creatures, and more. How creatures so large could be supported on a planet with next-to-no water is never explained, but that’s video game logic for ya!

Major cutscenes are voiced, though the port to the PS4 did not include localization of any audio. So, expect to read a subbed version of the game unless you happen to understand Japanese. The voice tracks are oddly low, and many players may find themselves turning up the voice volume in the settings screen before spending much time in the cutscenes. Beyond the initial animation shown before the title screen, most of the game’s cutscenes involve a lot of reading, while the characters don’t really do much other than stand around and occasionally change their facial expression or stance. It’s a pretty boring way to tell the story, to be honest.

Arc of Alchemist Review – Choppy Experience Ahead

Whatever engine is used in Arc of Alchemist is clearly not optimized. Even on a PS4 Pro, the frame rate stays low. With just a few enemies on the screen or any sort of special effect from an attack, frames quickly drop, and things become staggered. This is baffling, since the game doesn’t look current-gen, or even previous-gen. The environment is blocky, filled with a few desert-related items such as an occasional cactus. Some ruins from the last Great War can also be found from time to time. There are even invisible walls placed noticeably distant from said ruins, should you want to go in for a closer look. Inexplicably, some areas of the map have random bits of ruins pop up from beneath the desert sand, in an effort to block the path for a few seconds, or damage Quinn or her squadmates.

Combat in Arc of Alchemist is simple. Fighting takes place in realtime, and there are no battlefields that load into place ala Final Fantasy. Mashing circle performs combos with a character’s main weapon while mashing square performs combos with a secondary weapon. L2 and R2 activate special orbs called Lunagear, which are usually aligned with some sort of element. The Earth Lungear, for instance, can generate boxes which Quinn and crew can jump on top of. These can be stacked and used to create impromptu staircases to reach higher spots where treasure chests are located. Only two Lunagear can be equipped at one time, though they can be combined to create special effects, such as summoning stationary drones that fire at enemies. It’s the one unique aspect of Arc of Alchemist that changes things up.

Arc of Alchemist Review- Base Building for Days

Characters level up the traditional way in Arc of Alchemist: by earning experience points. However, players can also simply spend money on training to level up traits of each character. There are also certain skills which provide buffs, some of which can only be leveled up to a point before requiring facility upgrades. Quinn and crew have a base of operations, which includes a sort of town-building metagame where players must purchase and upgrade various facilities, such as training barracks, jewelry stores, etc. Once enough of these are placed on a grid that surrounds the headquarters, character skills can then be upgraded to higher levels.

Money is ridiculously easy to come by in Arc of Alchemist, as there are just random chunks of gold dust and other valuable resources littered throughout each area. It’s easy to go out hunting for gold dust for a few minutes, and come back with hundreds of thousands of credits. The base buildings can gain extra buffs depending on what they are placed next to, though the game takes an approach of telling players to experiment to find the best results, rather than actually explain the rules that govern these boosts.

That’s kind of the whole attitude of the tutorial within Arc of Alchemist, too. It gives hilariously generic advice, such as being aware of your position when attacking, without divulging any further. As it happens, characters fire exactly in the direction they are facing, so the only thing to be made aware of is whether or not you are facing your opponent. Pretty basic stuff here.

Arc of Alchemist Review – A Bit of Extra Content

The new Western release includes new game plus. This is a good thing, because the main campaign will take most players no more than eight hours to complete. This includes getting up to speed with the game’s combat and base building mechanics. This is an RPG that feels kind of like an intro to RPGs, in the sense that pretty much anyone can complete it in a weekend. So the new game plus will help to squeeze a bit more value out of the MSRP of $39.99 USD. Players can also choose from seven playable characters this time around, which can help add a little variety but doesn’t alleviate from the repetitive combat.

Arc of Alchemist is an RPG that most people who play will forget about it shortly after finishing it. Given an average finish time of 6-8 hours (without new game plus), the journey is over before it really feels like it’s begun. What’s here isn’t really impressive to look at, either. The Lunagear concept is slightly interesting, but mixed with the blandness of the rest of the game it doesn’t make this a must-have release. If you really like building bases, you may have some fun with Arc of Alchemist. The rest of us can wait on a meatier RPG to take up our time with.

Arc of Alchemist review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.

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  • Decent art style
  • Base building might be fun for some
  • Lunagear almost had a unique mechanic going
  • Appalling frame rates
  • Bland presentation and graphics
  • Incredibly short, lackluster story