A lot of what hurts Atelier Rorona comes from its sluggish gameplay both inside and out of battle. The alchemy system is the linchpin of Rorona's world, so you'll be interacting with it a lot. This means you'll be spending a lot of time tracking down materials to create items to meet the requests of the castle. There is a lot of menu navigation that goes in to getting from place to place which just feels slow and unnecessary. After choosing where you would like to go, you proceed through an area that feels sterile and empty, get in to fights, and find the proper components by searching through some easily identifiable spots on the map, it's literally just an exclamation point over an arbitrary spot in the location you are exploring. Once you've finished with an area, it's back in to the menus to either return home or go to the next area. In the midst of all of this you need to manage the time you are given to complete your tasks. The castle expects you to produce items created via alchemy on twelve different occasions, and you have about three months of in game time to finish them with an evaluation taking place at the end of the three months. Time in this game is spent whenever you perform a traveling action or whenever you create something via alchemy. If you wish to create a lot of items through alchemy then you're looking at spending a number of your allotted days doing so.
Creating items in the alchemy system is a rather simple affair. Every item has an ingredient type that goes toward creating a new item. Thankfully many different items can have the same ingredient type, making alchemy recipes easy to complete. For example, a rock from an ore cave have a gunpowder ingredient type, but simple rocks that can be found on the side of a road could have the same ingredient type, making the overall alchemy recipe cheaper and easier to complete. As previously stated the alchemy will require a set amount time, items, and hit points, but will yield new weapons, armor, or the items needed to complete the assignment from the castle. This will also increase your alchemic level which in turn will result in higher quality products from your alchemy.
This time management component of the game wouldn't be so bad if the game didn't do such a poor job of teaching you how to create the items you need. You really have to explore every nook and cranny in town to find the items that will teach you how to create stuff through alchemy. I had a hard time trying to track down water, until I found the well that was actually right outside of the alchemy shop, with no way of indicating that I could interact with it. Then it was a matter of finding the book to teach me the recipe to make the items that the castle requested. Which was being sold by the town blacksmith, but in the next chapter, the book might be somewhere else entirely. I don't mind being left to my own devices in an RPG, but a slight point in the right direction would have helped out this game immensely. Perhaps I could have been told at the start of every day where I should go to get my work done. I almost failed the first task because I thought I had to buy water from the general goods store and ran out of money since the first three items needed water in different amounts. Fulfilling requests for the town members will also eat up the time you have available to finish the main assignment, and these requests range from actually creating items through alchemy to simply gathering items for people around town. Unfortunately you are limited to carrying a specific number of items at any given time, so if you queued up a lot of jobs you might actually be shooting yourself in the foot by using time to travel back and forth between the gathering points and the town to drop stuff off.
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