As a high-fantasy fan and long-time devotee of the Atelier series, I’ve been thrilled by the recent uptick in alchemy-related games in the past few years.
Classic fantasy meeting the wonders of chemistry wrapped up in a crafting-sim package will never fail to make my day. As such, taking a look at Alchemist Simulator on the PS4 was a delight.
Alchemist Simulator is a crafting simulator game by Polish developer ‘Art Games Studio.’ Simple and charming, Alchemist Simulator focuses on the intricacies of potion brewing, breaking down your ingredients into their base components to craft products for a host of strange clients.
If you’re looking for a fun time waster that will still make you think, this might be the right indie game for you.
Now, let’s kick off this Alchemist Simulator review and take a closer look at what this game has to offer.
Taking Over the Family Business
The initial plot of this game is generic fantasy fare: you, a recently graduated alchemist, must mind your grandfather’s alchemy lab while he’s off galivanting across the world.
With the help of his assistant, the rat, you’ll learn potion recipes from the wise Professor Snail and fulfill requests from various townsfolk, like the fire department and the monster hunter guild.
The only NPC you meet in person is your assistant, the rat. She’s a sassy, no-nonsense kind of rat who always has a quippy remark about your clients or an insult to throw your way. Her dialogue alone is a lot of fun, but the true joy of the story comes from the quest letters.
Each morning you receive up to three new quests in your mailbox. Requests include a message from your client, usually detailing how they plan to use your products.
While these letters start out unassuming, you quickly start to see recurring clients, and, through your business, you watch their stories unfold. At one point, I became complicit in a murder, and I didn’t expect that going into this game.
The writing is ridiculously charming, poking fun at fantasy tropes and not taking itself too seriously. I ended up playing this game for a long time, and the little stories are what kept me coming back. I wanted to know what trouble the townspeople would get into and what disaster I would inadvertently help them cause next.
A Well Thought Out but Repetitive System
Now that you know what you’re doing, let’s look at how you do it. Much like the story, the gameplay in Alchemist Simulator is surprisingly complex while still being simple to follow.
You have a limited list of ingredients, each containing elements of varying strength, and each potion requires a specific set of elements to brew.
Using five pieces of lab equipment (starting with three and unlocking the other two later), you will reduce each ingredient to its base elements to brew your potion.
The real trick to working within this system is efficiency with your components because each one costs you out of pocket. You want to make the most money while spending the least.
This game gives you the basic tools to complete your goals, and there’s a lot of flexibility in how you use them. This system is a lot of fun and deeper than it looks on the surface. It’s a system best learned by using it, and very satisfying to master.
However, possibly the biggest drawback of this game also lies in the core gameplay: it’s repetitive.
The majority of the game is doing this brewing process again and again and again. The first few times, it was challenging and fun. But once you have mastered everything the game offers, the variety is gone.
The potions never get too complicated, with no more than four elements for any one potion, and depending on the player, you might find yourself wanting more variety or difficulty.
This won’t be a drawback for everyone. Some gamers, myself included, can get a lot out of a game like this, where you have to think, but you can turn your brain off just enough to enjoy an audiobook while you play. However, for most players, I think this game would quickly grow monotonous.
Lovely Design and Rich Atmosphere
Alchemist Simulator’s visual style is quaint, the cell-shaded, cartoonish environment evoking a fairy tale/storybook aesthetic. The entire game takes place in just the laboratory, a lovely space that sets the mood.
The atmosphere in this room is magical, familiar but filled with cute fantasy elements, such as the rats that run around the room and power the knife sharpener.
The most significant criticism I have of the design is that, for a game that relies on visuals to convey to the player what things do, it’s not always clear what is what. For example, when I started the game, it took me a long time to figure out where the drying station was.
it took me hours of gameplay to realize that I had to store processed ingredients on different shelves from raw ones.
Instead, I assumed that I couldn’t set processed goods down at all, which resulted in me throwing a lot away. This isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, and it may just be that I’m dense, but I can’t help but feel that this is a flaw.
