Alchemist Simulator: fire burn and cauldron bubble
Although it seems like there’s a new simulator title every week, it feels like there’s a dearth of games focusing on alchemy. Alchemy Story, Potion Craft, and now Alchemist Simulator are the only three I can think of at the moment (I could be wrong and I’m willing to be told about more!). And with such a long and storied history spanning just about every human culture in one form or another, it seems odd that so few games on the subject exist. Which brings us to one of the said few: Alchemist Simulator (yesss totally nailed that segue).
Alchemist Simulator’s goal is simple: it wants players to become the most powerful alchemist of all time by “choosing contracts wisely (as they will shape the world around you), discovering the long forgotten magical recipes, upgrade the alchemy lab, and more.” Available on Steam, XBox One, and Switch for $12.99, Alchemist Simulator promises fun and magical gameplay in a mystical, cozy environment. And with a playtime of about 5 – 10 hours depending on how much you love these potion-based puzzles, Alchemist Simulator delivers on those promises, one concoction at a time.
In Alchemist Simulator, players will take on the role of the grandchild of a legendary alchemist. Unfortunately, there isn’t much time for any bonding with Grandpa, as he’s been whisked away from his alchemical duties on some important matter. Luckily, he’s pulled a few strings and gotten you officially recognized as a pro alchemist, allowing you to fill in for him in his stead. You’re still wet behind the ears, so he’s instructed his assistant, a talking rat who gives off Roz from Monsters, Inc. vibes, to help you get your bearings and make sure the building doesn’t burn down. Hopefully you’re a quick learner, because Grandpa’s shop is pretty popular, and the orders are already flying in from the moment you’ve arrived in your new lodgings.
The first thing that grabbed me about Alchemist Simulator were the aesthetics. This art style is so warm and inviting — absolutely perfect for a magical, medieval setting. It felt like a cross between Whiterun’s inn in Skyrim and the castle in Radiata Stories (if such a combination makes sense), its cozy interior immediately comfortable. I felt like I could have just stayed in the home and sipped a cup of tea, relaxing to the ambient music and charming setting all made possible by lovely, lovely aesthetics.
When it comes to the potion-crafting mechanic, Alchemist Simulator’s puzzles are hard to get the hang of but easy to master. To sum as quickly as possible, there are four possible alignments for any given ingredient — Life/Death, Hot/Cold, Order/Chaos, and Purity/Corruption. Each of those alignments have varying strengths or qualities, if you will, such as cold and ice on one end of the spectrum with hot and fire balancing out the other end. Ingredients will have a variety of these qualities, such as a mixture of cold and purity, but the recipe may only call for one or the other. By cutting out qualities with a specific knife technique, drying ingredients, or pulverizing them in the mortar and pestle, specific qualities can be isolated or enhanced through this careful preparation — after which the ingredients are thrown into the cauldron to create the required tincture. Sounds easy, right?
Not at first; for one, it’s not immediately clear which knife technique you need to cut out the quality you *don’t* want. Additionally, if you mess up, you can’t just put the ingredient back on your copious amount of empty shelves and are instead forced to throw it away. The recipes are available in the book, but they don’t tell you the ingredients required and instead tell you the qualities each potion needs. The rat will allow you to purchase ingredients from her, the qualities they posses listed out, so the puzzles really boil down to finding out the most cost-effective way to make a potion — once you figure out how to successfully make it in the first place, that is.
The beginning of the game is riddled with so much trial and error, it gets to a point where you worry about potential bankruptcy from the get-go from buying and re-buying ingredients. It doesn’t help that there’s a day/night cycle that can interrupt your work, sending you to bed while half your potion is brewing. If you’re hoping for a game that scales up in terms of difficulty (most games), Alchemist Simulator is not going to be your cup of witches brew.
However, if given enough patience, everything eventually does click into place and becomes an understandable flow-state cycle. Clients ask for potions, you buy the cheapest ingredients that’ll get you there, and you make the potion — lather, rinse, repeat. It’s at this point in Alchemist Simulator where its entirety has been realized; the puzzles don’t get all that complicated, no real wrenches or challenges to explore, etc. Alchemist Simulator is not for everyone, but for people who stick things out and don’t mind repetitive nature, you may just have what it takes to follow in Grandpa’s magical footsteps.
Don’t let Alchemist Simulator’s cozy aesthetics fool you — there’s no warm welcome here. Getting your bearings as a fledgling alchemist will take a lot of practice and patience, but once you do, it’s smooth sailing. In fact, some might even find it too smooth, as Alchemist Simulator’s repetitive nature makes it hard to learn but easy to master. A little more communication to the player would have gone a long way in the beginning, and some increased difficulty at the end would have captivated those looking for a challenge. Alchemist Simulator gets warm enough to melt lead, but unfortunately not hot enough to make gold.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: Switch, Xbox One, PC (reviewed); Publisher: Polyslash, HeartBeat Games; Developer: Art Games Studio; Players: 1; Released: October 23, 2020; MSRP: $12.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Alchemist Simulator provided by the publisher.