Alchemis Adventure Early Access
Developer: Bad Minions
Genre: Action, Adventure, Puzzle
Age Rating: TBD
Release Date: 30/06/2020 (Early Access)
A code was provided for review purposes.
The Adventure Begins
Waking up in a desolate land filled with dangers, the alchemist Mya sets out on a journey to remember her past and reconnect with the present. Is Alchemist Adventure a recipe for success, or is it out of its element?
Going for Gold
First off, I can’t understate it – Alchemist Adventure has amazing potential. Taking cues from action RPGs and Legend of Zelda (check out our Link’s Awakening review here), it combines fast-paced swordplay with a varied arsenal of elemental potions. Underpinning these is the ability to tweak and augment your brews, creating a variety of deadly or life-saving effects.
You can combine four elements to make eight base potions, each with three variations. There are so many possibilities for puzzle-solving, combat, and environmental interaction!
It’s a little tricky to discuss the options without spoiling some puzzles, but your starter element, for example, is Fire. As you’d expect, you can use Fire potions to burn away wooden obstacles or light torches. Similarly, Air potions allow you to move objects around, whether giant barricades or blocks that can be used as platforms.
Solving puzzles is almost always a satisfying experience, ranging from the simple-but-smart to ingenious. You need to know when to quit, however; some puzzles cannot be solved until you’ve collected other elements or even different sizes of potion vial.
This comes into play a lot around the world of Alchemist Adventure, as there are secrets hidden all over. Many of these will net you experience bonuses, designs for weapons and armour, or insight into Mya’s past.
Mya is fairly self-reliant, which is just as well as the world is largely deserted. The only city I visited, Isur, is a ruin inhabited by monsters and hostile enemies. Along with brewing up her own potions, Mya can also craft weapons, armour, and other gear.
As you gain experience and level up, you’ll be able to spend points on a talent sheet. While some talent systems can be a bit underwhelming, I feel that they’ve hit the mark on this one. Almost everything on the talent sheet feels important in some way, and I still haven’t purchased everything I want!
You also have a little companion who follows you around and can cast spells. I found it fairly useless while playing solo, but a friend can play as it if you need a hand!
Where is Everyone?
In terms of story, you play as Mya, an alchemist who’s lost her memory, and woken up in a largely-deserted world. After fleeing the influence of a shadowy council known as the Seven, she’s split up from her family. Seeking answers, she sets out across the world in pursuit of what’s happened.
It’s a nice idea and has some neat picture-book style cutscenes, but it did feel a little empty. While you run into some talking creatures, they largely serve as vendors, with little to add to the story. A few plot-relevant characters would go a long way towards adding some drive to the main story. Currently, it feels more like the epilogue to a bad ending, rather than a mission to set something right.
So Alchemist Adventure is still in Early Access at present, and appears to be behind on its proposed schedule. There’s a decent amount of content – I’ve probably spent a good fifteen hours or more exploring the available locations. However, it currently comes to a sudden halt just as you’re about to arrive at a significant area.
From what I can tell looking at the world map, this is roughly halfway through the story. Depending on what you’re hoping to get out of the experience, you may want to bear this in mind.
There are also the usual caveats when it comes to unfinished games. While not the buggiest game I’ve tried, there are some issues that still need to be ironed out. In one zone I was trapped down a hill, and only escaped when I rolled up a sheer cliff. However, smart use of potions can open many routes, so I may have misunderstood a puzzle solution…
It feels unfair to poke at issues when the game’s still in development, and the team seems so nice. All the same, Alchemist Adventure does punish you quite heavily for mistakes, so I shall show them no mercy either!
The main issue I had with Alchemist Adventure comes from two design philosophies that are completely at odds. On the one hand, the game embraces the alchemist ideal of experimentation and discovery. You’re encouraged to deploy your available potions to open up new routes and find hidden secrets.
On the other, the game wants to surround you with enemies and kill you. Even on the standard difficulty, damage can suddenly ramp up without warning and send you back to the last checkpoint. While there is an autosave, it’s generally only when you enter an area, or at certain unseen points. As such, you’re better off relying on manual saves where possible.
You can save at camps, which restore all your health, but these are often back at the area entrance. If you’re wary of dying, this means trekking all the way back through everything you’ve cleared to save. Then you have to retrace your steps so you can resume what you were doing.
Stuns feel more punishing than they need to be. This was particularly bad in one ambush. Three large spider monsters and their endless reinforcements attacked me while I was in the middle of solving a puzzle. I led them all over the place whittling down their numbers, only to catch an attack that stunned me. For over ten seconds, I was unable to do anything, while they cheerfully tore me apart.
Still, the potion system does have a lot of options and possibilities. I found a few different bonus effects, like much-needed healing, but there might still be some I haven’t found. For all I know, these could mitigate a lot of the issues I have with the sudden deaths I’ve suffered.
However, that does lead me into my next issue, which is that the Alchemy interface could do with some tidying. While it works neatly enough for throwing potions together, I could really do with a list of effects you’ve discovered. With all the different metals, resources, and elements that you can combine, it’s a lot to remember.
There is a talent to save a set number of potions, but I feel that something more detailed is needed. Since remembering all of that became overwhelming, I mostly relied on the base potions and a couple of variations. A system that encourages you to keep brewing would be great.
While I was eventually able to fight most enemies with relative ease, the early game felt very weighted against me. Stumbling across minibosses around the start tended to either lead to sudden death or ten-minute fights. This became a lot worse when a sudden insta-kill near the end would send me straight back to the checkpoint.
Other problems relate to quality of life. The map requires you to pause, wait for the book animation, switch through three tabs, and manually select the zone. I played with a controller, and both Start and Select opened the same pause menu. Putting the current area map on Select would be a nice fix to this.
Some of the more common animations could do with being shorter. It feels like it takes a second or two too long to burn objects. For example, if you enter an area with multiple wooden barricades to clear, the wait time can quickly ramp up.
The Adventure Continues…
Overall, I think Alchemist Adventure has a huge amount of promise. However, the checkpoint system actively dissuades you from exploring, and various minor issues can make it exhausting to play.
Still, there’s a lot yet to come as far as I can see. With the right tweaks I believe that Alchemist Adventure could turn into a surprise hit.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.