Game Info:

Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~
Developed By: Gust/Koei Tecmo Games
Published By: Koei Tecmo Games
Release Date: March 26, 2019
Available On: Windows, PS4, Switch
Genre: Role Playing Game/City Building Simulator
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Alcohol Reference
MSRP: $59.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Koei Tecmo for sending us this game to review!

Gust, a wholly-owned division of Koei Tecmo, has been making a new Atelier game pretty much every year since Atelier Marie was released only in Japan in 1997. Honestly it’s pretty amazing that they continue to release about one game each year even to this day! The last two years have been far busier than in the previous decades, as they have been releasing both new and re-releases at an incredibly fast pace. I have had the honor of reviewing several of them, and this is my fifth Atelier game review. But that being the case, it’s also why my reviews are sometimes a bit later than I would prefer; these games are not short!

Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~ is a spin-off of the main Atelier series that is meant to celebrate the first twenty years of the series. Every main protagonist character, along with some major secondary ones, are present in this game, often in playable form. Rather than the more typical alchemist trying to make a name for herself, Nelke is not an alchemist – she’s a town administrator for the rural Westbald. Her father, the ruling lord, has some specific goals in mind for her; if she accomplishes them, she gets to stay. If not, she gets recalled, and it’s game over.

Nelke Von Lestamm, and her very close friend and maid Misty, come to the tiny town with the goal of starting up the local economy. She is also personally interested in the rumors of ancient relics from the powerful sage that lived there who knows how long ago, as well as the mysterious Granzweit tree that’s supposed to be nearby. No one knows much about it, other than it occasionally drops fruit that is supposed to be the tastiest thing imaginable. Luckily for Nelke, the alchemist Marie somehow finds herself lost, where she stumbles upon this town and an administrator that just so happens to need her help! Not long after, others from other worlds, like Elie, Iris, Rorona, Ayesha, Sophie, and many more start showing up – and Nelke is able to recruit them all to help out Westbald. Given that the ancient sage’s relics she is looking for are also alchemical in nature, she hopes that by teaming up with them all, she can not only build up her village, but also uncover the mysteries of the region, while also getting them a way to return home. A win-win situation for everyone!

Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~

Strong Points: A whole bunch of great characters that Atelier fans have come to love; wonderful art style and music; unique gameplay that is both familiar and quite different for existing Atelier players; great voice acting (Japanese); it's great to see alchemists from all of the different eras and worlds interacting together
Weak Points: Turns can take a long time; several steep difficulty spikes; offers a lot less to newcomers; a lot of DLC available; PC version all but requires a controller, as it lacks mouse support
Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence against natural(ish) and mystical creatures, including punis (gelatin blobs), squirrel-like beasts, creatures in cauldrons, and dragons; very minor curse words, like 'd*mn' and h*ll'; alcohol references like creating a giant liquor barrel, and discussion about drinking contests; several females wear outfits that show extensive skin and cleavage, while others are perfectly modest; occasionally some dialog is suggestive, including like how anatomically accurate a Nelke statue is or how her maid would like to wash her back; alchemy can have magic-like effects, and there is mention of witches and flying on brooms

Rather than the more typical turn-based RPG with crafting elements, this title is actually a city-building simulator with economy, production, crafting, gathering, and even turn-based RPG battling all into one. Honestly, at times it can be overwhelming, as there is always a ton to manage.

The game is divided up into weeks, with the weekdays being one set, and the weekend, or holiday, being another. All of the work gets done during the week – production (farming), synthesis (alchemists crafting items), gathering in fields (which you’ve already discovered during the weekends), and selling the items you already have in stock. Once sold, they make you money, which makes the economy continue to grow. You also are trying to encourage population growth, by investing in each district, expanding the population limits as you go. This is the main simulation aspect to the game, and there is simply a ton to manage at once.

You need money to build several different kinds of fields, which are used to produce everything from wheat to vegetables, to flowers and orchards. There is also a ranch, to round out the means of production. You also need money to create the rest of the supply chain; this includes ateliers, so you can combine the ingredients to make more expensive items that the villagers want to buy, and you need to create places where they can buy them from. There are several different kinds of shops, including grocery, general stores, weapon shops, boutiques, and drug stores. Each sells something different, and you need them all if you want to be able to sell everything an alchemist can create. They also need you to assign staff to them if you want to be able to get the most out of your shops. Whom you assign to each shop also makes a difference, so managing personnel is an important part of this game.

