The Atelier series is something of an acquired taste. The games tend to be a mix of super-relaxed storylines with anxiety-inducing time limit systems. The juxtaposition can be a bit off-putting to some, but once you realise that the time limits aren’t as harsh as they first appear then you can start to appreciate these games for what they truly are – charming JRPG adventures with a cast full of endearing characters.
The Atelier Arland Series Deluxe Pack is a set of Atelier games that were originally released back on the PlayStation 3 almost 10 years ago. This is the Plus version of games that were re-released with additional content, including new party members, costumes, and dungeons. While all three games have been given a new DX suffix there’s nothing really new here. These versions have prettier graphics and run smoother then the Plus versions but other than that they’re the same games.
However there is a very good reason that this has made its way over to the PS4. Atelier Lulua is being released next year and will be the fourth game in the Arland series. While it’s probably not essential to play through this trilogy in order to enjoy Lula, the publisher has been releasing lots of screenshots and trailers which show a heavy focus on returning characters from this trilogy. So it’s probably best to start off here if you want to experience the full emotional impact of the new game.
Every Arland game puts you in the shoes of a different adorable alchemist and takes you on a unique adventure:
Atelier Rorona ~ The Alchemist of Arland ~ DX is the first in the series and has what feels like the toughest time limits in the trilogy. Rorona is working at an atelier that has unfortunately been ordered to close down unless it can pass a series of assignments set by the palace every three months.
In Atelier Totori ~ The Adventurer of Arland ~ DX you’ll be playing as alchemist Totori, but this time you’ll also be trying to become an adventurer. Totori is hoping that by doing this she’ll be able to find information about her mother, a famous adventurer who disappeared many years ago.
Atelier Meruru ~ The Apprentice of Arland ~ DX will place you in the shoes of a princess called Meruru. She is really enthusiastic about becoming an alchemist but the King is far from keen on the idea. They come to an agreement that if she can use her alchemy to develop the kingdom and increase the population then she’ll be allowed to carry on studying.
All three games have similar gameplay mechanics. You’ll be spending much of your time exploring the world, gathering materials, fighting monsters, and performing alchemy. Alchemy is needed to create everything from healing and attack items, as well as stronger weapons and armour. Thankfully each game manages to put in enough tweaks to the overall formula that they all feel fresh and interesting.
In Atelier Rorona having to complete an assignment every three months gives the game a fairly rigid structure. As well as completing the tasks you’ll also need to try to raise your popularity with the townsfolk and increase your friendship with a number of companions. The turn-based combat and alchemy system is fairly simple but if you’re looking to conquer the post-game then you’ll need to really master the art of combining materials to get items and equipment with the best traits.
In Atelier Totori time will pass when travelling in between areas (the same as in Rorona) but it will also move forward by a set amount whenever you gather ingredients or fight battles. The time limit still ends up feeling more open and relaxed when compared to the first game and this is all thanks to the new adventurer ranking system. Instead of having a deadline every three months you’ll be trying to raise your rank by performing various exploratory, combat or alchemy related tasks to get license points. There are usually a good range of tasks that you can choose from so the game ends up feeling much more flexible.
Atelier Meruru is the most unique out of the trilogy. You’ll need to develop the kingdom and try to increase its population. An early example of this is when you clear out some monsters from a forested area and provide some tools to the locals; they are then able turn the area into farmland to help support your kingdom’s growing population. This changes what the area looks like as well as the ingredients that you can gather and the monsters that you’ll come across. The game world feels much more dynamic when compared to the previous two. It feels like the actions you take make a real difference to the world, with new shops and areas opening up thanks to your hard work.
Unlike most other JRPG games these all have a light-hearted and upbeat tale to tell. Each alchemist has a strong cast of characters supporting them and there’s real pleasure to be had in constantly swapping around your party members so that you get to see new conversations between them. These play out in a visual novel style with gorgeous 2D portraits that manage to breathe life into each character.
Everything about the Arland trilogy just screams ‘nice’ from its strong focus on friendship to the beautiful pastel coloured graphics. There’s a strong emphasis on exploration and crafting that make these a joy to play, and with multiple endings for all three games, it’ll take you quite a while to see everything that the series has to offer.
It’s been great to look back on some of the older games in the Atelier series; you can really see where some of the later games got their inspiration from. If you’ve never got round to playing this trilogy before then now is the perfect time to pick these up and experience a beautiful, heart-warming JRPG series – just in time for the fourth game in 2019!