Arc of Alchemist: It’s a true love story


I’m done with AoA after 15 lovely hours, and let me tell you: I love this game more than I ever thought I would or could. See, it’s all about unmet expectations and getting more than I bargained for in the most delightful and delicious way.


Upon reading reviews, and knowing Compile Heart’s record, I braced myself for a minor game with cute aesthetics; something in the vein of Stella Glow, with tiny environments, anime-ish storytelling and an endearing budget quality. What I got instead was a wonderfully evocative and breathtakingly atmospheric journey of discovery and wonderment that felt challenging and comforting, epic and homely at once. AoA’s scope is much wider than I expected at first, and its production values much, much better. It feels like no other game I’ve played, and yet it sports plenty of familiar elements from games past. But the bottom line is that AoA took me faraway, away from my Switch and my daily routine, and offered me an experience of escapism and reverie that only videogames can provide. 


Although AoA sports a fair bit of hack-and-slashy goodness, it’s really, at its core, a game about exploration. It nearly qualifies as a running simulator of sorts, in which racing through open areas while drinking in your surroundings is part and parcel of the experience. The map, which auto-fills as you progress à la Xenoblade, only enhances the desire to explore heck, I have to confess that I didn’t leave a single corner unrevealed, and that it felt mightily satisfying. Soaking in the atmosphere is also a must, all the more so as the progression in that department is epically sweet. From the warm softness of the golden sands to the aching melancholy of the star-studded desert night, from the sweet loneliness of the green-bathed plateaus to the haunting emptiness of the deserted complex, you’re in for a stunning journey through landscapes & feels. 


For the record, I played with the default party of Quinn, Axel and Micah until the end. They rocked together, so I didn’t feel the need to change anything; but I’ll gladly experiment with other combinations when I replay the game. I developed my base a reasonable amount enough, at any rate, to get my paws on the lethal Juggernaut weapons and the gorgeous Elite uniforms. Last but certainly not least, I really dug the story’s twists and turns (SPOILERS!), from Gareth’s untimely death to the plot-twisty reveal that the crew are children of the Moon, all the way until Quinn’s meaningful sacrifice and days of loneliness, before a heart-warming reunion years later (True Ending all the way!). (END OF SPOILERS


When all is said and done, I honestly cannot fathom how AoA got such a low aggregate score. 36 should be given to a game that’s completely broken and/or a total offense to gaming, which AoA is certainly not. I know I won’t single-handedly turn the tides for that most maligned Compile Heart offering; but if I can at least deliver a positive, tried-and-tested view on it, then I’ll consider my job done. I’ll see you soon with fresh gaming goodness, dear fellow gamers; until then, keep gaming and take care! 



Pokemon Sword: The Boltund Solo Run


I said I was going to stop playing S&S after my Starters Runs well, guess what? I lied! Or not exactly, actually. I was totally planning to let the games rest, until my gaming instinct was stirred by a completely unrelated event. See, I was listening to some Lana Del Rey; and as the chorus of ‘Body Electric’ shimmied in my ears, a though struck me like a lightning bolt from the blue (ooh yes indeed): I had to tackle a solo run with a Boltund, and I had to call the creature Body Electric. And I had to do all of that no later than immediately, because that flight of fancy just wouldn’t leave my brain. What’s a gamer to do but listen to the gaming instinct, hey?


My BodyElectric turned out to be that lone Yamper that pops up in the middle of Route 2. It’s a non-respawning Wanderer, which made it unique and precious; and it became even more precious to me when I discovered that it was blessed with a Brave Nature. Now that’s the perfect hook to start raving about Boltund’s stats, which are some of the most friggin’ perfect I’ve ever seen. Tell me of another ‘Mon that boast sky-high Attack and Sp. Attack, paired with even higher Speed and perfectly serviceable defensive stats and HP? Boltund might seriously be one of the most well-rounded ‘Mons when it comes to stats, with great assets and no crippling weakness. 


And the electric canine’s assets don’t stop there, ooh no precious. We have to talk about them Moves because holy moly, is Boltund well-endowed in that department indeed. When I saw BodyElectric learn Bite and Crunch upon gaining levels, I was afraid Boltund would be the canine version of Luxray, namely a would-be Electric/Dark ‘Mon with the design to match; however, my fears blessingly dissipated as I discovered the full extent of the dog’s learnset. On top of a crap ton of Electric Moves, Boltund has access to Fire, Fairy, Ground and Psychic offensive Moves. Granted, we’re talking about a single Move in each one of these extra Types; still, that’s more than enough to put together a kickass Move pool with intense coverage.


After a bit of fooling around with Swift, Façade and Spark, I proceeded to assemble said kickass Move pool. BodyElectric knew Crunch and Play Rough already, and I wanted to get my greedy paws on Psychic Fangs and Electro Ball. I favoured the latter over Wild Charge for obvious reasons: not only would Electroball spare me the recoil damage, but with Boltund’s Speed being through the roof, I was assured to wreak havoc on the battlefield. A couple of Dynamax Raids yielded those much-wanted TRs, along with Hyper Voice as a bonus. I hadn’t planned on getting a Normal Move; but I reasoned that wielding a Special Move maybe wasn’t so bad, especially a Move with 90 Power. When all was said and learnt, my whole Move pool boasted 85-and-beyond Power which, let’s face it, is truly dazzling for an Electric ‘Mon. 


