I have two alchemists working in a workshop, in my head, I’m thinking potions and magic but in reality, I’ve just got them to synthesise beer for the townsfolk. I seem to be underutilising them but hey, at least they’re making me money – welcome to Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists.
You are Nelke, failed alchemist turned town governor in charge of developing the town of Westwald and managing the finances among other things, her father has set goals she must hit in order to progress (It was unclear what would happen if you fail). Your other goal is to find the mysterious Granzweit Tree, that is rumoured to be in the area. The game is set within the Atelier universe which for me is a completely new, but for fans, it has now reached its 20th year as a franchise. This entry is a side game within this universe but features some familiar faces from past Atelier titles which I am sure will delight fans.
The overall story isn’t going to keep you gripped, you’ll be tempted to hit that fast forward button to speed things along. The focus is all in its town building and management to which I am very fond of. To put it simply, it’s a very deep system. All of which is explained in the games lengthy but detailed tutorial, which I was quite thankful for, even if it oversimplifies certain things. You’ll be checking profit/loss, responding to townsfolk request and delegate tasks around the town.
When you’re not tending to your town you’ll leave and go on ‘Investigations’ to gather supplies and to find the tree, much like the rest of the game you have very little control over Nelke as you auto walk down a straight route picking up random items. It’s essentially on-rails. Occasionally you’ll be stopped by enemies, in which a very rudimentary combat system comes into play. I never saw any challenge involved which led me to set the combat to Auto, letting it play out in super speed occasionally triggering a boost.
The only positive to these investigations are the items you collect allowing you to expand Westwald, other than that the combat is completely forgettable. It confirms that Gust has a lot of faith in the town development parts of the game.
While Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists won’t scratch that RPG itch you may be wanting from this franchise, the way the Town Building is crafted is incredibly well done. Maybe it’s due to my unfamiliarity with this series and these types of games but I wish that I had more control over Nelke. I wanted the freedom to explore, to walk around my developing town. Sadly this never happened. Yet there’s something pleasant about this hybrid of genres that kept me playing until the end, and for that, I can’t fault it.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*