Unlike new series, long standing series have issues being different, yet the same. A lot of series handle this poorly, be it Dead Space III getting away from what players love, to Assassin’s Creed simply offering new takes on the same journey. The latter holds more true for Atelier, though Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~ tries to bring new life to the beloved Arland series. With a new girl, different mechanics and plenty of cute things, does it offer a welcome new take or is it more of the same?
It doesn’t take long for Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~ to reveal the overall story for Lulua. As you might’ve noticed, the box art features Rorona, the main character of the first Arland title, Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland, who is also Lulua’s mother. At this point in the story, Rorona has achieved legendary status and is known for her alchemy skill, a fact that makes things difficult for Lulua.
Above all, the story is about Lulua steeping out of her mother’s shadow and becoming whomever she is destined to be. Much of the initial plot is ceneted on her living up to expectations, something she is simply unable to achieve, and upholding the expectations of her family. It’s a lot to take in, something anyone who lived a similar life can attest to, which makes Lulua easy to relate with.
Thankfully, even if she has her shortcomings at being an alchemist, a mysterious book is there to guide her. Not much is revealed about the book at first, outside of it being meant to help Lulua, only she can read it and it is written in a way that is hard for her decipher. These elements don’t just define the story loop but also the gameplay loop.
Story progression happens in a way not unlike previous titles. Someone appears, they need something you’re unable to make, so you venture off to obtain the resources, recipe or whatever help you need to complete the task and complete the mission. Even if it’s conceptually simple, a lot of this is about Lulua growing as a person, either by finding her own strength or overcoming obstacles to be a better person.
Beyond the normal gameplay loop is the book and the way it directs Lulua to complete her tasks. Pages typically give players a vague idea of where they need to go, what needs to be done and how it all comes together. It’s a nice way to give veteran players a bit more freedom, as you don’t actually need to look at all the clues to figure out what needs to be done, with newcomers having in built clues to be successful. If there is a downside, it’s that they can be too vague or painfully obvious.
One of the first clues tells Lulua to head west, which is obviously going to be the new location to the west, where you’re told to collect something like grass and them make some kind of healing item. If you were simply told to make the healing salve, something you can do without much effort, or went more vague, it might make this system more interesting but instead it can often times feel like you’re told everything but the answer. Naturally, it can be hard to find the right amount of things, so I won’t fault Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~, though it could be better.
Outside of story progression, this adventure has a more streamlined feel. Things like time are less important, meaning you don’t need to worry about what you do, as long as you know what needs to be done, allowing players more time to explore. Combat remains relatively unchanged and typical for a turn based RPG. The only stand out feature is the ability for an alchemist to interrupt, something that is handy given you know how to use it to your advantage, though it isn’t a game changing feature.
Graphics remain lovely, something that has hold true for the franchise for a while. Not only are the girls cute and everything has a certain amount of charm, it looks lush and vibrant enough to be a stark contrast to the typical doom and gloom we see other games go for. However, it doesn’t stop Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~ from having some performance issues.
Arguably the biggest stand out issue is how motion looks. Whenever the camera moves really fast or a lot of things are shown at once, there is a clear drop in frame rate. It looks jittery, messy and all around bad. This isn’t a massive issue, just something that you might notice and pay attention to.
Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~ is a delightful return to the Arland series. Even if it isn’t terribly different from previous titles, the story is fun enough to keep players interested. Add in some delightful visuals, cute girls and wholesome fun, it’s easy to see why the series has been around for so long. Plus, limiting the time mechanics might take away from one of the series core features, it allows players to take in the adventure, while still being aware of the time it takes them to complete this or that. So, if you want a cute RPG that has a nice message, you really can’t go wrong with this one.
[Editor’s Note: Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~ was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]