Full disclosure: I have never played an Atelier game before. It’s not because I didn’t want to; due to a backlog that keeps growing, I’ve had to be slightly more conservative with my monthly gaming budget. When the chance to write the Atelier Lulua review for our site came up, I hesitated. Was I up to the task? Could I stop playing Fallout 76 long enough to do this? After some prodding my my co-workers I gave in, and boy oh boy, am I ever so glad that I was given the opportunity.
Fourth in the Arland based Atelier titles, Atelier Lulua ~ The Scion of Arland ~ follows the daughter of the renowned alchemist Rorona (star of the first in the Arland arc). Lulua’s alchemical studies haven’t been a real focus for her until a mysterious tome called the Alchemyriddle appears before her. At the same time she finds herself responsible for keeping up the atelier’s reputation while her mother is away on business. Book in one hand, staff in the other, Lulua buckles down to take her studies more seriously while traveling in search of new ingredients and helping people along the way.
Pretty in Pink
Alchemists need supplies. Gathering supplies means heading out to gather them yourself. Venturing into the wilderness means battling the monsters who’d rather you weren’t hunting them. Aren’t you glad you’ve been collecting so many unique and interesting friends on your journey?
Atelier Lulua features a familiar turn-based system. Three party members take position on the front line as your offense, where they’ll bash, bonk, and block their way to victory. What I found pretty darn cool was that changing up which characters were up front with Lulua added bonus battle perks called Primal Arts. For instance, Lulua and Eva’s bond Friendship doubles the duration of positive status effects for the two, while the Student-Master Synergy between Lulua and Piana decreases the wait time for using items. It’s been fun to move people around and see what other Primal Arts I can discover and how to use them to my advantage.
You’ll also have some support from whichever two characters are at the back of your formation. Strategically placing them between the right characters can unlock some cool Skill combinations. And if one of your mains passes out, you’ve got someone waiting in the wings to take their place.
In most RPGs, whenever I need to stock up on items I just hit up the local shop and drop some coin on healing items and other such nonsense. And yes, you can kinda sorta do that in Atelier Lulua, but honestly, you’re a damn alchemist. You want to be the very best there ever was? Then you’d better get good. And getting good means gathering all the supplies you can on your excursions and spending some quality time with your cauldron.
Crafting the best items you can may seem like a daunting task. When you’re first starting out, don’t worry so much about maxing out attributes; odds are your materials are too low anyway. But as you venture further away from Arklys, Lulua will discover higher quality materials, which means it’s time to tinker. Finding the right mix of materials in order to forge top-notch items for next-level crafting means watching which elements and traits you are combining. Don’t be like Annette, who wasted so much time trying to make awesome mining bombs only to realize that she wasn’t adding Fire element items like Pure Oil into her bombs and scratched her head when they wouldn’t break anything. Be smarter than Annette. Watch that bottom right hand section of the alchemy menu and pick items that will make your gear better, not useless piles of stinky trash.
Some Kind of Wonderful
Remember that mysterious book that I said just appeared before Lulua? Well, this plot driving device is known as the Alchemyriddle. Whenever Lulua finds herself in a pinch and unsure how to move forward, the book glows and provides her with hints as to how she should proceed. Many of these hints are vague clues you will stumble into as you make your way through the story, but there are others you’ll have to backtrack for. Deciphering new pages rewards Lulua with new recipes and even unlocks areas on the map where she can scrounge up better ingredients.
While it isn’t imperative to discover all of the secrets in order to finish Lulua’s story, odds are you’re like me and will want to decipher every page in the damn tome. Besides, once you factor in running special requests and creating items to advance relationships with your crew, the Alchemyriddle will fill right up.
For someone as unfamiliar with the series, jumping into the Arland titles with Atelier Lulua felt like picking up the first book in a new trilogy that’s part of a larger, overarching story. I wasn’t punished for not knowing more about Rorona, Totori, and Meruru; references to these characters were made with commentary to give me context as to their importance to the greater story without overloading me with backstory.
Finding the right balance between world exploration, alchemy, and storytelling is a real feat. The team at Gust did an amazing job ensuring steady player progression without hand-holding you the whole way through. Yes, there were times when I spent too much time trying to solve Alchemyriddle hints only to discover there was no way I could do so until I’d pushed ahead more. It kills the completionist in me to move ahead when I know there are secrets I have yet to uncover.
After the hours spent with Lulua, her bestest gal pal Eva, and the other members of her menagerie, I must admit that I am hooked on Arland. Knowing that the Arland Atelier Trilogy Plus collection was released on the PS4 not too long ago, I foresee new additions to my digital backlog in my immediate future. But for right now, it’s back to deciphering all of these remaining Alchemyriddle pages!
Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.