Arc of Alchemist review for PS4, Nintendo Switch

Platform: PS4
Also on: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Idea Factory
Developer: Compile Heart
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

While I wouldn?t say I love Compile Heart RPGs, I?ve played enough of them that I at least have an appreciation where a lot of them are coming from. The Hyperdimension Neptunia series, in particular, is always enjoyably off-beat, and if you can look beyond the fanservice (which isn?t always easy to do), a couple of their other games have some interesting things going on, too.

Arc of Alchemist, unfortunately, doesn?t fall into the category of ?not my thing, but not not my thing either,” but, instead into the category of ?This is what the Neptunia games are making fun of.” The combat is lousy, the characters are forgettable, and the story is dull. In a nutshell: it?s pretty bad.

The problem, I think, stems from the fact that the game takes itself way too seriously. Right from the opening moments, you?re treated to the world being plunged into an environmental apocalypse, leading to a chibi-fied version of a Mad Max-style world (it?s a weird combo, as you might imagine, but not weird-good). It shouldn?t come as a surprise that all the fluffy dresses and upbeat heroines Compile Heart is usually known for don?t mesh with dark and post-apocalyptic.

What?s more, they really don?t mesh with this dialogue. Arc of Alchemist is the sort of game where people say things like, ?Our souls are as dry as the desert that surrounds us.” and ?All we must do is fight for that hope. Such is my duty as a soldier for my country.” Needless to say, even if it?s meant to be poetic, it just comes off as po-faced and heavy-handed.

The game also isn?t helped by its clunky combat. I can?t say I enjoy the turn-based combat that typifies most Compile Heart games, but at the very least, I can say that it works. Here, by contrast, it doesn?t. Characters swing their weapons around at various monsters without anything resembling precision, and it always feels off. Even when you apparently connect with one of them, it never feels very solid.

There are also some pretty ridiculous difficulty spikes, and they start right off the bat. You?ll encounter scorpions that take one hit to kill, and then, just a few moments later, you find yourself up against giant frogs that are sponges for everything you can throw at them, and gun towers that kill you on-sight. It makes for an unsettling introduction to Arc of Alchemist, and I was never able to get acclimated to the game.

Of course, this could just be because it sucked. It?s hard to feel comfortable in a game where everything is going so badly, and that?s probably the case with Arc of Alchemist. It?s a huge misfire from a developer that, at the very least, tends to be pretty competent, and it means you shouldn?t feel any hesitation about skipping this one and going back and playing one of Compile Hearts many better RPGs.

Idea Factory provided us with an Arc of Alchemist PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: D+