Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland Review – An Alchemy Road Trip

    Title: Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland
    Developer: Gust
    Release Date: May 21, 2019
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Koei Tecmo
    Genre: JRPG

It was originally the Arland series that made me a fan of the Atelier games. I enjoyed the interconnected stories and replayable nature of the time-sensitive quests the games offered. Over the years the series has changed with its approach to systems and crafting, but the overall look of the games have stayed consistent.

When Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland was announced I was pretty excited to return to the Arland region and catch up with some old familiar faces. What I discovered was that Atelier Lulua does well to not lean too heavily on the success of its predecessors, but that also might leave fans expecting a return to the series’ classic form wanting more. Still, this is a game that I feel hits all the right cues to jump-start the series for a new generation of fans.

Atelier Lulua begins by introducing players to Elmerulia Frixell, better known as Lulua. Its explained that there’s a lot expected from her being the daughter of the renowned alchemist of Arland Rorona and she deals with filling those shoes. As the main protagonist, Lulua is much like a combination of Alchemists fans have met before. Although she keeps an optimistic outlook on life, her upbringing is what keeps her grounded and keeps a level head during tough situations. She’s also eager to take on tasks that she isn’t ready for and is all about the “Fake it until you make it” lifestyle.

When all hope is almost lost, Lulua discovers a book that she seems to be connected with. The writing in the book can only be seen by her and provides her with ideas on new alchemy recipes as well as new locations. Throughout the game, players are able to complete main and side quests from the long list of missions in the book. Additionally, new missions can be unlocked from fighting monsters and collecting materials. I ended up appreciating the book’s “riddles” as they laid out what to do next in the story and various optional events I can take on.

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Atelier Lulua is a slow build-up to the meat of its offerings. The game uses the first 10 hours or so to re-introduce characters from the Arland series as Lulua and her party explores the region to discover more about the strange book and help anyone in need. With that said, some characters are still missing that you’d expect to see only to be replaced with younger characters who mention they are partners.

This entry of the series focuses heavily on the story which makes some of the game feel more like a tour around Arland than a full new entry of the series. However, after the reunion is over, the antagonist is revealed and, although it didn’t come as the biggest surprise, I was impressed by the connection that the game makes to the previous titles.

With that said, Atelier Lulua does require some knowledge of the previous trilogy because many characters and situations are brought up that I feel won’t land on players who make this their first Atelier title. In this regard, it is a true sequel but doesn’t find its footing until much later in the game.

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Atelier Lulua’s battle system has some really neat features that I ended up enjoying. The game allows five characters in a battle party, with three characters on the frontline and two in the back. While the two backline characters aren’t seen in the battle, they can be switched to on any turn. Additionally, backline characters can follow up with multiple special attacks that make fights a little easier to get through. There are also items that can be equipped to characters to use to Interrupt an action, which I used quite a few times to extend combos.

However, I know battles aren’t really what fans of the Atelier series enjoy. Alchemy is back and with some overall new systems that I felt aimed to streamline some general features of the craft. Materials are found by exploring and defeating monsters which can be used to create unique and useful items. First off, one of the best features was how I was told when I didn’t have enough items to create something, but the item was on my list to synthesis and so it would allow me to do it in the same menu.

Similar to the build-up with the story, the alchemy features in Atelier Lulua takes some time to roll out. However, the system will be easily recognizable to fans of the Arland series as it includes trait boosting features as well as elemental customization depending on the item. While I appreciated the simple design, I actually enjoy the more flashy synthesis features of more recent titles. With that said, Atelier Lulua does a great job at making the game’s synthesis system feel like it belongs in this series of titles instead of introducing a brand new system that feels out of place or too advanced.

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Atelier Lulua introduces some nice environments for players to explore and search for materials. The game also expands past picking stuff off the ground and allows players to fish as well as blow up rocks. I enjoyed how the map would constantly expand throughout the story when certain missions were completed and feature vastly different areas to explore. Exploring areas is also necessary to unlock icons on the map which show were enemies and treasures are.

Graphically, I felt like Atelier Lulua was a beautiful step forward for the developers. Even though they chose to use 3D models instead of illustrated renders of the characters, the team had fun with putting the characters in comical situations as well as expressed emotion through the animated movement. The music in Atelier Lulua didn’t let me down one bit. Every track is memorable and great to listen to no matter what event is taking place in the game.

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Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland is a great set up for a new trilogy of titles in the Arland series. Although the game does enough to carve out its own path in the series, it relies too heavily on reunions in the first half of the game and doesn’t give players enough to do with synthesis until much later. The world is beautiful and pairs naturally with the game’s amazing soundtrack, I never grew tired exploring areas to open new paths or search for rare materials.

Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland has one of the best conclusions from a title in this series that I’ve experienced in a long time, but getting to that point was hurt by a messy second half as the antagonist felt a little too predictable and a high level of knowledge of the previous titles in the series is needed to receive the full impact. With that said, I felt this was far better than many of the recent Atelier titles to release and could easily recommend it to fans of the series. If that’s not enough for you, then perhaps the idea of reuniting with Totori will be enough for you to want to return to Arland.

Score:
/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.