Price: £15.49 (Soundtrack £3.99)
Where to Get It: Steam
See, sometimes, you see an idea, you think “Hey, this is cool!” and then… Oh. Hrm. Ah. Not quite as cool in execution.
So it is with The Sealed Ampoule. It’s a very minimalist procgen dungeon crawler. So minimalist, in fact, that it doesn’t gel well with its length. The procedure is very simple. Go into dungeon. Hit things until you feel you aren’t going to survive the next level, go back to room. Use stuff you got in the dungeon to get skills, level up the dungeon’s drop rate and magic circle rate for each level. When you get the ability and have the resources, turn dungeon levels into farms, just dropping the drops. Find story every now and again, or resources to turn more dungeon levels into farms. Rinse, repeat.
I will say this for this set of mechanics, it does cut down on the bumf you’re overlevelled for. I mean, I’m still somewhat overlevelled at any given point beyond the early game, although I suspect that changes the further in you go, but yes, turning the earliest levels into, eventually, a single level you just run through and collect resources from? This is a piece of legitimately good design.
But the rest? Well, as I mention, it’s basically a rinse and repeat. Skills drop once every five levels or so, although those, like the progress toward dungeon farms, require specific materials, dying loses you some resources, and… Well, it boils down to a blur of grind, occasionally interspersed with “Oh, new enem- FUCK, RUN!”, story, or a boss.
The story, similarly, is simple, although it has its compelling mysteries. You play as Irene, who has been depressed since her mother died, but found an advert for a cheap dungeon, and decided to turn it into an alchemy farm, so as to open a shop, make lots of money… And then she finds out that it’s more populated than it first appears, including two small and mysterious children, and… A man who has been bludgeoned to death by nothing less than The Philosopher’s Stone. It’s just that said story progresses in short cutscenes that are… Well, an increasing number of dungeon levels from where you were, even accounting for farms.
And finally, there are the aesthetics. Again, it’s minimalist. A few music tracks, that mostly fit the mood, but still feel off, and a few sound effects, generally around two per enemy, sometimes shared between groups. A low poly look that normally, I’d be down for, but feels like a waste of enemy design, and hits the uncanny valley in the case of Irene, whose mouth never seems to work right, and whose movement is… Well, speaking frankly, Irene’s animations are godawful. All five or so.
Otherwise, the accessibility is just fine. The menus are clear, albeit with calligraphic and serif text, you have a helpful toolbar about the status effects you know, and, with the exception of floating numbers for regeneration, nothing’s too small to distinguish. Starts in windowed mode, keys are simple, but options to change things are sparse, and there doesn’t appear to be any gamepad support.
It’s honestly disappointing, because you can see hints of what the developers were going for, but a lot of it just falls flat. If you want a time waster, then yes, this is alright, but otherwise, I can’t really recommend it.
The Mad Welshman loves games of alchemy. He just finds so few of them FUN.