Yours truly somehow lucked into closed beta access for Alchemy Stars, and it was doubly fortuitous that it’s also available in English (!). While the tester Discord is run entirely in Japanese, so long the game works for me, I can give it a good shake. Let’s see what it’s got. Remember that this is a closed beta, with assets and systems subject to change!
It’s probably meant to be played in Japanese and I have no idea who gets access to the English text, but it being a beta, there’s plenty of text breaks that aren’t formatted right, the occasional inconsistencies with descriptions and what not which should hopefully get fixed in the full release. Otherwise, the art was what drew me to the game in the first place, and I love pretty much everything I’ve seen so far. Well, maybe the 3D chibi models could have some more polish into them. The stories aren’t voiced, which is what I expected. There’s a blend of visual novel-esque art and Live2D models in the stories, and they’re also animated on the homescreen and in the inventory. It can be turned off as well.
So far, no one appears to have ripped the OST yet, but yeah, I like the tracks a lot, so I’ll look forward to listening to them on loop at some point. The game leans more to a magitek setting over high fantasy, if that’s the right descriptor, and here and there I feel like I’m playing Arknights again, minus the tower defense.
For the most part, the UI is pretty clean besides the rendering issues. I think the highlighted areas for skills could be made more prominent, as when multiple characters chain their attacks with differing areas of effect, it can be hard to see on occasion where attacks may land.
The basic gameplay has you move along the same coloured tiles on the field. You can move along them in any direction, but you cannot step on the same tile twice, or cross over to another colour. You can’t step on a tile an enemy is occupying, or on any other solid environmental objects / hazards that may be in the way. When you manage to chain 15 tiles or more together, you’ll enter Aurora Time that gives you an extra turn once per turn. Enemies have their hitboxes, and you’ll be attacking any of them automatically as you run along the path, ending in a Chain Combo if you meet:
- the pre-requisite number of tiles, most if not all become stronger or change area of effect with more tiles
- an enemy in range for attacks
Besides these regular attacks and Chains, you also have Active skills with cooldowns ticking down every round. These can range from:
- Damage skills
- Area of effect, single tile, movement
- Tile colour conversion
A team will have five characters – including a support in the fifth slot if you use one – headed by a Captain. A Captain can perform actions on any coloured tiles, but the rest of the party will only react with their own colour. You can swap Captains up to 3 times per round if needed, and you can also attack on the tile you’re already standing on.
The daily grind maps have the option for you to double drops called “Carriers”, but you’ll also double your stamina usage. Stamina recharges one point per six minutes. With four attributes, they can be weak/stronger against each other.
To obtain faster recharge of your stamina – called Prisms – you can build facilities in your Colossus, essentially the “dorm” system. Decoration is available to raise the atmosphere level, to increase the chances of your units gifting you stuff and getting friend visits. You’ll be able to later do Dispatch missions at least five times a day for more materials and Lumamber (gacha currency), besides replenishing another resource called MS.
In Secret Territory, it works much like a rogue-like mode, where clearing nodes will get you relics to improve your units. Units in this mode have fixed attributes, as well as having individual health pools instead of a shared pool in regular gameplay.
There is also the Spire mode, where they will force you to deploy only a single attribute. You’ll start out with only 3 units, and you’ll want to level your lower rarity units for this mode as well. This can be a place for your 3-star units to shine, or just to show off how horrendously lopsided your roster is in any particular element.
Last but not least are Extra Chapters, which are not main story… stories, focusing on other characters who you may or may not have.
The game has an auto battle system and 2x speed which works decently well, and you can change the lineup prior to starting the quest. No auto repeat or a skip function though. There’s an Achievement system to scrounge even more currency, and has a collect-all!
As you move along the story, earn all the stars to get more Lumamber, which is pretty standard. You can raise affinity with your units, which mostly unlocks more of their personal files for the lore. Some of these conversations may also open up new facilities in your Colossus, though as far as I know these are few and far between. You can even chat with units you don’t have yet, like if they’ve appeared in the main story.
You’ll be getting multiple resources from the gacha, which will be used in limit breaking your units. They work much like the Constellations in Genshin and Potentials of Arknights, though the initial nodes for characters do not use duplicates to start with. The number of nodes are also different across rarities. You can obtain the materials in small quantities through Dailies and other game modes, so you don’t always have to rely on the gacha. Pulling will always be faster of course, and you’d want that for dupes for 4-star characters and above.
Besides Breakthrough, characters also have Ascensions, up to 3 times. I’m pretty sure new art will be unlocked at max Ascension, but I haven’t gotten there yet. Levels will reset to 1 when you Ascend a character, which unlocks Equipment at Stage 1, and improves skills at other stages. Equipment can be further levelled up. If I’m not misreading it, a max Ascended character gains a secondary attribute, so they can be more flexible. Levelling up units for Ascension, Ascension materials and Equipment materials are all different, so be prepared to spend a lot of time grinding those stages for each attribute. Don’t forget the Colossus building materials!
Incredible that I can finally read the story without needing to parse it through a machine translator! You are a Caelestite, appearing the be the last of your race. Alone save for Soroz, your sentient ship known as a Colossus, you’ve been trying to get him to fly over the years, without success. When Vice falls into Soroz being pursued by the baddies known as Eclipsites, the story kicks off, ending your 17 year isolation.
There are 7 chapters available in the beta, and I’ve managed to clear halfway through chapter 4. I can’t say how gripping the story really is in general, but I enjoy the character interactions as the world slowly opens up to you. As a Caelestite, you can communicate via telepathy with Aurorians, and they’re able to respond, though they can’t initiate the conversation. Aurorians use Light Trails to battle, but they can’t actually see the paths, while you can see the paths but can’t fight. As the Navigator, you’ll be taking command and leading the Aurorians against the Eclipsites.
That’s how the story explains the gameplay conceit anyway. There’s the whole mystery of your race apparently being annihilated, as you see “dreams” of the past. Soroz’s memory’s busted after crash landing, his only purpose prior to the start of the story being to keep you alive. There’ll be plenty of colourful characters you will meet along the way, as you unravel the web of the past.
Characters range from 3-stars to 6-stars in rarity in this game, with a base 2.5% rate for 6-stars. The pity system works similarly to Arknights, where you’ll slowly build up an increased rate the more you unsuccessfully obtain a 6-star. It takes 3,000 “Lumamber” for a 10-pull, and you are not guaranteed a 5-star every pull. Hello, blue-purple
Human Resource bags I mean flares…
With only a standard banner available in the beta, we’ll have to see how the rate-ups are handled in the future. It did come with a discounted beginner banner, with a guaranteed 6-star, so if you want to do some rerolling, that will be possible. No in-built reroll feature, however.
The closed beta offered a lot of currency to pull, but it remains to be seen for regular play, so I’ll pass more comments then.
Since I myself signed up to enter the closed beta, you can probably guess I’m looking forward to the game. It’s quite easy to pick up, with the difficulty spikes here and there from increased complexity from enemies, and me not having the best units for the job.
My sole 6-star is Carleen, and I get the idea she will probably be an S-tier unit to reroll for if she stays the same from her beta version, bringing AOE damage on her Chain, and an Active that teleports, converts tiles and deals damage to everything in a column. Uriah is my pick for a healer; a 4-star with 1 cooldown heal that can also enhance a green tile when you overheal? Yeah, that sounds pretty good.
Alchemy Stars is set for a Summer 2021 release. We’ll have to see if the already available English localization means Summer 2021 is also for a global release date.