Actually, Boltund as a whole is dazzling. Heck, it’s electrifying, that’s what it is! I know that’s a super-easy pun to make — but heck, it’s friggin’ true. Boltund is simply one of the best Electric ‘Mons ever created, if not the absolute best. It made me fall in love with the Electric Type even more and mind you, I loved that Type a helluva lot already. (Now that I think of it, I should totally write a post about my Top 5 Favourite Types one of these days.) That run was pure pleasure from beginning to end, and I’m glad to part with S&S on such a high note again. I’ll see you soon with fresh gaming goodness, dear fellow gamers; in the meantime, keep playing and take care!



Arc of Alchemist: The Gargantuan Killer Battle Report



As a dejected reviewer rightly pointed out, each and every boss in AoA is a Mont Blanc-sized difficulty spike, and a Wake-Up Call Boss in and out of itself. Now, why zero in on the Gargantuan Killer? Well, although I may well craft a full Boss Eradication feature one of these days, I have to start with GK and expand on that fight. Not only was the progressive way I figured out how to beat that boss deeply satisfying, but the stages I went through perfectly matched that whole pattern of wonderment and discovery I have going on with AoA



Stage 1: Okay, now I’m quitting


When I faced GK for the first time, it took exactly five seconds for my whole team to kick the bucket, leaving me gaping at the screen and trying to understand what the heck just happened. I went at it again a couple of times, and finally managed to understand how fights unrolled. GK shoots uber powerful long-range laser beams at me, whilst a hive of minor foes fire blaster shots in every direction — all this while puffs of icy air are hanging around the place and eating away at my team’s HP. A tough predicament all right, that!


So tough, actually, that I seriously thought of quitting. I had already entertained such thoughts upon facing the preceding boss, the Laser Tank; but it was much stronger this time, as the apparent gap between my team and GK was much, much wider. But then, forgotten feelings from my younger gaming years awoke: a mix of powerlessness, puzzlement and excitement, giving way to an intense desire to beat the crap out of that seemingly indestructible pest of a boss. In a nutshell, I was riled up, and I vowed to eradicate GK if that was the last thing I did.


Stage 2: Let’s grind, shall we?


My first strategy was simple, and very true to myself: to grind, folks. It had worked nicely with Laser Tank: whilst I struggled at first, a couple of extra levels allowed me to beat the thing comfortably. I proceeded to use the same trick, and grinded until my whole team was Lv. 60.


I’d like to claim that it made all the difference in the world; but the harsh truth is that it didn’t change jack sh*t. My team was sent packing just as fast at Lv. 60 than at Lv. 50, leaving me thinking that a couple of extra levels weren’t going to do the trick this time. I’d probably need to grind 20 to 30 more levels before being able to resist GK’s deadly attacks — and heck, even my serial grinder’s mind balked at the thought. Those 10 levels were already tedious enough to gain, with areas being so wide and foes not respawning; racking up 30 more levels would totally have terminated my love story with AoA.


Stage 3: Broadening my strategies


If levels weren’t enough, I had to find ways to alleviate all the issues I had with that fight. First was that darn cold air that sapped my HP; surely there was a way to get rid of that annoyance, right? I had already spotted another area in the Abyssal Valley sporting those same puffs of cold air, and I decided to experiment there. A survey of the place revealed suspicious-looking structures that looked like empty braziers; I Lunageared them with the Fire Orb, and bingo! The cold air was suddenly gone, leaving my HP bar in peace. I had spotted the same brazier-like contraptions at the boss arena; and so, the cold air issue was virtually solved.  

The second issue was GK’s cursed long-range laser beam, which was a sure-fire fight ender. I reasoned that the best course of action was to stay mobile at all times, and to stop solely to unleash Fire Lunagear shots (GK’s elemental weakness) and special attacks before dashing again. Then, I would have to make do with my healing items, and try to stay alive long enough for my item use and special attack gauges to refill.



Stage 4: The money shot


Armed with that newfound understanding of GK’s showdown, I went at it again. I first dashed at the braziers and Lunageared them, before turning my attention to GK. As one fateful dodge brought me literally at its feet, I discovered something mightily unexpected: its shooting range didn’t include its own personal space. Its laser didn’t bend towards the ground beyond a 45-degree angle, which meant that I was totally safe as long as I stayed glued to it. A couple of Fire Orb shots and combos later, GK was no more, leaving me free to reach the next area at long last. Mind you, that fight was still no walk in the park: my crew survived with a mere quarter of their HP bars, and I hurriedly retreated to the base to heal and save my hard-earned progress. 


I just love how utterly clever and logical that whole setting was. It makes perfect sense that a laser beam should have limited firing angles, and one should be able to reason that a foe that rock at long-range attacks has to be less competent at melee. Yet at the same time, the fight is set in a way that makes you want to stay as far from GK as possible. No matter how prepared you are, you will be obliterated in a matter of seconds upon entering the arena for the first time; that will instantly cast GK as a formidable and deadly foe that you certainly don’t want to get up close and personal with. Approaching GK enough to realise his glaring range shortcomings is either a matter of trying any tactic you can think of, or a matter of pure serendipity; and yet, once you’ve done so, you realise that said shortcomings were totally predictable all along. 


It’s been a long time since an RPG boss fight has been such a rollercoaster of emotions from the initial daze and near-despair to the riling-up and plotting, up until the intense relief and satisfaction of victory. This is the true essence of an RPG boss fight: to stumble, to be challenged, to despair a bit, and to rack your brain and switch tactics until you finally emerge victorious. Now, I’d lie if I said I wanted every single RPG boss to deliver that kind of hardcore experience; but to get it once in a while is mighty fine by me. I sure didn’t expect AoA, of all games, to feature such a fight; and I can only hope that the game will surprise me more before I’m done with it. Until I come back with more gaming goodness, dear fellow gamers, keep playing and take care!