Atelier Rorona Playtest: Saving The Workshop, In 3D

By Jenni . September 23, 2010 . 2:02pm

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Atelier Rorona is a lot like a console version of the DS game Atelier Annie. Each game covers a three year period in the life of the title alchemist where you help her complete assignments so she can find a happy ending. The difference is that Atelier Rorona looks better and has many more endings.

 

Rorona is an apprentice alchemist who accidentally finds herself in indentured servitude to the town’s alchemist, Astrid, after going there to get medicine her parents needed without money. She an adorable, clumsy, good natured, cheerful and easily flustered lead character.

 

Then, a proclamation arrives that Astrid’s workshop may be shut down. The kingdom’s minister wants to use the space to build another factory. As a final test of worth, the king gives the workshop twelve assignments to complete. If even one is failed, the shop is closed and Astrid has to leave. Astrid’s a good-for-nothing, so she gives the workshop (and all the work) to Rorona. Rorona must quickly learn alchemy (Astrid never taught her anything) and do everything she can to save the shop. Because if Astrid has to leave, she’s taking the indebted Rorona with her.

 

Moments into Atelier Rorona, it’s evident that Gust wants to please Atelier fans. There’s a strong focus on item creation and collecting, plenty of opportunities to interact with characters, and little focus on battling. If you’re careful, you can usually run around or jump over most enemies outside of town.

 

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Each location outside of town is divided into areas. It takes you a certain amount of days to reach each location, and more time to explore it. This actually lifts a lot of weight off of Atelier Rorona players. You don’t have to worry about wasting too much time in a location gathering items and fighting battles. You already know right away that, upon entering an area, you’ll spend between one to three days there.

 

Early on, just gathering any available materials in Atelier Rorona is enough. Close to the end of the first year, players are encouraged to be more picky. All story assignments give you a higher rating if you use high quality materials and turn in better products. As (in-game) time goes on, requests from Rorona’s friends will have quality and trait requirements too. Etsy requests follow the same pattern. The game gradually encourages you to put more effort into finding good materials to create special products.

 

Finding said materials is quite easy. While walking along the path in each location, you’ll occasionally see a part of the scenery with a huge bubble with a silver or gold star in it. You can press X to collect items at these spots. As you can guess, gold star locations have better quality items. You can then load up the 60 slots in your bag with as many items as you can carry. Make sure you deposit these items in Rorona’s workshop’s container the second you get back to town though, as items in the basket’s quality will decrease over time.

 

You’ll also occasionally encounter monsters to battle. You don’t really have to, as many fights are easily avoidable. But if you do, you enter a very simple, turn-based battle. Enemies are on the right and your party is on the left. Even though characters can learn and use special skills, you can typically win battles with standard attacks. There’s no MP though – skills use up HP instead. As battle carry on, allies’ gauges build up and they will be able to perform follow-up attacks after Rorona attacks or step in and protect Rorona from an enemy’s attack. But really, you don’t need to use skills all that often. I only used Sterk’s cross slash, which hits a row of enemies, and Iksel’s healing move during all battles I encountered between the first to the eighth assignments.

 

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Most of your time in Atelier Rorona is spent in town. Once again, the Atelier Annie comparisons come into play. Every new day you’re in town, you’ll want to visit each location to try and trigger an event. You don’t actually have to walk around the location (unless you want to buy something or see if an NPC has a request), just stop by, see if an event automatically pops up, then press X to bring up the town map and visit the next spot. When you enter an area in town, say the Square or Sunrise Cafe, an event may trigger. You’ll automatically see Rorona talk to someone or meet someone. I wish I could say that you get to watch the 3D character models talk to one another, but you don’t. Atelier Rorona puts character portraits front and center with voice acting and dialogue boxes. Once the conversation begins, the 3D models are blurred and you’re forced to focus on the two static images. Occasionally there’ll be voice acting for these scenes, but more often there’s not.

 

Be prepared to encounter finicky controls in Atelier Rorona. This is only a problem in the field, when you’re trying to get the jump on or avoid enemies. Pressing square is supposed to make Rorona smash her staff down on enemies so the party can get the first hit. To make strike an enemy you have to be positioned "just so" for it to work. Other times, it won’t work at all because you’ll have gotten "too" close to an enemy and Rorona will freeze up in fear. Jumping also doesn’t always work as planned either. Since you can’t shift the camera, you may think you’re jumping away from an enemy, but really you’re jumping on top of it. And sometimes, pressing the jump button won’t even work and you’ll end up surrounded or trapped.

