By Steve Baltimore / April 30th, 2019
|Title||Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~|
|Release Date||March 26th, 2019|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, Switch and PC via Steam|
I’ve been a big fan of the Atelier series for many years. I’ve played through most games in the series at least once and I’ve not met an alchemist yet that I didn’t love, though we all know it’s scientifically proven Totori is the best! When I heard the first details of Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~ I was very interested to see where this title would go. Having all the girls from each different entry in the series interacting with each other sounded like a lot of fun, and city management was very different from other entries, but is different always good? Let’s find out.
The story here follows Nelke, a young noblewoman that is tasked with developing the small village of Westbald. She will not have to take on this job alone. Soon alchemists and other supporting characters from the Atelier franchise’s 20-year history will appear to aid her on her quest. You can expect the girls to have very cute interactions as well as a few heartwarming moments the series is known for.
There’s not a lot of story here to speak of. The bulk of this tale is all of the different characters interacting with each other in various ways. I found most of these very enjoyable as a fan of the series, but since we missed out on quite a few games back in the PlayStation 1 and 2 era, there will be some characters you are completely unfamiliar with. This is mostly towards the beginning of the game, but it takes away from the experience when there are references in there that just went over my head.
The character models in Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~ look pretty good. They are highly detailed and may be some of the best in the franchise so far. There are no real dungeons to speak of, since when you go exploring you walk down a single patch with a scrolling background. The buildings you create in town and the 2D art used in the game are top tier as well. All in all the game fares pretty well in the graphics department.
I have to say the audio department in this game is probably my favorite part. You can download custom songs to use for the game’s soundtrack via DLC. These tracks are part of the GUST 25th anniversary celebration and include tracks from such games as Nights of Azure, Blue Reflection and more. They do this in most of the modern games in the Atelier franchise and being a huge fan of the GUST sound team, this is a real treat for me. The game is voiced in Japanese and the voice actors do a fine job bringing the characters to life. If you played other games in the franchise with Japanese audio you will notice some of the original cast have returned to reprise their roles. There is no English dub.
While Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists has great audio and visuals, the gameplay is where this one begins to have some issues. This game is very much a city building simulator. You will attempt to grow your tiny village into a thriving town through mostly commerce. You will grow, gather or synth materials for items to sell in the various stores you build. The game does a pretty good job giving you hints at which materials you need and which items will be in shops, but this begins to feel like a slog after a few rounds.
The building simulator is broken up into two parts. During the building phase you can place structures, assign tasks to residents and manage resources. By that I mean you can choose what items are being harvested, what your alchemist is creating and what the shops are selling. This is the biggest part of the game since healthy commerce means a growing town. Some characters will be better at certain tasks than others and as you gain affection with them these stats will increase. Managing money and materials is king here, and the game does give you lots of guidance on how to grow the village through some graphs and charts. Honestly this part of the game was fun for a while, but the grind set in and it became a chore quickly. Luckily the holiday phase breaks this up a bit.
During the holiday phase you visit with residents to build affection or take on tasks, go on investigations or conduct some research into the Sage Relic you are seeking. Each activity done during the holiday will eat up some time, which is shown by the pie meter at the top of the screen. This means you will have to balance the time visiting friends with investigating the field for materials. Exploring the field is done automatically. Your character walks in a straight line from point A to point B. You can make them run by holding the top trigger. This will cut down on the harvest time for materials, but when you reach the end of the line you will acquire a treasure chest. This will also help you open up new routes to explore. Battling monsters here is important as well. They not only drop important materials but some citizens will give you a request to hunt X number of a certain monster. Combat is turn-based and you can do this manually or have the game automatically fight for you. Auto battle works fine for everything except boss encounters. You will need to be a bit more aggressive than the AI is, but none of them are anything to break a sweat over either.
When both phases are over your turn will end. You will need to keep track of how many turns you have left to complete tasks given to you. These are divided between main and sub tasks. Completing sub tasks will net you rewards such as a population gain or increasing the maximum population for the village. Completing requests for the various citizens will get various rewards as well, but more importantly help you build affection with friends.
I won’t say Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~ is a bad game; it’s just not a very exciting one. The game looks good and has a wonderful soundtrack, but the gameplay is just kinda boring. After around 25 hours of playtime I was totally burned out on the city building. The lack of exploration, way dumbed down alchemy and combat really hurt this one. It is wonderful to see all your favorite alchemists from previous games hanging out and having fun together. These interactions are pretty much the highlight of this game, and everything else is lacking. At $59.99 I would only pick this up if you are hardcore fan of the Atelier series. For everyone else I’d recommend you hold off for the upcoming Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~ to get that alchemy fix.
Review Copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.
Atelier seriesKoei TecmoNelke & the Legendary Alchemistssimulation