Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists puts a brand new spin to the Atelier series but one that doesn’t deviate much from the usual formula we all know and love. Though its alchemy system remains intact –albeit at a supporting role, the whimsical characters and their silly yet captivating interactions is still widespread throughout the journey.
Now while it isn’t the most innovative game out in the market nor the most sought after sub-genre, there’s really just something entrancing with town building as a whole that I would find myself demented before I could pass up the opportunity. So I took the first dive in and here’s what happens.
Nelke Von Lestamm is an alchemy drop-out with zero talent whatsoever when it comes to what most alchemists would consider the “twirl” or “swirl” of synthesizing. Thus, the curious aristocrat would later find herself as an administrator for a village called Westwald. And her job? Well, to develop a town into a blooming city. But along the way, she’ll meet, in our eyes, some pretty familiar faces. Faces that has appeared from the different games in the franchise and one that is a sight to behold in glorious HD. From your 1997’s Atelier Marie and to the most recent mysterious trilogy. It’s a sight to behold right then and there with all the characters in one place to celebrate its legacy of over 20 years in the making.
Its narrative however takes you towards multiple goals, one of which is rebuilding the town into a thriving city while the other is searching for the Granzweit Tree known to bear a mysterious fruit all while trying to find clues for his long lost friend. Although it makes the core narrative rather convoluted with all of its devices going on behind the scenes, its innumerable conversations and slow pacing just adds up to the pile that makes it even more perplexing than it needs to be.
To the point that we could even forget that there’s a story to follow.
“Building from the ground up.”
Building a town can be a rather difficult task. Just like every simulation game that requires multiple fields of expertise. However, Nelke is not that kind of game. Its framework is as simple as twirling a stick on a goo-filled cauldron. And its mechanics that are separated between turns, one of which is a weekday while the other just happens to be a holiday.
During weekdays, you’ll be able to build facilities like a farm to harvest raw materials or dispatch your citizens to previously explored areas in order to gather unique resources. You’ll also be able to set what an alchemist in an atelier will be crafting during the week or what the other facilities like shops would be selling during that time. And at the end of its phase, you’ll be greeted with a detailed breakdown of what transpired during the week which serves as a good reminder what needs to be improved upon afterwards.
The holiday turn however would have you going through researching different artifacts and commodities to unlock better gear and town building requirements or progress the Granzweit Tree storyline quest. Visiting the characters for a hefty conversation to increase their friendship or experience. As well as unlocking landmarks that provide unique benefits like increased shop sales or lower hiring costs. And last but not least, unlocking new areas to explore by throwing money at it for a good sum in which your characters can discover materials by walking around or fighting the cutesy slimes to the most ferocious of beasts in the wilderness.
Though it’s plainly obvious, the star of the show definitely lies beyond its building mechanics and quirks. It might not have the grandest of schematics nor the most robust line up of facilities, it’s the simplicity which makes it all the more attractive. A single atelier to craft unique items, farms that produce materials, multiple shops that sells different varieties of commodities and the landmarks that simply adds to the beauty of a district while providing unique benefits to keep it all the more productive. There’s just really something that makes it addictive to the point, a “one more turn” would eventually become a hundred and one more to go.
“But with great quantity comes great responsibility.”
As more alchemists gets drawn into the town and more adventurers get dragged with them, the granularity starts to sink in. The amount of tasks that needs to be addressed and the amount of people to be delegated to their places. It’s not a perfect system but it’s also not as terrible. For one, commission synthesis is a great way to delegate multiple alchemists into a task and it’s something that one must use in order to lessen the stress of planning out the days ahead… or in this case, the weeks. It manages everything in one go, be it crafting a single item and all of its required synthesized materials. It doesn’t however let you add the items to a wishlist without taking a step back into a different menu altogether.
But once you do get every required materials to your wishlist by going into the storage and marking them all one by one, it doesn’t end there, now you’ll want to remove every dispatched citizen back one at a time before redistributing them again in order to properly allocate the miniscule amount of citizens you have at any given time making it a struggle of where and how many. Not to mention the lack of markings on each investigation area without hovering over each one for their marked materials which just adds in to the time consuming micro-management. And again, there’s also the lack of a noticeable difference like different colors between the ratio of “use” and “get” on the storage or wishlist which makes it even more time consuming to hover over everything in one quick sweep when changing what to synthesize on a weekly basis even with the sort and filter options in full effect. These are the kinds of things that I would’ve wanted to be improved upon but nonetheless, something that doesn’t ruin much of the experience as a whole.
What does ruin it for me is its inability to place facilities even temporarily in areas without a road which means you’ll need to be creative in order to place and move certain facilities to other parts of the district. Though at times your hand might get forced into demolishing facilities without any incentive in doing so other than creating space to lay the groundwork for an awesome looking town.
It’s a visually appealing game and one with its amazing cast of characters and personalities. But that also holds great risks for its lack of voice acting on the most part. Making bits and pieces of the story go from voiced to a staring contest between you and the wall of text. But with the already hefty amount of interactions that never seem to end during my visits, it’s something that I find a forgivable offense.
“And there it stands.”
While Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists is one game that I would still enjoy just because it’s a town building game, it isn’t something that is free of its nuisance. As it lacks the quality of life improvements that could’ve made it easier to get around. Or with its perplexing amount of character interaction just to improve friendship levels that ultimately progresses the research levels. The adventure and combat isn’t all that dedicated either however the dimension gate does offer quite some fun from time to time to what is otherwise an auto-battle mayhem when you end up throwing piles of gold around to boost your team’s abilities to the brim. But like any good game, all must come to an end… whether you ran out of space or ran out of steam. If you’re looking for a simple building game that has its fair share of combat, then look no further… as this might just be what the doctor ordered.