Playing a video game doesn’t always have to be about competition, skills and frustration. This is something I learnt with time, how to enjoy and seek relaxation to escape this frantic world. In fact, this is exactly what caught my attention when I landed my eyes on Alchemy Story. Recalling popular titles like Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon, this title is an immersive RPG experience with some management elements.
Completely brought to life by solo developer Eloïse Laroche and featuring whimsical music by Matthew Harnage, Alchemy Story is expected to give the player a peaceful dive into a much kinder universe.
The newcomer in town meets the village’s alchemist, who is responsible for teaching her everything she must know about his work as his apprentice. It is quickly established that a witch has cast a spell on some inhabitants, turning them into animals. The newcomer must help them get back to their human forms.
Aside from that, she must gather ingredients for potions, help other characters with their daily tasks, look after a little garden and take care of the cutest animals. To make some extra money, players can brew potions and sell them, or open a small shop at the local market.
By gifting objects and helping out NPCs, the alchemist’s helper will get closer to them and eventually have the chance to pursue a romantic relationship with one if they choose. It isn’t difficult to build up trust, and all interactions are particularly positive. I really appreciated how slowly their stories unfold depending on how much players interact. Just like in real life, excluding the risks of rejection and social anxiety.
A thing I really loved about this game was its 3D cartoony graphics. The effort put into this aspect is clearly exceptional. Bright colors and contrasts are definitely one of the major components of the charm of Alchemy Story. Overall, this dreamy world is really a pleasure to walk through, and has nothing to envy to triple-A games of the same kind.
The soundtrack is also something to enjoy, fitting the whole experience and enriching it thanks to its upbeat tunes. Concerning this specific aspect, however, I’m not a fan of dev’s choice to transition from one song to another when switching zones of the city. As the map’s quite a limited one, this often leads to obnoxious, overly-long mid-song changes that I feel could’ve been avoided. This is still a minor flaw but was very jarring, leaving me confused about what was happening for some seconds, more than once.
The mechanics of the game are quite intuitive and introduced by a brief, but solid enough tutorial. All that players have to know is to move thanks to the classic WASD input, to use the mouse to zoom and interact with the environment; and to open inventory with I.
Even though inputs are solid and easy to get, tasks aren’t always. Many times I was sent by my NPC friends around the city to look for hidden objects, finding myself running around with no clue where to go. It took me a lot of thinking and wasted time to eventually figure out, for example, where to find water, or how to use a fishing rod. At some point, I may even have gotten too annoyed to look around or to try to figure things out, to the point I had to quit for a while. This is an issue that could be easily sorted out through some hint bubbles, a proper explanation by the task giver or a dedicated section in the task menu. For a game that has its strengths in a relaxing approach, I believe this particular aspect can and should be improved to make the whole journey less frustrating.
Really appreciated is the map, which helps you navigate around by bookmarking your destination and following a pointer at your feet.
Different from other RPG/management games I’ve tried, Alchemy Story got me quite hooked, and saw me coming back for multiple sessions. This was thanks to its rich story and the many activities that could be done in-game — it didn’t get repetitive, a thing I’m always on the lookout for when trying this genre.
Overall, we’ve enjoyed our time with Alchemy Story. It has been such a breeze of fresh air, and it’s impressive to think about how all of it has been created by a single person.
The already analyzed flaws aren’t deal-breaking ones, but offer room for possible future updates, especially the one concerning hints, in order to avoid frustration.
Should we think of someone to recommend this title, it would be probably younger people, but despite the looks, it could be enjoyed by various crowds in search of an easy and light-hearted game to chill to.
Alchemy Story is available on itch.io and Steam.