Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland – A Princess’ Work is Never Done

cropped-atelier-megafeature-header-1.pngThis post is one chapter of a MegaFeature!
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As Princess Merurulince Rede Arls faces down the formidable task of expanding the tiny little hamlet that is Arls kingdom into a bustling city of 30,000 residents in the space of three years, she clearly has a lot of work ahead of her.

More to the point, she has a lot of different types of work ahead of her, too, meaning she’ll need to carefully balance her time between cooking up alchemical creations in her workshop and heading out into the field to listen to the requests of the people, slap down the local monster populations and generally go rather above and beyond the expectations of someone of her social standing.

She loves every minute, though, and you’ll be right there alongside her as she takes on her many and varied challenges. In this part of the Atelier MegaFeature, we take a look at how Meruru crafts items, and how that helps her long-term objective of developing the kingdom.

The core of Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland’s alchemy system isn’t fundamentally all that different from its two immediate predecessors. In fact, it’s almost identical to the one found in Atelier Rorona’s Plus and DX incarnations; those versions of that game specifically backported many of Atelier Meruru’s mechanics in order to provide a bit more consistency to the Arland trilogy as a whole, among other welcome changes to the series as a whole.

As is the norm for the Atelier series as a whole, synthesis in Meruru’s workshop is dependent on the eponymous heroine knowing a recipe for something, at which point she can either pop the appropriate ingredients in her cauldron and see what happens, or take the time to select the components a little more carefully in order to create specific effects.

One notable difference between Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland and its two predecessors, however, is how Meruru goes about learning her new recipes: while she still acquires recipe books throughout her adventures — usually at particular progress milestones, but occasionally from shopping — actually being able to craft these items is often dependent on her alchemy level. Meruru is still Totori’s student, after all, so any time you reach a particular level milestone that unlocks new recipes, you’ll get a cute little scene showing Totori “teaching” Meruru some new things to try.

This little shift in progression makes the alchemy level statistic feel a lot more meaningful in Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland; while it had an impact on success likelihood and final item quality in both Atelier Rorona and Atelier Totori, it never felt like a particularly big deal was made of it to the player. Here, however, it’s clearly important right from the outset — in Meruru’s early levels, she gradually learns a variety of fundamental recipes, many of which remain useful even later in her career, while once she reaches much higher degrees of experience, she becomes capable of many incredible things — as expected of an Atelier protagonist.

Meruru isn’t left to her own devices to just craft willy-nilly, however — although you can choose to do so, it’s not a particularly efficient means of getting through the game. Rather, the majority of your time in Atelier Meruru will be spent completing tasks that Meruru’s butler Rufus has set her after perusing letters from the various settlers around the Arls area. Typically the settlers will make a vague but fairly large-scale request — “we would like to build a farm,” for example — and Rufus will break this down into a series of constituent components. These sometimes involve eliminating monsters or gathering items, but on a significant number of occasions, they will require Meruru to craft something.

With each of these tasks, you’re presented with a choice similar to the ones Rorona was faced with when confronting her own challenges back in her game. You can mass-produce the requested items with any old quality level and traits, or you can take the time to create items that fulfil specific requirements. It’s usually in your interest to take the latter approach, since this allows you to complete a task by submitting significantly fewer items — but there are exceptions. More on that in a little while.

The actual alchemy process will be familiar to anyone coming straight from Atelier Rorona and Atelier Totori. Recipes either call for specific ingredients or a particular type of ingredient, and the choices you make in these regards — coupled with the quality of said ingredients — determines the various effects a final item will have. In this way, two instances of the same item can have different effects; a healing salve thrown together with no real care will only heal a few hit points, for example, while one with carefully selected ingredients will be much more useful in the long term.

Like in the previous games, traits can be carried over from ingredients to the final item so long as the total value of the traits you select doesn’t exceed the maximum “cost” value of the item. Later in the game, it becomes very important to select ingredients for the amount of cost they provide as well as their quality, traits and effects, since some of the most useful traits in the game are rather expensive to apply.

