Game Review: Arc of Alchemist (Nintendo Switch)

Compile Heart’s action-RPG Arc of Alchemist finally arrives in the west on the Nintendo Switch, and in turn the PlayStation 4; but was it worth the wait? Let’s take a look and find out!

Title: Arc of Alchemist
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Developer: Compile Heart
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Resolution: 1920 X 1080
Audio: Japanese
Subtitles: English (White)
Local Players: 1
Online Players: N/A
Install: YES (3.6GB)

Our View:

Developed by Compile Heart and published by Idea Factory International, Arc of Alchemist is the Action-RPG that challenges players to explore a vast wasteland while building upon their own foundations at base camp. It sounds simple, looks simple; but is anything but simple.

The world within Arc of Alchemist puts players in control of Quinn Bravesford and her subordinates as they explore the desert world in hope of saving the human race from extinction and during their travels they encounter rival groups, vicious monsters and a world that is ready to die.

For the most part the story within Arc of Alchemist is experienced by exploring this vast wasteland and the further players progress the more characters our group will interact with; with the first point of call being vicious monsters before discovering rival nations out searching for the same thing. Salvation from the dry desert.

From a storyline perspective Arc of Alchemist isn’t the most compelling of experiences; but just like the Ys franchise the story helps drive the narrative of exploring the vast wasteland which, as some might have guessed, becomes rather tedious after a few short hours of gameplay due to its single colour pallet and design choice.

Although the appearance may be similar some locations do offer additional types of gameplay, such as environments that can only be explored by using a characters skill or metal based type locations found after exploring the wasteland. For the most part though, you’ll just be seeing a lot of dirt.

From a gameplay perspective Arc of Alchemist has two distinctive gameplay options; the dungeon exploration and base camp with the former becoming tedious rather quickly, which is partly due to the poor optimisation on this Nintendo Switch port, and the latter being confusing and a little dull. The only highlight I enjoyed from this game was the character interaction; which sadly is both limited and presented only in Japanese – but at least it is fully voiced which is a nice surprise.

Dialogue moments, of which are displayed as full 3D character models rather than 2D artwork, appear as a way of progressing the story forward; but upon returning to base camp a dialogue session between key characters will unfold. These dialogue sessions appear consistently each time you return to the base, of which also has a lengthy loading session before and after the conversation, and each dialogue session portrays a more underlining story while becoming familiar with the characters you control.

For instance one particular dialogue segment, of which was separated over five different attempts at returning to base camp, saw the group prepare for an event within base camp that would see their talents on stage. Sadly for Quinn Bravesford she has no talents and as such recruits helps from her teammates so that she doesn’t look like a fool in front of the crowd. It is a comical story and offers you an insight the characters personality; but it is forced upon you each time you load the base camp and can be difficult to skip past. Not exactly what you need if you just want to save your game.

Long loading times and abnormal conversation segments are just the least of your worries as poor optimisation means that actually playing the game is incredibly difficult. As mentioned previously Arc of Alchemist is an Action-RPG with base development mechanics and when exploring the wasteland players will have full control over their main character while two support characters will be controlled by the AI. The combat, as with any action-RPG, is controlled by the player and the player can freely walk around and attack (or run away) from monsters; with light and heavy attacks available alongside magic attacks and skill abilities.

While exploring these limited, but wide, areas the game runs at a steady frame-rate; but upon interacting with an enemy the frame rate will considerably drop to near unplayable levels – so much so that it actually made me feel sick after a short period of time. While the combat gameplay is relatively simple, and if running a consistent frame rate it would be enjoyable; there lies a bigger problem.

Difficulty. The game has multiple difficulty levels upon starting but consistently grinding is required to even stand a chance of surviving in newly opened areas. Levelling up to explore new areas isn’t exactly anything new; but when reaching a new location sees enemies defeat you in a single hit with no simple way of restoring health (or a team mates health) then you know something is wrong. Naturally the unplayable frame-rate means that defeating enemies for the level grind makes the process a lot harder; and even upgrading and enhancing your character at base camp seems to wield no results either.

A broken port is what Arc of Alchemist on the Nintendo Switch seems to be; but if you can ignore the long loading times, the unplayable frame rate and the barren wasteland of gameplay then you will find a simplistic action-RPG experience that offers lots of level grinding and base management. The base management system is not something I fully understood nor cared for; but it required you to construct buildings in order to develop new weapons and resources for your party; of which required items and elements found by defeating monsters in order to use. It’s a vicious cycle; but if you enjoy the constant grind – which I admit on long mundane travels I do enjoy – then Arc of Alchemist will have something to offer you.

In this Nintendo Switch version of the game, of which has been updated from its original Japanese release, players can take control of any of the available playable characters and discover items previously not made available in the original release. It’s not entirely clear what new items have been added, nor should it really matter; but the option to control any character – instead of just Quinn – is a welcome addition as each character does have their own unique appearance and attack style.

Arc of Alchemist on the Nintendo Switch ‘should’ have worked, as the consistent grind to better ones character – and their team – is perfect for travels but sadly due to the relatively unplayable nature of this Nintendo Switch release it became frustratingly tedious and provided vritual no enjoyment; which is not something you would want from game. The story, as interesting as it may be, is overshadowed by performance issues and general gameplay tropes that punishes the player rather than guides them.

If you enjoy long-grinding RPG sessions with terrible frame rates and long loading times then Arc of Alchemist is worth checking out; but there are better games out there that perform better on the Nintendo Switch and that are worthy of your time. A real shame.

Score: review-stars-2

Arc of Alchemist is now available digitally via the Nintendo eShop for the Nintendo Switch as well as digitally (and physically) for the PlayStation 4 within Europe. Further information about Arc of Alchemist can be found on the official website.

 

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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