After initially releasing on the PlayStation 3 between 2009 and 2011, Koei Tecmo have packaged their alchemy-focused RPG titles Aterlier Rorona, Atelier Totori and Atelier Meruru into one neat collection known as the Atelier Arland Deluxe Pack. Admittedly, the Atelier series isn’t necessarily the most well-known of RPG series, but those who’ve given it a chance have always found them charming and enjoyable – now players have got the perfect opportunity to take a look at some of the stand out titles from the series for the first time, or even just re-visit adventures they’ve enjoyed in the past in this new deluxe form. Of course, they can all be bought individually, but to get the full experience it’s probably best to play through them all.
The three games tell their own story but they’re all tied together in their own way. The best order to play them would be Atelier Rorona, Atelier Totori and then Atelier Meruru – it’s the order they were released in and it’s the one that feels natural for the narrative.
Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland sees the titular protagonist working to ensure that her shop doesn’t close down, Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland sees the titular protagonist head on an adventure to find out more about her supposedly dead mother, whilst Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland sees the titular protagonist (yes, I realised I’ve used that phrase three times now, but it works) attempt to bring prosperity to her Kingdom and make it a land worth living in. Those descriptions are giving a very simple rundown of each plot, but it gives you a basic idea of what’s going on. What typically goes with them is a mixture of interacting with the characters around you, completing tasks for them, mixing up concoctions with your alchemy skills, heading out to explore the wild environments and, of course, beating up some baddies.
You’ll progress through the narrative of the game by completing quests, some of which directly impact the story and others which take on the form of side-quests. Either way, completing them raises your reputation within the Kingdom and can even affect the ending of each game – the Atelier series is known for offering multiple endings, so to get the best one you’ll want to make sure you do everything you can for those around you. Most quests in the game follow a basic formula and it’s one that leads onto one of the series’ main components: alchemy.
The alchemy element of the game mainly consist of crafting, which is something that’s a lot more common in games these days but wasn’t back when the Atelier Arland Deluxe Pack released in its original form. Basically, it consists of gathering ingredients, mixing them together in various ways (and often with various effects attached to it), and then getting a new fancy item. As you progress through the story you’ll unlock new tools, new recipes and new ingredients too, with the focus on creating every item that’s asked of you being the core point of each game.
That’s not to say that you don’t go out adventuring too, though – I mean, where else do you expect to get the resources to perform alchemy from? You’ll come to explore a variety of environments where you’ll uncover resources, discover secrets, and, of course, take down monsters in turn-based battling. In honesty, the battles themselves don’t demand too much from the player and don’t really have too much of a strategic element involved – for the most part it’s just a case of working out what attacks work best on each foe and then dishing them out. Naturally, alchemy ties in too, with certain items proving to be pretty effective at taking down hordes of monsters, whilst the other party members who tag along with you all have their own strengths that can be put to use when taking on each group of enemies. It’s all fairly simple in design, but enjoyable enough.
In fairness, pretty much all of the gameplay mechanics across the three games follow the ‘simple but fun’ approach, but there is one thing that the series does that ties everything together in a meaningful and more tense way: give the player time restrictions. Every story-quest or side-quest you take on in the game will have a time limit applied to it, whilst every single action you make in the game itself will also take time – basically, there’s no time to mess around otherwise you might find yourself missing a deadline. It adds a sense of urgency to everything you do in the game, meaning you’ve got to have at least a bit of a plan in place when you head out exploring for new resources or even when you’re simply crafting. It might sound a little intimidating, but the tension of trying to work out your time perfectly when trying to juggle so many things at once is what makes the whole game so enjoyable to play.
And that’s just what the Atelier Arland Deluxe Pack is: enjoyable. It’s not the most in-depth RPG you’re going to play and most of its mechanics are fairly simple in design, but everything is tied together in a meaningful way that ensures you’ll have a good time playing through each game. Adhering to the time limits imposed upon you adds an element of strategy to plotting out each and every one of your actions, whilst the reward of slowly seeing your reputation grow adds a sense of progress to everything too. It’s just a good time and the quality of the journey remains consistent between each of the three releases.
The Atelier Arland Deluxe Pack offers three enjoyable RPG experiences that are simple in design but clever in the way in which they impose time restrictions on the player. It forces you to think about every little thing you do, but not in a stressful way but rather one where it feels satisfying to see each bit of progress you make. It’s good fun.
Of course, these are older releases and they do show their age at times whilst the simple approach to the game’s RPG mechanics might not be for die-hard fans of the genre – those who decide to invest their time into the adventures of these three ladies of Arland are certainly in for an enjoyable journey though.
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC