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Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland: Atelier-ville
Company: NIS America

If Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland was a Facebook game, it would likely be one of the site's top games. This is in no means a slight against the quality of the series' latest outing; it's a great illustrator of just what makes the game so addictive.

We got our first glimpse of Atelier Rorona at E3 2010 when NIS America provided us with the game's debut trailer (which, if you haven't seen it is linked below). Though playable on the show floor, it was hard to get a really good idea of what the game had to offer. Like more RPGs, Atelier Rorona packs in quite a lot when it comes to mechanics, but when you factor in the time it takes to collect ingredients and craft items, you're looking at a good deal of time.

Like other games in the series, Atelier Rorona revolves around alchemy, or crafting objects from materials. The game's narrative follows Rorona, the last (motivated) Alchemist in Arland. After the discovery of machines, the kingdom has little need for alchemy and places a three-year long decree upon Rorona's shop - make specific items for the kingdom and prove your worth, or close the shop.

Gameplay reminded me more of the DS's Atelier Annie than previous games. Although you'll venture out into dungeons and fight monsters, crafting has a much larger footprint than in past games. Atelier Rorona isn't so much a crafting-infused RPG as it is a crafting game with some RPG elements. You're not crafting items because you'll need them to get through a dungeon. Instead, you're crafting items because it's the only way to progress through the game.

Here's where that addictive, Facebook game quality come into play. Each time you create an item, you'll lose HP and a few days, so you need to make the most of your time. Time and HP are vitally important and matter in nearly everything you do. Not only will you lose both when crafting, but you also lose time while traveling, not to mention HP while in combat. Health items can keep you going, but are expensive. Of course, you could choose to craft the items instead, though you'll lose time. You can also rest for a few days and regain HP, but lose the time. It's an intricate little cycle, and though it hasn't presented any huge hurdles yet, there were times where I didn't think I'd make the deadline.

Each challenge begins with an order to create a series of three objects for the kingdom. Most of the items are commonplace once you obtain the correct recipe, but it's not enough to just make the item. Quality and quantity matter, so you'll need to venture out into the wilds and collect the best items you can find and create enough good quality stuff to meet the three-month deadline.

Money adds another wrinkle. Before you can make an item, you need to buy its recipe tome. These aren't expensive, but don't come cheap either. You'll earn money during battle, though you'll need to take on work from villagers if you want enough money to actually get anywhere. Sometimes meeting their requests is as easy as stepping out the town gates and collecting items, though some require a little alchemy, placing more on your already cramped schedule. A few recipes require items you can only purchase and if you have any hope of surviving outside the city, you'll need to hire companions.

Life outside Arland isn't much easier. Dungeons, called Gathering Locations, are self-contained areas that unlock as you progress through the game. Locations are split into smaller maps populated with monsters and areas to collect items (denoted by stars). Getting though one area unlocks another. Better ingredients are found deeper in the location, but are guarded by harder monsters. Getting through locations is easy, though eventually you'll need to craft items to overcome certain obstacles. Once again, it all comes back to making the most of your time and HP.

A few quests into Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland and I can already tell I'm in for a few lost hours. I've already completely missed a meal and even started keeping track of Rorona's time commitments in a notebook. The thing is, I'm not that deep into the game to begin with, which makes me wonder how many missed meals and notebooks are yet to come.

I'll be sure to have an update with our full review when Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland comes out later this month.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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