 

I also didn’t like that Rorona has to pay her friends to help her. In Atelier Annie, Annie’s friends help her on item gathering excursions for free. In Atelier Rorona you can only venture outside of town to collect items if you can afford it. And stronger characters cost more. Even if you’d want to play and only focus on the story assignments, you’d still have to take on side quests to afford to collect items. After a while, their prices do go down as you build trust and perform tasks for them, but early on Sterk is expensive!

 

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Thankfully, side quests are incredibly easy to fulfill to earn some extra cash. While many of the party members and NPC-specific requests will require you to actually make items through alchemy, most of the early requests from Etsy only ask for items you gather for free. Even the monster bounties you’ll take on in the first year are quite easy. As long as you grab a handful of assorted, below-par goods while traveling, you’ll be able to earn the money needed to venture outside the city.

 

Gust made Atelier Rorona while thinking of what their Atelier fans would most want. Everything pretty much revolves around solid item creation. It seems like Atelier Rorona gets better with each playthrough, possibly because you know what works (and doesn’t) and get to carry over much needed cash.

 

Food for Thoughts

  • Like Atelier Annie, you must buy all recipe books in Atelier Rorona so you can make things.
  • All in-game event scenes are static, CG images.
  • I wished there had been an "Auto" battle function, like there was in Atelier Annie, since many battles just need constant "attacks".
  • Iksel’s surprisingly awesome – he’s one of the first characters to learn a healing skill and learns a skill that lets him heal himself each turn.
  • It’d have been nice if more of the trophies were more challenging to earn. Many just require you to witness certain events or complete tasks you’d get in a normal playthrough.
  • You can’t get water for free until the Traveler’s Way location unlocks. (Late in the first year.)
  • After making some items for the first time, they’ll appear as decorations in Rorona’s workshop.

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  • Finalstar2007

    Cant wait for this game, looking good

  • http://twitter.com/merrygodown Sam Marchello

    Hey Jenni,

    You can get water for free at the beginning of the game. If you exit into Artisan’s Way, below the workshop there’s a well that you can get water from for free. :)

    Heh, I didn’t even notice it right away myself until I did a bit of exploring.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      … How did I miss that? I am in shock. Thank you! You’re going to save me so much money on my second playthrough. Until I unlocked Traveller’s Way, I was buying water from R&T’s!

      • http://www.siliconera.com Melinda

        There’s a good reason you’d use the water in store though – It’s useful for neutraliser making (It’s one of a few items with 80 quality or higher without properties) and it’s also very useful if you want to make pies, if you want to shoot for the pie ending.

        But yeah, I can break Atelier Rorona blindfolded, so I know a little too much about the game…

      • http://twitter.com/merrygodown Sam Marchello

        Heehee! It happens. Like I said, while I was working on the game for review I was doing the same thing you were until the end of the first assignment when I realized there was a well. But like Melinda said, the water at R&T is better, but for the easy pleasy low quality stuff, there’s no problem just using the water from the well below! :)

  • bugmeknot

    So the game spans 3 years, and it takes time to travel between areas. What happens if you’re the type that likes to take their time doing non-essential things, or what I’m trying to say is it possible to “lose” by running out of time?

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      Yup, you can lose by running out of time.

      But you usually have 90 days for each task, and I almost always finished each task within 30-50 days. So there was plenty of time to spare. (And I was taking it slow even.)

  • JustaGenericUser

    “I wish I could say that you get to watch the 3D character models talk to one another, but you don’t. Atelier Rorona puts character portraits front and center with voice acting and dialogue boxes.”

    Oh man, I hate that. I prefer seeing the models moving and talking. And, going by some screencaps and a clip, Ar Tonelico 3 is the same way. Well, I won’t let this break the game, just wanted to voice a complaint about Gust’s way of doing cutscenes.

    This is sounding good. But I hope you get enough time to explore and talk and stuff. Time-limit games aren’t a strong point of mine.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      Don’t worry, you get loads of time. In most cases, I finished the “assignment” in 30 days, and had the 60 other days to do other quests.

      And, if it’s also any indication, I got the True Ending (best ending) on the first try.

      • JustaGenericUser

        1. Oh, are you implying that if you complete a story assignment, the game doesn’t automatically move on — you’re free to do whatever you want until all 90 days were up?

        2. Ah, I heard from a commenter a while ago that there was a “true end”. Is there a non-spoiler way to get it?

        • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

          1. Yup. The game doesn’t move on. You’re free to do as you please. Look around town to hopefully trigger player event scenes. Go level grind. Get extra ingredients. Do side-jobs. There is one assignment each year that’s less than 90 days (I think it’s like 70 days) because there’s a festival that takes up the other couple days.

