Atelier Rorona The Alchemist of Arland DX Review

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Atelier Rorona The Alchemist of Arland DX is a PC port of the game Atelier Rorona Plus made by developer Gust. The game originally came out on Playstation 3 and is a turn based JRPG game. Later on it got a enhanced remake called Atelier Rorona Plus which released on Vita and the Playstation 3. Then came out Atelier Rorona DX which is a port of Atelier Rorona Plus for the PC. I had played Gust’s previous Atelier games such as Atelier Iris and Mana Khemia and was a huge fan of those games. However I then went and tried out the Atelier PS3 games.

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The Atelier series from the PS3 and onward took a very different approach to JRPG gaming. Unlike a traditional JRPG where you’re a hero who goes on a quest to save a world you’re instead a alchemist living in a town who wants to prove their capability in alchemy. The games from this point on had a big focus on making smart strategic decisions on gathering materials, a deep crafting system and helping townspeople to make a name for yourself. Due to the different gameplay and storytelling style the Atelier series took from the PS3 games and onward I was left very confused. I remember thinking I was going to get a game like Mana Khemia or Atelier Iris, but instead got a very different game and it was something I was not prepared for at the time. I couldn’t get into the series back then. However, I recently saw the more modern Atelier games get ported to the PC and I decided to get Atelier Rorona DX and give the series another try. It was one of the best purchases I’ve made recently as far as games go. I ended up completing the game and I really enjoyed it. To start off the review I want to talk about the story of Atelier Rorona.

Story:

Atelier Rorona’s story is about the main character Rorona. She works at a alchemy workshop known as a Atelier and she was taken in by the master of the workshop Astrid. Astrid took her in to have Rorona repay a debt to her. One day the kingdom of Arland where Rorona and Astrid live in have the knights of the kingdom visit the workshop. They let Rorona and Astrid know they have to prove that the workshop is of value to the greater good of the kingdom of Arland by fulfilling tasks given by the kingdom. If they fail to complete tasks given to them by the kingdom the workshop will be closed down. From that point on, Rorona begins working on alchemy to fulfill certain tasks that are given to her by the Kingdom of Arland. The story from there is about Rorona doing her best to keep the workshop from being closed and making friends along the way. I found the story very enjoyable and original in Atelier Rorona. For once instead of the game being a RPG about a chosen hero going to save the world it’s something different. You play as Rorona who’s just a normal girl that is trying to be an alchemist and keep her workshop from being closed by the kingdom. It was refreshing to have a RPG story that wasn’t about stopping some great evil. This game’s story has a great cast of main characters. I liked every playable character in this game and really enjoyed the interactions Rorona has with the citizens of the kingdom of Arland.

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The story was written well and there’s a lot of funny scenes throughout the game’s story that made me laugh. In addition, there’s also some pretty interesting plot twists about the main characters of the story. Atelier Rorona’s characters are extremely well developed and you learn a lot about them throughout the game. This game might have one of my favorite casts of a characters in a JRPG. There wasn’t really much that bothered me about the story or cast and I can’t really say that the story had any big flaws I could think of as I reflect back on it. Next I want to discuss the graphics of Ateleir Rorona DX.

Graphics:

The graphics of Atelier Rorona are pretty well done. This game has a cel shaded art style to it and a lot of creativity to it’s area designs. You’ll go into a area and you’ll see meteors flying across the sky or you’ll go into a area with tons of machinery. The creativity of the area designs is one of the graphics strong points. I also thought the character design was very well done and I did like the character designs of the main cast. The attacks during the battles especially the character’s skill/special attacks had really good animations and made the battles more exciting. A negative of the graphics is a lack of enemy variety. You’ll fight mostly the same enemies in the game. As you progress through the game, you’ll find you run into enemies you previously fought, but they got a color palette swap and they’re the exact same enemy but a red color instead of a blue color when you encountered the weaker version of them at the beginning of the game. This is common in games, but in Atelier Rorona it really does feel like there is a small variety of different enemies you fight and a ton of palette swaps. So the originality for enemy designs is lacking.