Each atelier is run by a single alchemist, and there are dozens to choose from by the end of the game. As a result, you end up with potentially dozens of ateliers to manage independently. You have to specify what each atelier manufactures, while making sure that both prerequisites for synthesis, as well as appropriate quantities are always available. Since more complex items require simpler items that are also synthesized, managing the whole supply chain is no small task. This is in addition to the crazy amount of raw materials that you can get not only from farming, but gathering.

In order to gather, which you dispatch a character to do during the week (but you do yourself on weekends), you need to first discover the area through investigations. You are given pie slices worth of time to spend however you like during a single holiday (or weekend as I like to call it). You can spend time talking to your townspeople, which can increase your reputation with them, or you can investigate the nearby areas, which is always the last thing to do – once you investigate, the day is over. So it’s important to balance out keeping your relationships strong, and expanding access to various new materials only available through gathering.

When you talk to someone while on holiday, you spend two slices of the twelve-slice time pie, and in exchange, you get to see a nice visual novel-style cutscene where you get to see several of your characters interact. This is a great way to get to know all of the characters, and it’s a lot of fun for long-time fans of the series. I loved getting to see the Arland characters interact with the Mysterious series’ characters I got to know and love through countless hours playing their respective games. This game also takes place after everyone has accomplished everything in each of their games, so you get to see occasional callbacks to how they grew and the experiences they had during their time back home. Because of this game, I am looking forward to the Dusk trilogy re-releases – in large part because I’ve come to love Ayesha, Escha, Logy, and to a lesser extent Stera and Lotte.

The graphics are fairly similar to other recent entries, and while not excessively detailed, has a nice 3D art style that will likely please anime fans. The 2D art and portraits are excellent. The PC version supports the full 4K resolution that I have on my monitor. You can choose to run it fullscreen or in a window, select the resolution, choose the language, and specify which keyboard keys maps to which controller buttons. The control limitation is rather significant for most PC users who are not comfortable with controllers. I would highly recommend treating this like a console game on PC, and use a controller. I do that with quite a few games, so it doesn't bother me at all, but I know it bothers some, so be aware of it. The PS4 version ran fine on my PS4 Pro, though it appears to be an upscaled resolution that was a bit less than 4K native like I was able to enjoy on my PC.

(In case you were wondering, we were sent the PS4 release, but because of time constraints, I ended up purchasing the PC version when it had a good sale so I could get this review out more quickly.)

The voice acting is all well done, but only in Japanese. It's a shame that the lovely English voice acting of previous localizations is no longer something we can hope for, but what can you do. The sound and music is very nice and catchy; I had several bits stuck in my head for a while, and getting one of the themes I heard several times from Lydie & Suelle stuck in my head once again caught me by surprise (though I do love the music from that game). The Atelier series has always had great music from what I can tell, and this game is no exception.

Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 80%
Violence - 8/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 7/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

From an appropriateness standpoint, it's probably not as bad as other Atelier games, but it still has some issues. It has fantasy violence against various creature-like things, including magical creatures. These include gelatin blobs, squirrel-like beasts, creatures in cauldrons, and dragons. Alchemy can have magic-like effects, and there is mention of witches and flying on brooms. There are some very minor curse words; I only caught 'd*mn' and 'h*ll'. Alcohol is referenced a few times, with a giant liquor barrel being something you can create, as well as some references to adult characters drinking.

While many characters wear perfectly modest clothing, there are some rather notable exceptions. Marie wears basically a leather bra, and exposes her abdomen as well. Others, including Nelke herself, expose some cleavage and wear a fairly short dress. Some rare dialog is suggestive, including an anatomically correct statue of Nelke, as well as a reference to how her maid would like to wash her back. The vast majority is just fine.

Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~ is an enjoyable city-building RPG simulation, but it's not without flaws. For one thing, with so much going on, and so many things to keep track of, it can get overwhelming quickly. There are also several difficulty spikes as well. Thankfully, I had a rare moment of showing my skillz and I was actually able to beat the game and get the true ending on my first playthrough. This is apparently uncommon, from what I read online. So yay me! (I did read some forum posts with strategies at one point though.) It took me around fifty hours to complete my playthrough. The game does allow you to continue past the ending, and you can also load a clear save and replay with significant bonuses to make the next time through much easier.

The characters are interesting and lovable, and the gameplay is engaging, especially if you hit the many goals given to you. The turn-based RPG battles are fairly basic, but have just enough depth to keep things interesting. I would say that if you love the characters in the Atelier series, and are looking for interesting shake-ups in the gameplay style, then I would highly recommend this title. For those new to Atelier, it's probably not the best starting point.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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