I recently decided to pick up the Atelier series again because Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists, a spinoff to celebrate the series’ 20th (?) anniversary is coming out soon. Unfortunately the gameplay videos didn’t impress me as much as I thought they would, so while I’m waiting for the inevitable price drop, I’m going to occupy myself with the Atelier games I already have (which is most of the modern games minus two of the Dusk series).
Atelier Totori is the second game in the Arland trilogy,, and one of the more popular entries among fans. The premise is simple: you are an apprentice alchemist and your goal is to find your mother by becoming an adventurer. You will (hopefully) achieve that goal by synthesizing items and slaying monsters, all within a three year time limit.
While its predecessor Atelier Rorona is infamous for its strict time limits (some of the strictest in the series, apparently) Atelier Totori gives you a lot more freedom. Instead of monthly goals (or every few months)0, you now have yearly goals, and most of the game will be spent racking up enough points on your adventurer’s license so you don’t get a premature bad ending. You get license points by exploring the world, finding landmarks in certain areas, slaying a certain number of X monster, defeating bosses, synthesizing items, etc. Once you obtain enough license points, your rank will increase and open up more areas for you to explore, wash, rinse, repeat. In addition to your overall rank, you also have alchemist levels (which you level up through synthesis) and adventurer levels (a traditional leveling system where you gain experience by defeating monsters). If this sounds confusing, don’t worry, it sounds worse on paper than it actually is in game. You’ll earn plenty of points naturally as you play.
Item synthesis is practically unchanged from Rorona. It’s the same loop of collect recipes (some from playing the game, many by buying books), gathering materials, selecting the thing you want to make, selecting the best quality materials, synthesizing, and assigning traits. Unlike in the North American version of Rorona, gathering takes up time now, but honestly I didn’t even notice until late in the game.
When I first started playing Totori, I felt a bit directionless and overwhelmed because I was used to Rorona’s structure, but it’s easy to fall into a routine of gathering and doing quests. Even so, I missed Rorona’s structure and pacing. Unfortunately, I didn’t really connect with the characters in this installment either. It was nice to see some of the cast from the previous game, but the new cast seemed, I don’t know, like more of the same. I hate to say it, but at around mid-game I was ready to be done with this installment and move on, to the point where I was actually skipping dialogue, which is something I never, ever do when I haven’t seen that scene before, ever. When I reached the point where my progress was blocked by a brick wall of a boss on one end and the time limit on the other, I was ready to accept my bad ending and move on, consoled by the fact that this boss is apparently very hard to beat on your first playthrough.
This doesn’t make Atelier Totori a bad game. It’s just one that I didn’t connect with on a personal level. It’s solidly in the “good games that I just didn’t like” bin. You might like it, a lot of fans like it. Personally, I’m hoping I’ll like Atelier Meruru more. One dud game (again, for me personally) isn’t enough to make me quit this series, I’m hooked now.