Developed by Gust Co. Ltd. Published by Koei Tecmo Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on Nintendo Switch and Steam)
With an extensive history of captivating music, striking character design, and entertaining exposition, the Atelier series has provided numerous well-crafted takes on the role-playing genre. Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland embodies two decades of advancements in alchemic adventuring. It once again follows a blundering novice striving to become an experienced alchemist. While the Atelier franchise regularly moves onto new subseries, Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland breaks series tradition by returning to the world of Arland. It embodies the recent Dusk and Mysterious trilogies’ mechanical and visual advancements. It draws from the entertaining universe of the earlier Arland trilogy. Whether players are new to the Atelier series or veterans of Arland, Atelier Lulua is an endearing, relaxing journey that sticks to existing series conventions.
Atelier Lulua takes place in the alchemy-infused world surrounding the city of Arland. The prior games Atelier Rorona, Totori, and Meruru sequentially chronicle Arland’s shift from a kingdom to a developing republic. Atelier Lulua occurs years after these games as it portrays the adventures of Lulua, an aspiring alchemist who strives to follow her mother Rorona’s footsteps. Lulua’s exuberance and forthrightness sets her apart from her predecessors, and she naturally becomes a skilled practitioner over time. Her responsibilities soon include saving her mother’s workshop, exploring the landscape, and assisting citizens with her alchemy. Assisting her are brand new characters from Lulua’s frontier hometown of Arklys mixed with returning characters from prior Arland games. Her journey sprawls across multiple cities as she strives to discover the secrets behind ancient ruins and the mysterious Alchemyriddle tome that only she can read.
Atelier Lulua continues the series’ core flow of fulfilling goals with the power of alchemy. Lulua alchemizes exploration, support, and attack items in order to complete quests and advance the story. The basic progression involves creating items in the workshop, talking to people in town, gathering ingredients in the field, and repeating the cycle. While days do pass, this game follows recent Atelier titles by lacking actual time restrictions on quests. The alchemy synthesis system involves picking appropriate items according to the chosen recipe. While players still sort through ingredients with desirable traits, this game’s system has a greater sense of freeform selection and an interesting tug-of-war element motif. These synthesized items can then be used to take down monsters in the field or fulfill requests for some money. The game’s battles features character swapping, interrupt actions, and synergy bonuses that give players freedom in a dynamic way.
Whereas previous Arland games’ goals were relatively straightforward, Atelier Lulua’s Alchemyriddle system is more freeform. Each of the game’s chapters has a main goal such as reaching a certain area, defeating an enemy, or creating items. The Alchemyriddle gives a broad hint as to what players should do, which can involve some light riddle solving. Completing sub goals grants players buffs, additional recipes, new locations, and other benefits. While sometimes the hints can be a little ambiguous, completing goals feels empowering in an organic way.
Atelier Lulua’s visuals further benefit from the series’ technical developments over the past decade. Atelier Rorona, Totori, and Meruru feature 3D models based off Mel Kishida’s elegant art, but the dialogue sequences predominantly use still images. The Dusk and Mysterious trilogies mark a transition to full 3D, which Atelier Lulua also follows. The characters look well-lit and expressive, and their cutscene animations are quite amusingly eye-popping. At times, the game instantaneously moves characters around the screen for comedic effect. One of the game’s most striking elements is how each gathering area is incredibly vast. Its awe inspiring relative to the prior Arland games’ small-scale areas. Players can also freely rotate the camera much like in Atelier Shallie and the Mysterious trilogy, which accentuates the areas’ scale. The game also adopts recent titles’ weather effects and day-and-night cycles, which creates an even greater sense of immersiveness. Experiencing the sheer diversity of natural reserves, ruins, and cities is quite enthralling.
Every single Gust project encompasses some wonderfully crafted music, and Atelier Lulua is no exception. The songs frequently utilize an eclectic blend of flutes, bouncy percussion, and electronic instruments in order to create both laid-back tunes and dramatic battle songs. Being entrenched in Arland’s legacy, Atelier Lulua also occasionally plays arranges of recurring character themes. These arranges tend to be a bit experimental and subdued, but they are nonetheless amazing fanservice for anyone who has played prior Arland games. One of the most standout audio elements is the vocal performances from the entire cast. Lulua’s excessive exuberance is quite entertaining in conjunction with calmer companions such as Eva and Aurel.
The game does have a few minor quirks that slightly mar the experience. As with Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists of the Mysterious Paintings and Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists, Atelier Lulua only has a Japanese voice track. Given that earlier Arland titles are dual audio, it is a bit unfortunate especially given the English cast’s expressive performances. The game also occasionally suffers from minor typographical and spacing errors in the script. While these typos are largely innocuous, they occur just regularly enough to be a bit of a distraction.
Atelier Lulua is an elegantly crafted role-playing experience that can take approximately thirty to forty hours to complete depending on players’ actions and thoroughness. It fits within the Atelier legacy with its extensive amusing dialogue and its enthralling audiovisual experience. Atelier Lulua provides a welcome laid-back change of pace from other role-playing titles’ seriousness for new players. Prior knowledge is not necessary to enjoy the game. Although, those experienced with the Arland subseries will enjoy seeing older versions of beloved characters alongside other fun callbacks. Any aspiring alchemist would almost certainly find something to enjoy in Atelier Lulua.