Tinctura – I was expecting an alchemy simulation, instead I got… nothing.

Tinctura ~ Hazama no Machi no Monogatari (ティンクトゥラ~はざまの街の物語) is an otome game slash alchemy simulation slash stat-raising game made by an indie group known as Seventh Quark. It’s freeware, so you can download it from this site, though you need some Japanese skill to play it. Right now I am drowning in unplayed otome games, plus Atelier games have spoiled alchemy for me, so it takes something special to turn my head in that direction. As the post title suggests, Tinctura didn’t have “it.”

It didn’t have anything, in fact. Not that I expect Atelier-level production values from a free game, but that’s where an enterprising developer would fill the gap with addictive gameplay or good writing or funny characters. Like my favorite indie developer inutoneko does, speaking of which it’s high time I played another of their games. Let’s get this “review” over with so I can get right on that.

The story behind Tinctura

Dill is an apprentice alchemist who moves to a new town with her master. The master takes a huge loan in exchange for providing the guild with a panacea that can cure any disease. Unfortunately her master goes missing and Dill carelessly uses the drug to cure a random passerby’s disease. Now she’s up to her eyeballs in debt to the rapacious guild master. Oh who will save poor Dill from this cruel fate?

….. Well… that’s kind of the story I wish Tinctura had. It would be more interesting that way. Stuff I made up: Dill’s master does go missing with a huge loan on his head, but the guild master is very kind and understanding about it. If Dill hadn’t insisted on paying the loan in his stead (why???) she would be scot-free. When you’re paying off a debt you don’t really owe just because your main character has a false sense of martyrdom, it’s like nnngh…. this girl is dumb…

That’s why she needs to study so hard

Also she used the medicine on a passerby with a very dangerous and infectious disease. If she hadn’t the whole city would have been in danger. Thus the guild master agrees to waive any interest on the loan AND to give her as much time as she likes to pay it off. There’s a creepy villain lurking about with a strange doll, but apart from that everyone’s very nice and sweet. I’m cool with that, but then nothing really pressures me to play the game.

Gameplay, a.k.a. the Dealbreaker

Your dark and gloomy studio looks like this:

Dill can take three actions a day. Mainly she will be doing research to raise her alchemy level so she can work faster or taking on jobs at the guild to pay off her loan. The red 9965 in the upper right is your current debt. Not too bad. The 200 is how much money you have. You spend 5 gold a day on everyday expenses so Dill is fine for the next 40 days.

At least I hope so, because I quit after 6 days for one main reason: Dill is supposed to be an apprentice alchemist, but she never gets to make anything. Instead of crafting items, jobs in this game run on a “points” system. The more you select the “Work” command in your studio, the more points you get. I’ll illustrate with a screenshot:

Even if you can’t read Japanese, you can see the numbers 10.00, 5.000 and 5.000 on the second line of every job posting. You pick a job, go home, “Work” and get assigned a number of points depending on your alchemy level. Maybe 3 points the first time, 2 points another time, 3 points the next time, etc etc. For a 5.000 job that’s two sessions of points-earning. That sort of thing.

Once you get a sense of your work rate you can pick jobs you know you can finish within the deadline. However if you push yourself too hard your fatigue will get too high and you’ll be forced to waste time resting. Research, raise your level, take on tougher jobs, repeat, until you pay off the debt completely.

It’s not a bad system in itself but… It’s not really alchemy, is it? Not to be fussy or anything, but… IT’S NOT ALCHEMY!!!!! There’s no synthesis, no foraging, no tools, no exotic ingredients, no nothing! And the few items in the game aren’t even illustrated, they just use the same placeholder image every time!

What’s the point of making Dill an alchemist if she’s not going to make anything?! Oi, Seventh Quark! You do know how weighty the word “alchemist” is, don’t you? Are you making fun of me? Oh, it’s on now! >:-[[[[ …But realistically speaking there’s nothing I can do to them except quit their game in a huff, so that’s what I did. And that’s why I only played 6 days of Tinctura.

Otome aspects?

Oh yeah, there were supposed to be some dating aspects too, weren’t there? When I quit, Dill had met three love interests. Flavian the pretty-boy priest:

Friedrin the pretty-boy nobleman knight thingy:

And Dill’s childhood friend Leo who I didn’t screenshot because meh, childhood friend. Unfortunately I have no idea how I’m supposed to go about winning these fine gentlemen. I only just met them and each initial interaction is 5 minutes of reading boring text in a hard-to-read font. They’re cute, but maintaining my eyesight is even cuter. I’ll script an ending in my head where Dill paid off the debt and married knight guy and lived happily ever after and… There, done. I should do this more often.

Next game: Oukoku Shoutengai from inutoneko. After that maybe I’ll have the patience for a standard RPG.

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