Immersive but Frustrating Interface
Unfortunately, this is where the bulk of my criticism falls. The interface of this game is built to add to the immersion. You can’t press a button to bring up a menu; you have to move around the lab and talk to your assistant to access the information you need.
To look through the available quests, you must interact with your mailbox. To look through your inventory, you have to look at the physical items on your shelves. And your recipes and ingredient list are accessed by reading a book you page through.
It’s sweet, and in concept, I really like this; it adds to the atmosphere and the feeling of working in an alchemist’s lab.
However, in practice, it’s just obtuse. Looking at your physical inventory can lead to not seeing items and not knowing how much of something you have.
This led to me wasting money on more than one occasion. Also, thanks to all the menus and equipment being spread about your lab, you waste time going back and forth.
Worst of all, however, is the lack of an in-game clock. The quests and days are time sensitive, and you’ll be forced to bed when it gets too late at night. This in and of itself isn’t a big problem; it’s how you save the game, and imposing a time limit could add a feeling of urgency and higher engagement.
But the only warning you receive before the day ends is a pop-up saying ‘it’s getting dark,’ and I missed it more often than not. And if you’re in the middle of processing something or holding a component when the clock ticks over, you’ll lose it.
Again, none of this is a deal-breaker. The UI can be frustrating, but it works and adds to the charm and immersion once you get used to it. This will come down to preference; I was frequently upset with the UI but still thoroughly enjoyed the game.
However, this is a significant flaw, and I can see it turning off some players. This game was designed to be played on PC and shows through the UI in particular, but the port played well regardless. If you’re the type to be turned off by this kind of thing, the PC game might be more for you.
This is a game I can see being very replayable for some players but impossible for others. I would, unfortunately, count myself in the latter group.
The gameplay is static in progression, and this game would be a dream come true for someone looking for the same experience on repeat. But not for anyone else. Aside from a few minor story paths, I can’t see much changing between playthroughs for your average player.
Thirsty for More?
Alchemist Simulator is but one in a trend of alchemy games hitting the market. And this niche of crafting games has sprouted from a larger trend in fantasy-themed crafting games, all of which offer a quaint, relaxing experience.
If this game has you craving more of what it has to offer, or the flaws that I’ve mentioned turned you off this game, one of these might be up your alley:
- Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator
- Strange Horticulture
- Alchemy Garden
- Little Dragons Cafe
- The Atelier Series – for beginners, I would recommend Atelier Sophie
- Cute, pleasing visuals and immersive atmosphere
- Charming writing and surprisingly complex narrative
- In-depth puzzle system with multiple solutions for each goal and room for creativity
- The gameplay grows repetitive quickly
- Obtuse user interface
- Lack of in-game clock despite time limits
I might be a little biased here because charm will always be the deciding factor in whether I like a piece of media or not, and this game was chock-full of it. The writing made me smile frequently, the gameplay is open-ended and fun to work with, and the game is pleasing to look at.
However, if charming is the first word I would use to describe this game, the second would be repetitive. Of course, that would be a bonus for some people, myself included, up to a point. But this isn’t a game for everyone. And that’s fine!
This is a lovely little time waster that made me think while also letting me pop on a video essay and zone out. If that sounds like your thing, this game might be worth checking out.
Question: How Long is Alchemist Simulator?
Answer: A full playthrough of Alchemist Simulator can last between 5-10 hours. I managed to get about 6 hours from the game before learning all of the recipes and could have continued. It depends on how long you’re willing to engage with it.
Question: What Platforms can I Buy Alchemist Simulator On?
Answer: Alchemist Simulator is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Playstation 4 and 5.
Question: How do I Accept a Quest in Alchemist Simulator?
Answer: To accept a quest, you must select one from the menu accessed from your mailbox. Scroll to the bottom of the letter, scroll further to sign the request, and then press the accept button (on PS4, this was X). You can only accept one quest at a time.
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