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Game Info:

Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~
Developed By: Gust/Koei Tecmo Games
Published By: Koei Tecmo Games
Release Date: May 20, 2019
Available On: Windows, PS4, Switch
Genre: Role Playing Game
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: Teen for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol
MSRP: $59.99
(Humble Store Link)

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

I find it amazing how many games the guys at Gust manage to release every year. For many years, they would release approximately one per year; that pace had kept up until 2018, where they started releasing not only new main entries, but also side ones and remasters of older games. One of those older games was the Arland trilogy, which I reviewed; these include Atelier Rorona, Atelier Totori, and Atelier Meruru. Not long before I started reviewing the Arland trilogy, Koei Tecmo announced the release of Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~, the first time in the modern era that a classic trilogy would get a fourth entry, especially so many years later. Rorona began the modern 3D era of Atelier as the 11th game, and Lulua was released as the 20th and the (probable) conclusion to the Arland story. It's also an interesting twist (and surprise) that Lulua is Rorona's daughter.

For fans of the lovable Arland characters Rorona, Totori, Meruru and their friends, Lulua is a great follow-up. Even if you aren't a fan (yet), it's still a solid title - the game does a good job introducing everyone to you, but if you already know them, the many, many pricks of nostalgia will have much greater meaning. (Sadly, Totori and Meruru require paid DLC if you want them as playable characters. They are quite powerful, but otherwise have a minimal impact on the story.) Thankfully, despite the many locations (and lovely music with many call-back tracks) in common with the older games, it plays nothing like them. While the basics are similar – turn-based combat, exploration, gathering and crafting – the mechanics of the game are a healthy combination of the improvements made in the most recent game, Atelier Lydie & Suelle, along with some interesting changes that make it unique.

If you have not played an Atelier game up to this point, it’s a turn-based RPG (role-playing game) with lots of young, happy-go-lucky characters and their friends who experience life together in the framework of a young up-and-coming alchemist. Alchemists create items by putting together gathered ingredients into a cauldron, mixing them together, and hopefully getting a desired result. Depending on the entry, you may end up spending a small or large amount of your time crafting, which largely depends on required goals along with player preferences. Compared to other games I have played, I really feel like this one strikes the perfect balance between adventuring and crafting.
In some games, like Lydie & Suelle, there is a ton of tedium, where you end up making stuff just to gain a level, or to complete quests. In other games you may want to do lots of crafting, but it takes too much time on the in-game clock, so you have to make compromises. While you can choose to grind if you so choose here, I feel like the pacing is much, much better.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Great to see the returning characters again; deep and interesting crafting system; no time limits at all, and the game is better for it; always something to do, but doesn't feel overwhelming; music is great; graphically one of the prettiest games in the series; one of the best Atelier games yet
Weak Points: First impressions of Lulua as a character were mixed for me
Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence against natural(ish) and mystical creatures, like beasts, ghosts, and dragons; minor curse words like 'h*ll', 'd*mn' and 'b*st*rd'; alcohol use, including by playable characters, with drunkenness shown in some scenes; there is some suggestive dialog, including discussions of romantic feelings that are homosexual (though they are turned down); there is a beach scene, with tons of cleavage shown; most of the female cast dresses conservatively, but some have midriff and cleavage shown; magic is used, and crafting new things in a cauldron with components is a massive part of this game; dark past of technological advancements, as well as ruins from that ancient civilization; one character is a dark creature trying to atone; gods are mentioned

A large reason for the improved pacing is the last and final thing that it dropped from the original Arland trilogy – time limits. In Rorona/Totori/Meruru, everything you did had a time limit, from the time to complete the main quest (usually three in-game years) to various monthly/quarterly/some unit of time goals to complete. You also have quests that you can get from the guild/tavern in each region that also expire; so, if you took too many or ignored them long enough, you could fail, which had other consequences. It was a high-stress system, that while mostly eliminated in other games, wasn’t completely in all of the ones I’ve played so far. For example, in Ayesha, while the quests had extremely long ending dates, the main quest still ended after three years, whether you were ready or not. In Lydie & Suelle, the main quest has no time limit, but individual quests would end sometimes in just a few days or weeks, so paying attention is important. Lulua gets rid of them all.

