The Arland part of the Atelier series is now on to its third game in North America, with Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland being released. Like the two before it, Atelier Meruru focus on the ideas of Alchemy and how it affects those around it. The series has been steadily making improvements with each iteration and this latest effort brings it a step further.
In the game you play as Merurulince Rede Arls, or as her friends call her Meruru. As the Princess of the small kingdom of Arls, she is supposed to be all about her noble duties—however, Meruru thinks of nothing else but Alchemy, and has become the apprentice of Totori. Of course, she cannot keep her secret forever as her father, the King, finds out and demands that if she does not want to stop, she needs to prove that her Alchemy can help to improve the kingdom and make it expand. As the player, you will be tasked with expanding the kingdom in three years time, increasing both population and size. If you fail, you must give up Alchemy…forever.
In The Apprentice of Arland, like the past game in the series, you will be given tasks to complete which include making objects to deliver to specific places on the map or killing all the enemies in a given area. Upon completion of each quest, Meruru will be rewarded with building points that you can use to create new buildings or expand on current ones. Doing either of these will also increase your population by various amounts.
You can also take on more traditional quests that those familiar with the serious have grown accustomed to. With these quests, you can pick them up at the tavern and usually involve either slaying a set number of monsters, or collecting a set number of ingredients that you can find throughout your travels. When done with each quest, you can turn them back into the tavern for money and also increase your popularity around the town. Quests will also become available from your party members, which if completed, will give you a better relationship with that person, which gives various rewards.
In Apprentice of Arland, there will be aspects of the previous two games that make an appearance. As you can travel throughout the world, you will complete quests that unlock new areas of the map. Along the way you can gather ingredients, take them back to your lab, and make various materials, attacking items, and healing items. With every action, such as crafting items, days will pass by in the world. This is a very important part of the game as you must complete your main task within a three-year time frame or receive a very unhappy ending.
Combat in the game doesn’t vary much from previous versions, sticking to a turn-based system. But that’s not such a bad thing; the combat is fantastic. Your party will consist of three party members with one of them always being Meruru. During battle, Alchemists, such as Meruru or Totori, can make use of attacking items or potions. However, non-alchemists can make use of special abilities which decrease magic points with each use. Each of your extra two party members also have a bar that when filled, will allow the characters to block attacks on Meruru or do a combo-attack. The system works well and has no real flaw, except for the fact that there really is not much depth to it and it can get a bit repetitive. But since the game is not based around combat, instead, the combat is a nice break from gathering materials or alchemy.
Presentation in Atelier Meruru has seen a huge spike in value with things becoming very streamlined. It is now incredibly easy to view the status of a quest, how many materials you lack, and even mix the materials from the quest screen. This system does a great job of trying to help the player keep up with how much they lack on a specific quest and then easily complete them.
Not only have the menu’s and quests been beefed up, the game’s visual and audio also see a nice uptick. The graphics don’t jump up and slap you, but what is there has a nice layer of polish added to it. I wish I could say the same about the audio which suffers from the annoying voice acting that seems to plague most JRPGs these days. On the other side of the audio, the main track of the game is extremely enchanting and the rest of the game’s tunes provide a solid backdrop to the game. The story in Meruru isn’t extremely strong and could have really used a conflict to drive some desire into it, but thankfully, you won’t care as you pass through most of the cutscenes to hurry up and keep building your kingdom. Again, that’s where the bulk of the enjoyment is.
Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland is a triumph for players out there looking for an addicting RPG full of creating items and building your kingdom to new heights. Although the story isn’t as great as the previous two entries, the game will feature a wide range of cameos from the past games that helps keep things interesting. If that isn’t enough, the game will have you spending hours upon hours gathering ingredients in an attempt build a bigger library and expand the boundaries of the Kingdom of Arls. The term “just one more quest” is something you’ll be saying to yourself throughout, as you can easily sink 30+ hours as a bubbly alchemist in training: princess Meruru.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+Streamlined experience over past Atelier games.
-Story and voice acting are a tad weak.