You know how you can combine stuff together to make other stuff? Yeah, that’s called Alchemy. Do you like doing that? If you do, you’re in luck. Because that’s exactly what Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland is all about, that and a little bit of combat.
You play as a young girl named Rorona. She’s an apprentice alchemist that just inherited an alchemy shop that’s about to be shut down by the government. So, it’s up to her and her friends to create things using alchemy for the government. Otherwise, her shop will be closed for good.
The game takes on the feel of a standard Japanese RPG both in combat and in style, but like I said earlier, the game doesn’t really focus on combat. You are tasked with finding items, recipes, and ingredients through shops, fallen monsters, and in the field that you will use to create useful items for both your party, and for completing assignments for the king.
You gain new recipes from reading books you obtain through buying them at stores. With these recipes in hand, you can now go search for the ingredients to make them. Later on in the game, you will start to make items to make items to make items-if that makes any sense. It does in the game at least. It can get very complicated. Luckily, the game has a very well thought out menu system that brings up the ingredients for items with a simple button press. So you’re never really lost on what you may or may not need.
The game revolves around a time system. So you will get an assignment for the king. You have three months to make as many items on the list as possible and you are graded on how many you make, what condition they are in, and the variety of the items you bring in. So let’s say you’re ordered to bring in bombs, barrels, and cannons. If you bring in just cannons, it will take a lot more to finish the assignment than it would if you brought in a little of everything. If you don’t meet the satisfactory requirements, your shop is closed down and it’s game over, but truth be told, it’s not too difficult to meet the requirements.
You also have to bring your shop’s reputation back up. Your master made a bad name for herself during her ownership of the shop, so now you have to do quests for the townspeople to make them start accepting you and your shop as a reliable place of business. Doing quests are much like assignments but much simpler. Most don’t require too many items and the items you do have to find are, for the most part, rather common. Quests are the best way to earn money in the game.
You will then use money to create better weapons and armor, hire helpers to go along with you into combat, and, of course, buy more ingredients. It’s all a well balance of earning money, getting ingredients, and creating items for quests and assignments.
When you go out into the field, you can choose from a list of trails you can follow. You eventually unlock more trails that lead to better/rarer ingredients. You can have up to three party members in your squad. The combat is your standard turn based RPG. You can use items, special skills, and of course, run away. Although, the game doesn’t focus too much on combat, there are a lot of small things the combat does that helps you out. There’s an assist system that your party members can utilize. It fills up over time with three abilities that can range from guarding Rorona to adding a follow up attack after Rorona’s attack. Another simple part of the combat is that all skills use HP. There is no MP or TP in this game. So if you want to use a magic spell, you’re going to have to sacrifice some of your health. This makes the inventory selection somewhat easier to keep track of. It’s very simple, but can become complex if you’d like. You can place skill points into abilities for every level you gain. So there’s always some type of progression going on. The combat never gets too difficult, and even if you do die, you just wake back up in town with 1 HP.
That brings me to one of the small gripes I have with the game. Every time you create or “Synergize” an item, it not only uses up a certain amount of days, but it also uses up a certain amount of hit points. So I spent three days creating things, and I realize I need to go out to the forest to pick up some ingredients. Well, I’m down to only 5 HP and I’m in a forest with a ton of monsters. It’s a small gripe, but I found myself on more than a few occasions having to waste a day on going back to town just to sleep for 3 days to get my HP back up, but then again, that’s how the game works, and I wasn’t thinking. A lot of the small problems like this can be remedied by creating healing and restoration items, but keep in mind, that costs days off of your clock that you may need to create more items for your assignments.
You level up both for combat and for creating items. Of course, leveling up in combat makes your characters stronger and even learn new abilities. More importantly, leveling up in alchemy will help you by not using as many HP and days for creating items. This is essential when you’re trying to beat the clock to make your deadline. Plus, because each item has unique traits and stats, they don’t stack in you inventory, so you are tasked with having to manage your inventory to the fullest. It can become challenging at times.
The game features a very colorful Japanese anime art style with very “cutesy” characters. The 3D models look rather nice with the all cel-shaded look. It has a rather decent storyline with a good amount of well acted voice acting. I was actually quite surprised. The story actually kept me interested. The music is catchy, but will get old after a few hours of hearing the same songs for a certain area or menu.
The game at times feels like it’s running at one hundred miles per hour, but then you sit down and realize you still have plenty of time to do what you need to do. Of course, sometimes you don’t as well. That’s what makes this game so charming. You’re progressing every little bit whether you want to or not. It keeps the player on their toes with this balance of time management.
I would be lying to you if I said that I didn’t enjoy playing this game. I have found in recent years that JRPG’s have become rather stale to me, but Atelier Rorona really changed up the way a JRPG can play. The gathering and creating of items, weapons, and armor are what really makes this game addicting, much like a toned down version of Monster Hunter. The whole race against the clock for items doesn’t get too difficult, but will still offer up a decent challenge to the loot grabber guys. The game will last you a relatively long time. There are plenty of areas to explore, items to create and of course, assignments to complete that span over the course of three in game years. I can honestly say I can’t really find anything wrong with the game as long as it’s in your wheelhouse of games. It sets out what it wants to do, and does it in spades. If you’re into the anime art style or you’re a fan of item creation games, or even if you’re a fan of life simulators like a Harvest Moon type of game, you’ll more than likely enjoy Rorona’s adventures into the crazy world of alchemy.
Review copy provided by publisher.