After completing the game 100% and getting all the ending and 24(!) different death, here are my thought about this game.
Royal Alchemist is a BL/Otome visual novel created by Nifty Visuals, a small team based in Germany. They had a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2018 and the full game released in February 2020, which is, well, much faster than the vast majority of project I’ve followed until now.
You play as Alexis Rozenkreuz, an alchemist and experienced magician sent in the kingdom of Eskia to teach magic to the 3 Princes –all of which you can romance or die trying.
The game takes inspiration from Long Live the Queen, another stat-raising sim where you need to take good care of your character’s stat if you want them to stay alive and get their happy end.
Alexis of House Rozenkreuz
A proud alchemist who can wield all 6 elements of magic and was tasked to teach the Princes. Far from being a blank slate, they are level-headed, resourceful and use their wits to gain the upper hand in many situations. They have their own secrets that they can’t tell anyone, not even the princes.
The Crown Prince of Eskia, many see his polite and agreeable nature as a sign of weakness for a future King. Despite this, he knows how to inspire respect when the situation calls for it. He’s aware of the weight of his shoulders and it takes time to truly getting to know him. He wields Woods and Light magic.
The second Prince, Nazir has no interest in ruling and excels at flirting and escaping his duties. Unpopular with Nobles but loved by palace servants and commoners, his jovial attitude hides his insecurities about being the “lesser” of the 3 Princes. He has affinity with Fire and Wind magic. It takes a surprisingly longer time for Alexis to romance him compared to his brothers.
The youngest Prince, Aurelius is the son of the King’s concubine. Despite this, he’s well-respected in the court for his fighting and leading abilities to the point some see him as a better potential King. That man is drama level 100 and should you do his route, be prepared for him to challenge Alexis a lot and in unexpected ways. He uses Water and Darkness magic.
The Lord Regent
A man of mellow temperament thrust into the position of Regent after the death of the King, he actually used to be a merchant along with his sister the late Queen. He has witnessed the many exploits of the King and the birth of the Kingdom of Eskia, but does not feel comfortable with his current role.
Raphael & Sala
The two servants assigned to attend to Alexis. Raphael is a courtier doubling as a butler who can teach Alexis about court etiquette, while Sala is a homunculus with a mysterious past who is close to the Princes who doubles as a maid and a beautician. Alexis wonders how Sala was made and who created her.
A butler who has served Aurelius since he was a child, he’s diligent and grumpy, with a hint of arrogance like his master. He’s very close to Raphael who he has known for many years and like him, he’s often seen chasing Nazir when the latter is trying to escape his duties. Harris can teach you Leadership.
…There are many more characters, but these will be the most recurring throughout all routes.
How it works: Stat-raising
Stat-raising is one of the core mechanics of the game. Every week you get to choose subjects to improve your stats on both for yourself (top 6 lectures on the right) and for the princes (bottom 6). Each slot you see above will yeld anywhere between 2 and 7 point for a given subject.
These stats will affect how Alexis and the Princes will react to various situations. Here are a couple examples:
– Succeeding a Charisma check can make Alexis able to assert themself in front of other characters and make them cooperate
– Failing a Fire check means Nazir may not be able to save you or himself from danger in certain situations.
Item crafting and missions
A few weeks into the game, you get the possibility to craft various items that will be useful for many things: complete missions, save your ass, help servants, nobles or other parties and earn their approval.
In order to craft them, at least one of the Prince must have the required stats. For example, in the pic below, Aurelius has enough Fire and Darkness skills to synthesize glass beads.
You can also sacrifice a week of teaching to complete a mission in which Alexis can help various characters. Should you succeed the mission, you can increase your weekly income, raise a Prince’s affection or your “approval” and get a cute little image for your trouble. Certain missions on the other end can kill you if you don’t have enough Fighting skills so be careful.
(You can rename the cat. I decided to call it “my butthole”.)
On Royal Alchemist’s difficulty
If you’re unfamiliar with stat-raising you may find Royal Alchemist a handful to deal with at first. It’s possible at the start of a game to pick the “easy” difficulty, but I found it not much different from the normal mode: Easy mode only substract 10 points from most stat checks, meaning Alexis will need, say, 40 Intelligence points to survive a week instead of the usual 50. This makes a bit of a difference early game, not so much later on where the requirements can reach up to 170 of a given stat. I think halving the stat requirements or just making it impossible to die would be better and actually make the game “Easy” as intended.
That said, if you’d like to avoid death here are some tips:
– Raise Alexis’ Intelligence early on. Fighting also helps but isn’t as important.
– Craft “explosive” items as soon as you can so Alexis can use it in a pinch.
– A high Intelligence alone can get Alexis out of most hairy situations.
– Make the Princes study their subject strengths, they’ll need them.
Stat-raising aficionados may enjoy the challenge the game provides, although I admit I’m not that well-versed in that area. If the stat-raising instead scares you, following my advices cited above should keep you out of trouble and let you enjoy the story!
That’s great and all, but what about the writing?
Have you ever read a piece of fiction, found its story and characters intriguing yet at the same time thinking to yourself “this sentence could have been better worded”? Making a story compelling is one thing, finding the right words to make your words impactful for the reader is another, and while I find VNs succeeding the former somewhat consistently, the latter is a feat very few have achieved as far as I’ve seen.
I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that Royal Alchemist succeeded in both: the main intrigue and murder/mystery cases kept me (and Alexis) on my toes until the very end, the Princes and side characters were colorful (I especially liked the butler Harris) and each route had its own share of drama, romance and murder. All wrapped in a prose I found very pleasant to read.
Perhaps RA having 4 writers and 2 editors helped: each route was written by a different writer the game director carefully hand-picked, with another person writing the missions. One of the writers is Windchime, who is currently working their own Otome/Yuri game.
Art and Music
My biggest complain about the art is that there is not enough of it. The handful CGs (8-10 without variations) we get for each Prince are pleasant for the eyes but I feel that is not a whole lot considering the length of the game. The non-static sprites, visual effects and chibi illustrations fill that hole a but but cannot replace good old CGs.
Most of the backgrounds and all of the music tracks were royalty-free assets that felt fitting enough but not particularly noteworthy. That plus the scarce CGs lead me to believe that a few sacrifices were made in order for RA to be 1°) financially viable -making a game is expensive- and 2°) delivered on time. One year and a half which is much less than the KS projects I’ve been waiting for 4 or more years.
Intriguing plot and cast wrapped in an excellent prose are what makes Royal Alchemist shine, and shine it does! It’s the kind of story you’d enjoy for the plot alone although the relationship, romantic or not, have its strong and sweet moments as well.
A very good experience overall and I hope more people give it a chance and tell the authors what they think.
They recently announced a short Halloween-themed game set to come out around November 2020 if you’re interested.