I’m a little ambivalent about ‘Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland’. I enjoyed it, and I haven’t played a game quite like it, but it also has a lot of flaws.

I think the title is now self-explanatory...

I think the title is now self-explanatory…

You play as Princess Meruru who has to develop her kingdom of Arls using alchemy before it joins Arland in five years time. There is a time limit, and every action you do takes time, however it is very easy to meet the deadlines and if you’re worried about that, don’t let it stop you. It’s an easy game.

The main focus of the game is item creation using alchemy. The alchemy system is initially intimidating but once you get into it it’s really quite enjoyable and deep. You use alchemy to make various items to develop your kingdom and accumulate points. Once you have enough points you can build facilities, which appear on the world map. It’s surprising how much fun it can be just making stuff and watching the map change. The fighting is ok, it’s not fantastic, but it’s not bad either. You can make accessories for yourself with alchemy and you can also make materials, which you give to the blacksmith to make weapons. You should be able to make several ultimate weapons by the end of your first play-through, which you can carry over to your next game if they’re equipped.

What really got me about this game though is how shallow the characters are. There are a handful of new characters, but most of the people you meet come from earlier games. I don’t know if they were interesting in ‘Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland’ or ‘Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland’, but they certainly aren’t here. I’ve heard people describe them as quirky and weird, and they are, but that’s all they are. It’s like each character has one strange thing about them, and that’s where their character ends. There’s nothing more to say about them.

‘Atelier Meruru’ was a fun game, and I did enjoy it, but there’s a lot of room for improvement, and it’s definitely not for everyone.