Only halfway through the second assignment (there are 13 or so in total), so take this for what it's worth.
Never played an Atelier game before. The series is huge in Japan and has been thriving since the original PlayStation. The first game to reach the west was Atelier Iris for the PS2. Rorona is the latest game, just released in the US for the PS3. I have played the first Ar Tonelico, Gust's other flagship series, and although the battles/crafting were very simple, I loved the music and in-game world. Hoping for more of the same with Rorona.
Here's a brief overview of what I've encountered so far:
- 2D looks good. 3D, not so good. Very plain textures, and the framerate seems to dip in busy areas (namely the Town Square). I think a PS2 would be able to handle these visuals. Apparently, this is the first Atelier game to use 3D graphics.
- I laughed out loud after casting Rorona’s first spell for the first time – the special effects are very underwhelming. But I guess it’s better than a lengthy Final Fantasy VII summoning cutscene.
- Voice acting is OK. Western voice actors never seem to be able to nail down the squeaky little girl voice quite right. Rorona certainly does sound air-headed, though. Cordelia is great, the knight with the goofy name is good, the café owner is annoying. The other characters haven’t had enough lines. No idea on the VAs.
- You can switch to Japanese voices.
- Only bits and pieces of the dialogue are voiced.
- Music is nowhere near the same level as Ar Tonelico, but it still suits the game well. Everything is cheerful and upbeat. Will drive you nuts if you listen to it for too long.
Some of the models look goofy. I think it's the humongous forehead.
- Game is centered around crafting items before a deadline. Each assignment gives you 90 days.
- Time does not advance from just walking around, and it only moves when crafting, resting, or moving around different sections of a dungeon.
- If you don’t have the items by the deadline, you get a game over. If you saved right before, you are screwed. No re-dos, no continues, you start the game from the very beginning. Make a second save file as soon as you get an assignment just to be safe.
- From what I’ve played so far (not much), you have to try very hard if you want a game over. In fact, you get a trophy for doing so…
Dying in battle doesn't seem to have much consequence.
But God help you if the kingdom is short a few pieces of paper.
- Crafting system is surprisingly deep. Each ingredient can have different qualities and traits. Many ingredients rot over time.
- In addition to the main assignment, you can take on quests for money and reputation. Doing favors for party members allows you to hire them for less.
- At the beginning, you can hand in rotten or spoiled items to complete the quest. Eventually, people will get pickier, demanding items of a certain quality.
- There needs to be a central quest listing thing, like the billboard in Rune Factory. It’s annoying having to go to each individual character to see what they want, if they even have a quest available for you at all (it’s random).
Craft items to turn in for quests, use in battle or sell for cash.
Starting with the second assignment, you can also create weapons and armor.
- Combat is very, very basic. Attack, defend, or use a skill. Only Rorona can use items.
- No MP, skills use HP.
- Tough in the beginning, until I found out you could recruit the café guy. He learns a healing skill, which makes the first assignment a cakewalk. A new character joins for the second assignment, making the battles even easier.
- Leveling up allows you to allocate a skill point to beef up a skill of your choice. You can save them for later if you want. The effects seem to be very marginal at any rate.
- I really hope the battles get harder later in the game. I can craft new weapons and armor but I don’t see the point. My characters are killing everything in one or two hits with their starting equipment.
All the dungeons so far have been very linear with extremely narrow paths.
I’m still very early in the game, so I don’t have much of an opinion. I’m sure it will get more interesting and difficult as the game progresses. Also I'm curious about whether any of the earlier Atelier games are any good. Let me know!