Gameplay:

In Atelier Rorona you play as Rorona a alchemist who runs a alchemy workshop. One day you are told that the kingdom is thinking of closing down the workshop and so you have to do various tasks to prove that the workshop is a benefit to the kingdom. Throughout the main story of Atelier Rorona you will have 12 main assignments you have to complete to finish the main story of the game. Each assignment you have 90 days to complete. Some assignments will ask you to turn in items like barrels, bombs, cannons etc. Meanwhile other assignments might give you an objective like defeating certain enemies. Actions such as crafting, traveling to dungeons to fight enemies, explore and get items takes time. However, Atelier Rorona DX is more forgiving than other Atelier games because fights do not take up time nor does gathering items in areas. I found the time limit to be something that intimidated me at the beginning of the game, but ultimately by the third assignment the time limit wasn’t such a big deal. I found myself finishing the assignments in usually 20-30 days max and would have around 60-70 days to explore, make items, battle enemies and do optional sidequests such as requests. One of the main source of sidequests in the game are what are called requests.

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To take on requests you go to the front desk of the castle and there you can accept requests. Requests have a deadline they have to be completed by. Failure to complete them in time will result in you failing the request and having your popularity among the town of Arland decrease. Completing requests will require crafting items, defeating enemies or even bosses. Successfully completing the requests you accept will give you money known as Cole in Atelier Rorona and also items or equipment. In addition Rorona’s popularity among the townspeople will increase. Getting a high popularity rating is a requirement to get the good and true endings of the game so doing the requests is essential. Doing requests can also result in you getting a request from another character in the story who might need your help. Completing requests for other party members or story characters will result in you strengthening your bond with that character and increasing your friendship level with them. By leveling your friendship up with other party members or story characters you gain access to events that explore more of a character’s backstory and their character development. Get a character’s friendship level high enough and you can get a character ending having to do with that character at the end of the game. Then there is the traveling and fighting of Atelier Rorona. You exit to the world map and select a location from the map. Each location takes a certain amount of days to travel to so you must plan your travels to areas carefully. Once at a area, you’ll be able to approach gather points in the environment to get items. Also you will see enemies in the areas. Battles are initiated by coming into contact with a enemy. However, you can swing Rorona’s staff at a enemy to get an advantage when going into a battle. Speaking of battles, let’s talk about the battle system of Atelier Rorona DX.

The battles of Atelier Rorona are turn based. You have three party members you can use in battle and the combat system shows when each character or enemy will get their turn. Once a character gets their turn they can attack, defend, use skills or if it’s Rorona’s turn use items. As you fight, a gauge called the assist gauge will fill up. The assist gauge is filled by attacking during battle and taking damage from enemies. Each time the assist gauge fully fills up it’ll go up a level. Each level the assist gauge increases unlocks more attacks and skills you can use during combat. The assist gauge comes into play when a enemy goes to attack Rorona or a character uses a skill. If Rorona is about to be attacked a character can do an assist guard and take the hit for Rorona from a incoming attacker. Meanwhile, if Rorona uses a attack item or a character uses their skill you can follow up with an assist attack. If your assist gauge has been filled enough though you can follow up the assist attack with character’s advanced skills that will do different effects such as massive damage, healing the whole party and a plethora of other effects. This assist mechanic is a great feature that adds more strategy to the combat of Atelier Rorona DX. Upon winning a battle, you receive experience and money along with crafting materials to craft new items. In terms of difficulty, Atelier Rorona DX unfortunately has a strange difficulty curve with it’s combat.

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Atelier Rorona DX’s difficulty curve is very odd. In the beginning when a game should be at it’s easiest the game starts off fairly challenging with it’s combat. It starts tough because enemies will do relatively high damage and can hit for a third of a character’s health, they take multiple attacks to kill and are formidable foes. Once you get past the very beginning of the game though, the game’s difficulty has a sharp decrease. The difficulty decreases as you get better equipment, better items and more skills for your characters. Enemies whom previously would do a decent amount of damage to you before will begin doing only 1 damage or so. The difficulty throughout the middle of Atelier Rorona DX was too easy. It becomes too easy because enemies die in either 1 to 2 attacks often and frequently miss attacks or do incredibly low damage. There are mini boss enemies throughout the dungeons in the game and fortunately they do put up a decent challenge. The items enemies drop make them still worth the reward of fighting. It is disappointing that for the middle portion of the game to get into tough fights you’ll have to take on the optional mini boss enemies in areas. The easy battle difficulty while a flaw of Atelier Rorona does not prevent the combat from being fun though.