          2. Yup. True ending is VERY easy to get. It sounds daunting initially, but it’s very easy. You need 80% popularity and have to have earned over 30 stars on all the assignments. (You can get 1-3 stars for each grade, and it’s very easy to get 3 stars.) I got the True Ending without even trying so… yeah. That should say something.

          You can also only get character endings if you get the “ending” that would go along with it. Like I heard you can only get the Astrid ending if you also get a True Ending. And I was disappointed I couldn’t see my Sterk ending because (even if I went back to an earlier save) I’d only get the True or Normal endings. I had too earned many stars for a Good ending.

          • http://www.siliconera.com Melinda

            The true ending which forms the basis of Atelier Totori is the Astrid Ending.

            The weird part about it is the fact that it requires virtually every other ending (barring the secret millionare ending) to get.

          • JustaGenericUser

            1. Nice! I feel a lot better about this game now.

            2. Wow, that’s it? I thought it would be something silly like, “You have to go to this place at this very specific time with no hint of this event whatsoever or you LOSE GOOD END FOREVER HAHAHAHAHA!” (Yes, I’m a bit bitter at Compile Heart’s/Idea Factory’s good end requirements, why do you ask?) Nice to see it’s not all that tough to get.

            And I suppose to get Character Endings, I have to, what, use them a lot in battle or give them gifts or talk to them a lot? And they’re seen during/at the end of the standard ending? Like, say, if I’m friendly with Moegirl A and her ending is attached to True, then during True End I get Moegirl A’s epilouge?

            Sorry for the questions, this is pretty much the only place I can ask and get a good response.

          • http://www.siliconera.com Melinda

            Well, as an appendum to Jenni’s point – If you’re particularly good (or you’ve played it more than a few times) you can actually ‘turn in’ most of the periods (barring one period) the same day.

            The game’s designed so that you’ve just got a small requirement, and then you’re free to do whatever.

            (On a New game +, for laughs, you can literally buy your way into competion of the first couple by swiping the items from the store.)

            2. For certain endings, you’ll need to take certain characters out on trips. Some require certain events to happen first.

            Generally taking characters out makes it easier to raise their friendship, although most of those points will be gained from their character requests.

          • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

            Melinda pretty much covered it for character endings. I also think you have to see certain (or all) events. I had Gio at 100 trust/friendship at the end and had the True Ending I’d need to see his ending, but didn’t get it. (I almost always had Gio and Sterk in my party.)

            So now I’m actually hoping to see an official strategy guide so I can see exactly when each characters’ events are and how to trigger them.

          • JustaGenericUser

            Gonna reply here because your latest post doesn’t have a “Reply” button.

            “I had Gio at 100 trust/friendship at the end”

            You can see how much trust you have in someone, in-game? Usually in games like this those points are invisible. If it’s visible, then cool.

            I think I asked all the things I could think of for this game. Thank you, and Melinda, for all the responses! It really helped.

          • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

            Glad we could help! That’s what we’re here for, after all.

            Yup, you can. When you talk to someone to get a quest, it says the number. Also on their stat page in the main menu as well. (You can also check Rorona’s popularity at any time as well.)

            After ones at 100, don’t bother doing more requests. You can’t make them like you any more. XD

          • http://www.siliconera.com Melinda

            Another appendum to Jenni’s note – Requests are abusable if you want to cash up though – Once the shopkeepers gain a certain ability, some of the requests can be easily filled, and the margins you make (money spent compared to reward) can pay off.

            Generally though, if you are at 100 for a friendship, not needing something to trigger (unlikely though) and it’s not profitable, don’t bother doing the job.

  • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

    i wanna buy this D:, lol and with this “year” talking, it kind of reminded me to harvest moon

  • http://www.siliconera.com Melinda

    So did you make the megalomanical superexploding Tera Flame? I always wonder how people react to making a bomb that kills their party in one shot…. Then turning up the explosion dial to the point where you can take out virtually EVERYTHING in one shot.I’ll probably (personally) run a bit of a live demo to show all the features (and some of the funny stuff you can do) of a couple of endings, when my copy arrives.

    As an amendum – The easiest way to make the strongest version of the tera flame is to use Esti as your shop of choice, and noting how pure oil is constructed.

    And of course, learning that you can make characteristics by combining other characteristics…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472407455 Charles Lupula

    Very much excited about this game.

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