Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland PS3 Review

Publisher – NIS America – Developer – Gust – Genre – RPG – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 12+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland might very well see a world under threat, which is hardly a unique premise for an RPG in itself, but hold your horses, it’s not the world at large this time that is facing destruction, but rather heroine Rorolina Frixell’s (commonly known as Rorona) personal world, which, if nothing else, makes for a change of pace.

Because of the laziness of her master, Rorona’s Alchemy workshop is facing closure and she has just three years to turn the fortunes of it around, by working on 12 assignments. It’s about as exciting of a story as it sounds really, which is to say not very much, though characterization is reasonable enough and the crazy Japanese humour grants additional personality to the game, even though it’s been done better elsewhere.

The structure on a basic level sees you heading out into the wilds to gather items that you’re able to use as ingredients for your alchemy, then, once back in town, putting an item or items together that will satisfy your current assignment. At the end of each assignment you’re graded on item quality, quantity, item traits and such.

All of your assignments have a deadline that must be met; otherwise it’s game over for you and Rorona’s workshop. Many of your actions will expend days, so you must always manage your time carefully. The deadlines are quite generous though, having enough room for you to fit in other tasks, aside from the primary task at hand, such as sidequests and additional dungeon exploration, but nevertheless this structure isn’t going to be for those that want to explore and such at their own pace. With such restrictions, Atelier Rorona can occasionally feel a bit laborious, though those going into the game with the right mindset will nevertheless find it engaging.

Each dungeon is split into small sections, each often offering some unique ingredients to find and monsters to fight. Moving to new sections will cost days, so you must always be mindful of the deadline for each task.

Your inventory is limited to just 60 items, so you have to often be careful of which items you decide to pick up and which to leave behind. Thankfully once your basket is full, you’re able to go back to the workshop where there’s a container that can store up to 1000 items, and instantly whenever you come back from adventuring you can store any items that you gathered.

By carrying out tasks for the people of Arland, you can not only earn yourself some funds, but also recognition from the denizens. Some side quests will earn you trust with the town at large, whilst missions from individuals will see your friendship with them increase and in turn, if your relationship progresses far enough, you’ll get additional exposition concerning that character and in regards to team mates, you’ll also get the bonus of a more efficient performance in combat from them, whilst shops will eventually offer discounts and other perks.

Relationships also have a bearing on the ending you’ll ultimately come to receive upon completion of the game and it will take multiple play throughs to be able to see everything that the game has to offer in this regard, so suffice to say the game has a generous level of replay value. Attempting to get the best ending is where the true challenge of the game lies, requiring you to skilfully manage your time so that you’re able to get the trust of as many people as possible.

The visuals have a pleasant cartoon style.

The combat has rudimentary but serviceable mechanics, and perhaps the best thing about it is being able to make use of the items that you’ve worked to create. You’re able to manipulate the elements of the battlefield by using skills, which in turn unlocks more powerful skills to unleash, and in somewhat of a unique twist, Rorona and company don’t have a MP pool, instead skills expend HP, granting somewhat of a risk and reward element to the combat. Rorana’s teammates can also assist her, protecting her from attacks, or attacking instantly after her.

Like any other Atelier game before it, one of the most compulsive elements is the alchemy system. Items are created in your workshop and it’s an enjoyable process, that sees you adding the ingredients, being sure to take note of their traits and overall quality. Making items will not only pass time but will also see Rorona losing HP. You also have an alchemy level of which raises through experience. A higher level increases your odds of being successful at crafting the more difficult items. It has the potential to be a real time sink, for those that like to get their items to be of as high quality as possible with the items at hand.

Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Aland certainly isn’t going to be for everyone, though providing that you’re willing to accept its unconventional ways and try something a little different, you could very well discover a game that once it gets you in its clutches, is difficult to escape from.