This relaxed pace and a well-balanced crafting level up system means that I found myself playing the game because I wanted to. Sometimes, in other ones, the grind would bog me down and make me want to take breaks; not so here. Since I got to set the pace, I enjoyed the pace I set (crazy, right?). This meant that the nearly eighty-five hours of gameplay I put in flew by – it never felt particularly long; it just kept going. I was also able to see all of the endings, and get all of the characters’ bonding scenes maxed out, because again, I could control what was next based on what I had on my task list. I really enjoyed it!

As for the characters, they are mostly the sweet, positive, upbeat (mostly) young people that Atelier is well known for. At first, I didn’t think I’d like Lulua – she was so bubbly that it was a bit off-putting. Thankfully, as she grew and I got used to her, I came to appreciate her much more. Maybe not as much as the previous generation, but I appreciate her nonetheless. The writers also did a great job of giving the main cast something important to them; Lulua and Eva both came from and help at the local orphanage [spoilers](Rorona becomes Lulua's mom after finding her there)[/spoilers], Aurel strives to become the strongest knight, Niko hopes to return to the sea someday and captain a ship, and so on. The new and old cast together form a great team that pushes the narrative forward. While there is plenty of slice-of-life here, there is actually a pretty interesting main story that grows out of it that only our plucky alchemist can solve.

The graphics and art quality are some of the best the series has to offer up to this point (the next game, Atelier Ryza, is supposed to look even better). The music is always great in these games, and this one is no exception. It saddens me greatly that the excellent English voice acting is no longer part of the series (I especially love Rorona's English voice) but the Japanese voices all fit well and sound great. While I noticed the occasional typo, for the most part, the writing on the localization is well-done.

The PC version looks fantastic at 4K if you have a rig that can handle it; I was able to scale the game down for slower machines, but you never really want to go below a 1280x720 resolution, as any lower and the font text is very difficult to read. I tried this to improve performance on my GPD Win 2, and while you can play the game in a pinch at lower resolutions if you want smoother gameplay, crafting and reading pretty much requires a full 720p - and that means framerates in the tens. It does work if you need to get some crafting in, but I would recommend a PC with a dedicated GPU to play this game. I tried an older laptop with a Radeon 8950M, and it worked pretty well at 1600x900. It's a shame that the rendering resolution of the 3D game elements and the 2D UI elements can't be separated, as you could then play it on a lot more computers. This is unlikely to be an issue on consoles.

Morally, this game falls on the generally cleaner side, with some notable exceptions. Like many fantasy RPGs, there is fantasy violence. The heroes in battle hit their opponents with physical weapons or magical items of some kind. Many enemies are realistic (wolves, bears, etc.) or fantastical (like blobs and dragons). There are also darker enemies like imps, ghosts, and demons. There is mild langauge, with the occasional 'd*mn', 'b*st*rd' (usually attached to weapons, but you know) and the also rare 'h*ll'. Alcohol use by important characters does happen, and you see them drunk. It seems to be a series running gag (not just this game) that some of the girls really can't hold their liquor. One woman got really drunk off of a liquor chocolate candy. As a result of seeing that, Lulua decided she would never drink alcohol.

Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 92%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 74%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Like most games featuring females these days, sexual content is a constant concern. While few dress too unmodestly in this game, there is exposed cleavage and midriff in places. Skirts can be a bit short, too. Thankfully there are no panty shots to worry about (Atelier games don't often cross this line, but there are exceptions with characters who are exceptionally (un)dressed like Plachta in Sophie who is not in this game.) Some girls really like Lulua a lot - enough to want to spend their life with her. They hint pretty strongly they would pick her over men, though it doesn't go any farther than that - Lulua accepts them as really close friends but never hints at a romantic angle. On another note, gods are mentioned, and there are ruins of a previously more advanced technological age. One character is a demon-like creature who is trying to atone and become like a human.

Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~ is an enjoyable conclusion to the Arland world. She's a character that grew on me, and the game's systems (crafting, combat/battle, exploration and gathering aspects) are all well done. The story was interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. Another point of trivia: the next game, Atelier Ryza, goes to an active-battle system, where the game becomes somewhat more real-time. So, that makes Lulua the last of the turn-based Atelier games! And it's a great way to end that tradition (at least for now). If you are a fan of the characters and setting of the Arland trilogy, I highly recommend picking this up. If you haven't played Atelier games before, or are looking for a good starting point, you could start here, but there are better options (any game that starts a new trilogy would be a great choice - so that would be Rorona, Ayesha, Sophie, or Ryza).

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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