I have been interested in the Atelier series for some time. The idea of a slice-of-life RPG that has over 20 games in the series must mean that the developers have been doing something right all this time, right? The issue I've had with the Atelier series is knowing where to start. Do I pick a random game whose cover art interests me? Can I start with the most recent entry, or should I start with a newer, specific title? A lot of questions.
Thankfully, Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg has just been released. It was my luck that this happens to be the first game of the series, brought to the modern day from way back in 1997. I saw this as a perfect chance to jump in at the beginning to see if this is a series made for me. While I get that the first game in a series might not be the best Atelier game right now, understanding where it all started might help to see if this is a series I want to invest more time into. This also gives me a chance to see the roots, and get a sense of what the developer wanted the series to become.
Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg has a very simple premise. You get one short cutscene at the start, and then you are left alone to do just about anything. Marlone, who goes by Marie to all her friends, is enrolled in an alchemy school in the city of Salburg. Marie happens to be the worst student in the history of the school. Clumsy and academically dimwitted, she has just one shot left to graduate. She’s given her own Atelier, an alchemy shop in town, and given five years to come up with a high-quality synthesized item, or she’ll be held back.
Atelier Marie Remake has multiple endings; some have you earning varying degrees of success, and others where you do not. I was not fortunate enough the first go around to get one of the better endings; you think five years is enough time to learn alchemy, but getting a good ending is harder than you think. One of the new, nice features of the remake is allowing yourself a never-ending mode. This feature turns off the five-year requirement, so you can attempt to pass your graduation whenever you feel like it. This is certainly the way to play if this is your first go around with the series, and might be the way to play if you are familiar with the games. As I said, five years sounds like a lot of time, but then you find out that when you go out to search for herbs, or enter fights with NPCs that it can take weeks, or even months off your time.
The lack of direction is hard for someone who knows very little about the series. I knew I needed to gather, I knew I needed to hire friends or people in town to help me explore the wilderness areas, and going about all those gameplay elements is explained in more than enough detail to understand them.
The same goes with the alchemy part of the game. They tell you how to go about making items, but they don’t give any direction about what you should be doing to help further your chances. You can take quests that ask you to find certain herbs, and they even tell you where you may encounter the herbs, but then you go there, search all around, and don’t find a single one. I then learn I wasn’t looking in the right place, even though I believed I was. I was given a lot of information, but not the correct information I needed for that time in the game.
Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist Of Salburg feels simple. Maps are easy to understand but still give you enough to look around and see, at least the first handful of times you go out to them. After a few hours in, they can feel claustrophobic, I’ve seen all these areas numerous times now, and I know what I am looking for and where it is. Combat is straightforward too. You make one of two attacks, or use an item to heal or buff. All of it turned-based. Nothing world-breaking, even for 1997 when Atelier Marie was first released.
If combat or gathering herbs feels like too much then you can turn on the auto part of the remake. You can auto-gather your herbs, pick a place, and let the game do everything for you. What you end up with is random, but often exactly what you are looking for in the first place. Combat can be turned to auto also. I never had an issue losing when I had the auto-battle on, but I found the game AI used all my potions any chance it could, even if my characters had more than enough health.
But the real reason I think a lot of people get into this series is not for the exploration or the combat, but for the characters. Atelier Marie Remake is not a story-heavy cozy style game. Instead, it’s about Marie learning about her allies, the people in town, or the ones she hires to help when she goes out on a scavenge trip. This is where the real meat of the game is. This let me pick and chose which stories I wanted to learn about, and ignore the people I felt where rude, annoying, or people I just didn’t care to learn about. Which people you pick and choose to help aid you can also help determine if you reach a successful ending or not. Atelier Marie Remake also has a chat log that you can look up when you need to, in order to refresh your memory of what has already been talked about with others, it’s something little, but a nice touch when conversations play such a big part.
There are some modern refinements that make Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist Of Salburg more playable than the 1997 original. Endless mode, more auto-play features, and an original soundtrack that has been given a great facelift are just a few. But, if you don’t want any of those you can choose to ignore them; Give yourself a time limit with Atelier Marie, turn off the auto features, and listen to the original chip-tune style music. I don’t care for all the auto gameplay features, but I can see how it would work for some players. The characters are the strong suit, and making them to focus will make your time with Atelier Marie more enjoyable.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I'm pulled towards anything that isn't driving or sports related; having said that, I love a good kart racer. I Can't get enough RPGs, and indies are always worth a look to me. The only other subject I pay any attention to is the NFL (go Colts!).
While writing about games is my favorite hobby, talking is a close second. That's why I podcast with my wife Tessa (it's called Tessa and Elliot Argue).View Profile