Throughout the game I still had a lot of fun fighting enemies even if the battles were easy because of the game’s quick paced combat and the battles giving out worthwhile rewards. Fortunately, the game does go back to being a little more challenging towards the end. In some of the final areas you can travel to the enemies get moderately more difficult and do more damage, can call enemy reinforcements and have a lot more health. Once you get to the last few areas of the game until you get the final weapons and armor you can synthesize you will have a decent challenge. Overall though, the main story of Rorona is not going to give you much of a challenge. This is a extremely easy game. In terms of the optional content though, the optional bosses are very tough. Players seeking a challenge will definitely enjoy fighting the optional bosses of Atelier Rorona DX. These bosses will require you to have excellently crafted equipment, good tactics and the ability to use the game’s battle system and mechanics to it’s fullest. It’s just unfortunate that Atelier Rorona DX did not have a hard mode difficulty included or just more challenging of a main story.

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For the crafting portion of the game you can synthesize items. To synthesize the items you gather materials from areas, fightning enemies or completing requests. You then go back to Rorona’s Atelier(her workshop) and you can use the cauldron in there to craft/synthesize items or equipment. During the crafting process you choose what materials you want to use to create the item and then the item is made. Each time a item is successfully made Rorona will gain experience towards her alchemy level. The more her alchemy level increases the better her success rate when making a higher level item. If Rorona fails to make a item it will crumble into dust and not be made successfully. Synthesizing makes time pass in the day and each piece of item or equipment makes different amounts of time pass. So you must be very strategic and plan your synthesizing out carefully. At the end of the crafting synthesis process you can add traits from your materials onto the item or piece of equipment you crafted. So if one of the materials you used to make a weapon had two traits of + 6 Speed or + 20 HP you could choose to put those traits on the newly crafted item. However, each item has a limit to how many traits can be put on it. Each trait costs a certain amount of points to put on a new item. So you must carefully choose which traits you want to put on a newly crafted item. The crafting portion with the alchemy and synthesizing is one of the best parts of the Atelier series and Rorona is no exception. There’s an incredible amount of ways you can customize the items that you create through alchemy and crafting. The alchemy and crafting gameplay mechanics are one of the best features of Atelier Rorona. For the next aspect I’m going to tackle of the game in this review I’ll be going over the music and voice acting.

Music:

Atelier Rorona has a pretty good soundtrack. In particular, I think the normal battle theme is extremely good. The themes of the dungeons you travel to are mostly good as well. A lot of the soundtrack is composed of upbeat orchestrated tracks with instruments like violins. flutes and the music has a distinct style. That being said, I do think the boss themes of Atelier Rorona were a little disappointing. Many of them are remixes of the normal battle theme and they aren’t that great of remixes of the normal battle theme. Meanwhile, the voice acting of the game is pretty well done. None of the voice actors for the characters in the game annoyed me and the voice actors fulfilled their roles very well. The voice actors were able to voice act the scenes very well and change their tone to suit what was going on based on the context of what was going on in the game.

Pros/Cons:

Pros:

  • Atelier Rorona has a incredibly good crafting system. The crafting system has a lot of depth and is very enjoyable. It allows for a ton of character and equipment customization that a lot of other RPG games do not.
  • Rorona’s story and cast of characters are great. I liked all of the characters of the main cast.
  • This game is a very unique JRPG game. Instead of being a save the world style of RPG it’s very different and it is refreshing to play a RPG with a story that doesn’t involve saving the world.
  • Atelier Rorona has an impressive amount of endings. In total the game has fourteen attainable endings!
  • New Game + feature increases replayability of the game.
  • The time limit system is improved drastically from other Atelier games. It is very fair to the player. It is more forgiving of mistakes while still providing a slight challenge and making the player have to plan their actions carefully.
  • The game’s battles is extremely fun and fast paced.
  • Game has a great soundtrack with a lot of memorable area themes and great normal battle theme.

Cons:

  • The game’s difficulty has a sharp decrease during the middle portion of the game. The game becomes super easy during the middle part of the game all the way until near the end.
  • PC port of the game is bad. It’s bad because it only supports 3 resolutions, no graphic or frame rate options such as anti aliasing, texture detail etc.
  • Enemy designs are heavily reused in this game. You’ll encounter a lot of palette swaps of the same enemies you’ve fought earlier in the game except now they’re a different color. This makes the game have little enemy variety unfortunately.

Overall: 5/5

An overall incredibly great game. I could play this game endlessly and never get bored. In every aspect this game is exceptional. Any JRPG fan owes it to themselves to give this game a try. This is an extremely underrated game.

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