Prior to Atelier Rorona Plus, Atelier Meruru was also the installment in the Arland series to introduce the ability to combine two levels of the same trait to produce a significantly more expensive, more powerful “super trait”. For example, combining a Quality lv. 1 and Quality lv. 2 trait on a single item produces the “Hand-Crafted” super trait, which raises the quality considerably more than the two component traits would if applied individually. A lot of different traits can be combined in this way; in the case of traits that affect elemental affinities of weapons and armour, making good use of this system is a great way to beef up your attack power and resistance to various types of attack.

Like the earlier games, Meruru is on a time limit, so it’s important to craft efficiently. Each item takes a specific amount of time to craft, and a synthesis session always takes at least a full day, even if the item only takes a fraction of the day to make. Thus, under certain circumstances, it can sometimes be more efficient to make multiples of an item and save the leftovers for later, rather than take up a whole day making a single pinch of Polish Powder.

As the game progresses, though, various ways to make life a little easier for the spunky young princess become available. One of the most notable of these occurs when Rorona’s former master Astrid shows up in Arls — with a Rorona looking rather younger than either Meruru or Totori expected in tow. But that’s a story for another day. No, in terms of the alchemy mechanics, the significant thing about Astrid’s appearance is that she brings two homunculi with her — one male, one female. Much like when Astrid first created a homunculus to assist Rorona with her alchemical efforts, these can be used either to mass-produce items that Meruru has successfully made herself at least once, or to head out into the field and automatically gather ingredients from various locations. They can be especially useful for creating large quantities of the consumable items that Meruru depends on in combat, especially if you’re not too fussy about them having specific traits.

For situations where Meruru has a task that requires a choice between creating a few items with a tricky effect or churning out ten times the number of items without said effect, the two “Homs” are an absolute godsend. A great example is a task where Meruru can create 5 pies with an effect only obtainable from extremely rare, high-quality ingredients, or 50 pies with any old traits; set the Homs to work on the latter task and you can get on with plenty of other things while they work.

There’s another option, too, and that is to make use of Pamela’s shop, which opens partway through the game. When you first meet her, Pamela sells a few basic items that are sometimes useful, but the real benefit of her shop is her Wholesale facility. This allows you to replace her entire store inventory with items you’ve made yourself, and every in-game week she will create 10 identical copies of the items you’ve submitted (up to a quality level cap slightly lower than Meruru can achieve), then sell them back to you.

If you find yourself relying heavily on a particular ingredient that requires crafting rather than just gathering, Pamela’s store can be extremely convenient, but it’s also handy if you manage to make what you consider to be a “perfect” example of a particular attack or healing item. Rather than letting the Homs craft more of the item — which leaves quality, traits and effects up to chance — you can make use of Pamela as a means of “duplicating” your favourite items — so long as you have the Cole to pay her, of course. And, as you might expect, the best items are also the priciest!

This then, of course, ties in with the various means of making money throughout the game, which include completing quests for the kingdom — which also has the convenient side-effect of increasing Meruru’s popularity and, by extension, Arls’ rate of population growth — as well as offloading items you don’t need to the various shops around town. Indeed, there are quite a few items that can be gathered or crafted that are worth a pretty penny, so it’s sometimes worth making use of the convenient “sort by price” inventory option to see how you can make a quick Cole or two.

And, just to provide further incentive to engage with this side of things, some of the kingdom development opportunities presented to Meruru over the course of the game require her to simply buy and sell particular amounts of items within Arls, thereby stimulating its economy — so there’s never a point where you feel like you’re wasting your time. Pretty much everything you can spend time doing in the game has some sort of reward on offer — you just need to prioritise which rewards you need right now, and which ones you could do with down the line.

Next up, we’ll look at Meruru’s adventures in the wider world around Arls — and how she can make good use of some of those synthesised items in battle against the monsters that threaten her kingdom’s safety. Until then, stay safe, and always carry a healthy supply of Merulixir with you!

cropped-atelier-megafeature-header-1.pngThis post is one chapter of a MegaFeature!
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