As with all of Gust's offerings, there's something below all the trappings that keeps you focused. Not exactly devoted, but certainly curious enough to see what happens next. And thanks to a rigid schedule, you're always pushed to that "next" big thing. You go to class, get an assignment (mainly either "make this" or "kill this") and have your results graded. The better you do, the more likely you are to have free time before the next set of classes. This open area lets you either take jobs (the same as Iris 3's bulletin board) or talk with your party members and engage in some Mass Effect-lite character missions that change the game's final outcome.
Each of these sections adds a layer of order to a game filled with tons of rules and variables, so you always know what to do and where to go despite having an avalanche of possibilities. It's a lot to take in, but after the first couple of hours it all starts to make sense - Grow Book and synthesis included. Next thing you know, you're still playing despite a list of complaints. It's the same feeling we get while watching Heroes.
The biggest trouble of all is that Khemia borrows too much from earlier Gust games. Atelier Iris 1, 2 and 3 all share sprites with Khemia, the music is almost identical and the characters are as forgettable as ever. Even if the storyline is somewhat intriguing and the battles (eventually) excite, sitting through one lengthy dialogue tree after the other while alchemists-in-training spout empty phrases about homework diminishes the experience. This style of RPG hasn't been fresh for years, but now even as a relic it's losing appeal. Maybe Gust should take a break and rethink its next release, because we sure don't need Mandated Gust RPG Update 2009.
Apr 1, 2008