Somehow, over the time of my gaming career, I’ve developed a very positive association with the words Alchemy and Alchemist. It must be because of my love for the Atelier games, but I do know that when those words pop up, I can’t help but check it out. So when I got a promotional email about The Last Alchemist, I was immediately intrigued.
The Last Alchemist, a science-fantasy game with management elements and loads to discover, is being made by Vile Monarch and will be published by Marvelous. I checked out the 1-hour long demo on Steam during the Steam Next Fest. Let’s see if it plays as well as it looks.
It’s A Dangerous Time for an Alchemist
Starting the demo, you meet the Apprentice. He is in the Old Imperial Star Observatory, which belonged to his late mentor. It’s a laboratory equipped with all kinds of marvels, mechanisms and the knowledge the Apprentice needs to become the new Master Alchemist.
The Last Alchemist is set in the superstitious heart of 17th-century Europe, where Alchemy is a mad new practice to be feared and forbidden. The Inquisition, a group of fanatical lawmakers with rising power, condemns Alchemy as heresy and intends to root out and punish Alchemists as the world’s most dangerous heretics. Not the safest profession to choose, then!
As you start your adventure, the game does a good job of feeding you the information you need to know at the specific stage you’re in. With little pop-up windows showing what you need to proceed with pictures and text. This is important, as this is a very involved game with a rather deep alchemy system. There’s a lot to learn! After the first basics, your Apprentice automatically falls asleep. Time to regain your strength!
Meeting the Agari
When the Apprentice wakes up, you notice he has an artificial leg that he needs to unbend before getting up. He gives me the impression that he is not a young man but an older guy who has been through mishaps and sickness. There’s a sadness to him as well as determination. I think there must be an interesting story to him!
Leaving his bedroom, he meets an Agari called Enoki. They are a funny-looking mushroom-type race and, apparently, not often seen by humans. At this point, the demo really takes off. You have to go outside and meet Hapalo, who is the builder of the pack. Of course, you first have to help him to get the forge up and running again, but after that, his help is invaluable.
A Very Deep Game
The Last Alchemist shows you a world that looks stunning. Detailed, interesting by all the out-of-the-ordinary things you see and explore. The Agari look cute and have a very distinct personality.
But it’s not just beautiful; there’s a deep system of alchemy at its base too. Every tool or contraption you want to make requires certain materials, which you can gather outside the laboratory. Wander about to find Woodshroom Stalks, Leather Cap, and Tangled Vine Withes…you use a scythe to cut them off, and they go into your bag to be used later.
But eventually, it’s not just the materials that you need. Your magnifier lets you do a deep analysis to know what kind of material you are dealing with. A contraption that you have to make is the extractor that can extract essences from the materials you put in. Essences can then be fused to solve Alchemy puzzles. For example, to make an essence with the right acidic property to blow up the big rock that blocks the entrance to the Observatory.
I did find controlling the game a bit awkward at times, especially when the Apprentice is using one of the tools like the scythe. He moves very strangely, which improves when you put the tool away. It controls best when using the keyboard, although walking can be done with a separate controller too. However, I couldn’t find all the right buttons on the controller.
Honestly, I played the beginning of the demo twice to get to grips with all the info thrown at me. I love that, The Last Alchemist is a game with a deep simulation system.
Making the right contraptions, knowing what each of them does in the chain to get to the solution you want. Extracting essences from everything you can find, fusing them and making new ones this way. And meanwhile, you have to keep an eye out for the apprentices’ health and that you gather enough Insight, which is needed to make new discoveries.
And it’s not just the alchemy; there’s a lot to explore outside the laboratory and a mysterious race to figure out. I think The Last Alchemist is a game to look forward to. They expect to release it in Early Access on Steam in 2023, and you can find more information here.