Atelier Rorona First Look
We put on our alchemy hats and start mixing things up in Gust's latest role-playing game for the PlayStation 3.
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The Atelier series makes the transition to the next-generation console with Atelier Rorona, a role-playing game that blends turn-based combat with synthesis and is set in a simple world with a cast of quirky characters. It is also the first in the series to feature 3D graphics, so you'll be able to wander the streets of Arland, as well as the lush areas nearby to gather the ingredients needed for your alchemy session. As with previous games, it centers around the use of alchemy, and there's combat thrown in just to make things a bit more difficult when you wander out into the real world.
Atelier Rorona is set in the peaceful kingdom of Arland, which is isolated from the rest of the more "advanced" world. The citizens lead a simple life, at least up until a traveler comes by to teach them how to use ancient relics known as "machines." Life for Arlanders change after that, and the king grants the influential visitor a single wish, which allows him to start his own alchemy workshop. Many years later, the workshop is now run by a young girl named Rorona and her master, Astrid, who has a tendency to nap her days away and neglect anything of importance. You play as the simpleminded Rorona, who is basically an indentured servant, but Astrid treats her as her star pupil. She promptly forces Rorona to take over the workshop when they are given notice that the workshop will be closed if they can't get their act together and run the place properly.
The premise of the game is to keep your shop open, and you have three years to do it. You're given assignments from the palace every three months for three years, so you'll have 12 to complete. In the meantime, you can complete a variety of front quests and friend quests to earn money and build your reputation among the local citizens, which in turn will help you keep your business running. You'll be asked at first to collect items for various reasons, but as time goes on, you'll be able to acquire new recipes and synthesize higher-level items. Ingredients can be purchased or given to you, but when you're low on stuff, you can head out into the real world--which happens to be infested with monsters--to gather the items you need from the fields. Time will pass as you travel and synthesize, so you need to pace yourself and keep in mind how much time you have left to complete your quests and assignments. Your assignments have deadlines, and you'll lose your shop if you don't meet them. If you fail to complete quests from others, your reputation will go down, which won't help your cause either.
You can synthesize items from your workshop or through your menu. Rorona's expressions and comments will indicate the likelihood of success, but just be aware that it takes hit points and time to synthesize too, so you can't drain all of her hit points or your chances for success go down. The quality of an item also makes a difference, so when you're out gathering items, you might want to save space by just grabbing things that are ripe or in good condition. Perishables will deteriorate with time, so unless you put them in a container to keep them longer, they will go bad if you leave them in your basket.
Monsters will appear onscreen when you're outside of the town walls, and if you can afford it, you can hire up to two friends in town to tag along to make things easier. Building trust is important because it also decreases their fee when you decide to hire a friend to watch your back. The battle system is turn based, and there's a support system that you can use once your assist gauge is full. Other party members can shield you from attacks when you activate the system, or you can deal more damage to defeat monsters quickly. Different characters have their own unique abilities so you can pick and choose the characters you want to keep at your side. As you gain experience, you'll earn skill points that you can assign and build up your character's special abilities.
Atelier Rorona's visual design, other than the new 3D graphics, is still relatively simple with character portraits that animate slightly when they talk. The presentation is very clean on the PlayStation 3 and the voice acting brings the colorful cast--many of whom are female--to life. If you've played the games in the series before, you'll be accustomed to the innuendo between the zany characters. Look for Atelier Rorona when it is released on September 28.