Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World Review
Not your usual Atelier game.
The Atelier game series still continues to be one of the most consistent RPG series of them all, releasing at least one brand new game every year alongside multiple remakes and even spinoffs. While the mainline and remake games have mostly received Western releases for years now, the side spinoff games have not been so lucky. That is changing now with the release of the first home console spinoff game in 18 years with Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World.
Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World stars the titular Nelke as a noblewoman who is tasked with building up the town of Westbald herself. What sets apart Nelke from the mainline games however is that she is not an alchemist, instead relying on others that come to her town, who longtime fans of the franchise may recognize. As with any Atelier game, there is a lot of dialogue to get through before you get to really play the game. This can always be a bit of a slog, but thankfully the game does include a fast forward option that speeds up the dialogue to a rapid pace. Even with all the dialogue, there isn’t really what most would consider a captivating story, with the Atelier games typically going more for a slice of life approach than a big dramatic narrative. The actual relationships between characters are as charming as ever and really help to push the slice of life feeling the series has always been known for over the years.
Serving as a spinoff of the main Atelier games, there are certainly some changes to be expected from the usual games. The first and most important of these is the inclusion of a town building system that takes center stage in the game. This starts with you having to build facilities such as shops, farms, and even ateliers themselves. These locations start off very small with very few plots, but they will increase in size the more you play the game and gain the ability to build a variety of different facilities.
Town building sims often vary in how they operate, while still maintaining some of the same core properties. Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World is no different, as it has some very familiar elements. To build a requested facility, you will first have to make sure that you have not only the money to build it, but also specific supplies. Each type of building or farm requires a different selection of items, so this is where the series’ signature gathering mechanic comes into play.
After building a facility, you can assign what is known as a helper to run it. If you have nobody to do so, a default helper will be put in the building, though they will be at a lower level than one you would place. This means you have to be more strategic with placing of people between your different facilities, as each person has letter grade based stats for different categories like Grocery and Weapons.
During the Weekdays in Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World, you won’t be going out and exploring as you’d expect from other Atelier games, but rather building up and maintaining the town. Once you have built facilities, you will also be making different decisions on sales at shops and such to most efficiently make money for your town. This felt similar to decisions you would make in the various tycoon games, which was fun to play around with throughout the game. You will also need additional materials for not only building new facilities but also to sell, which means you will eventually have to leave the town as well.
Much of the game will have you dealing with the day to day tasks of the town, but you also have Holidays that allow you to leave the town to gather supplies and such that is a little more reminiscent of the past, as well as let you interact with characters in the town and build relationships. However, the former is handled very differently from the mainline entries in the series, as you do not have free rein to explore these areas. In the mainline Atelier games, you move between small locations that let you walk around and either pick up materials or fight enemies. Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World takes a different approach by making the experience be on rails.
Even before you enter an area after choosing the Investigation step of your Holiday, you will have to pay with gold to invest in a route, which just means you are able to explore around in it. Within the actual route, your party of characters will walk down a path and automatically pick up items that you can’t even see in the path. The only real option you have is the ability to run by pressing R1, which moves you ahead in the path and makes it to where you can’t gather items at all, though enemies will still attack. This takes a lot of the fun out of actually exploring environments to gather materials, even if that was never all that interesting in the past. Taking the control from you almost entirely though seems like a drastic move, but this game is more focused on the town builder elements instead.
Coming across items is not the only thing you will be doing on Holidays either, as you can also run into enemies along the pathway as well. Like the items, these are not seen on the screen and will just activate like random battles. The combat system is not too much of a departure from what you’d expect from the Atelier series, with it utilizing a easy to read Turn Gauge that decides when each character will go. The top part of the gauge had images of your party members while the bottom has the enemies, with the image moving towards the right depending on that character’s speed. Whenever a character reaches the far right side of the gauge, they are then able to attack.
Handled very differently from the mainline entries in the series
Each party member has their own basic attack that they can use in battle, which also helps to increase that character’s Drive. Drive can be used in one of two ways, either speeding up a character’s turn or using a special skill that can only be activated with Drive. On top of that, your party as a whole has what is known as the Burst Gauge, which increases as your party continues to attack. After filling it up, your entire party can enter Burst State, which boosts all of their abilities. It is useful that both Drive and the Burst Gauge carry over between battles, so you won’t end up wasting them at the end of a fight just because you filled them up when it is too late.
Atelier games have never had the greatest combat system, but the one included here feels almost like an afterthought compared to past entries. Similar to how the gathering system is on auto-pilot, the combat feels that way somewhat too. There was much more strategy built into the battle system in the mainline games, where here the only real strategy is whether to speed up your character or use their special skill. The idea of the game is that building is the main priority, but they could have still made the battling more interesting as well.
One of the core elements of the Atelier series is the atelier itself, which is where you can usually create all sorts of new items with gathered materials. Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World takes a very different approach though, as Nelke isn’t the actual alchemist as mentioned before. Instead, she ends up enlisting the large roster of alchemists from all throughout the Atelier series to take over that element of the game. It was a nice touch that the first alchemist that you get is Marie, who was the title character of the very first game in the series from way back in 1997. The alchemy elements were always very in depth and one of the most enjoyable parts of the game, though now you are simply telling the alchemist which item you want to synthesize instead.
Similar to the battle system, Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World felt much more hands off when it came to the alchemy system that the series is known for. It did feel quite weird not being directly involved with the alchemy this time around, but that is made up for partially with the town building aspects that are brand new for the game. As long as you aren’t going in expecting an experience like you would get in the mainline series, there is still plenty to enjoy about Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World as a new spinoff for the franchise.
The first element people think of when the Atelier series is brought up is that of alchemy, but Gust has decided to try something a little different in the spinoff Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World. Town building is the name of the game this time, though the lackluster alchemy and more simple than ever combat system definitely hold this game back. Regardless of the changes, Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World is a worthy entry in the series for its unique town building elements and ability to maintain the low key type of experience that fans will find familiar.
Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World
- Available On: PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC
- Published By: Koei Tecmo
- Developed By: Gust
- Genre: RPG
- US Release Date: March 26th, 2019
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "Gust has decided to try something a little different in the spinoff Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World, but it is still a worthy entry in the series for its unique town building elements and ability to maintain the low key type of experience that fans will find familiar."