Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg has been spruced up nicely for a modern age | Hands-on preview
I’ve been playing and enjoying the games in the Atelier series since I was a spotty teenager, but despite that there are still portions of the timeline of these crafting JRPGs that I’m not particularly familiar with. Although I played the first game localised for western audiences (Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana back in 2006) there were 5 whole games before that. The folks at Gust have realised that there are some people who might want to check out the origins of Atelier, and so this July Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg is coming to a console or PC near you.
The first ever Atelier protagonist Marie isn’t the most powerful alchemist in the world, in fact she’s the bottom of her class at the academy. Professor Ingrid won’t let the name of this prestigious establishment be dragged through the mud by this dunce, and decides it’s sink or swim time. Marie is given a test of her skills, to create an item of exceptional quality. The professor will judge your best item in five years time, so until then it’s time to hone your craft.
For this preview I was able to play the first year of the game, which gave me plenty of time to hone my alchemy and get to know Marie. Despite being the first game in the series, Atelier Marie still has a fairly familiar gameplay loop for long term fans. You’ll go out and look for alchemy materials, beat up any enemy enemies you see, and use the bits and bobs you’ve gathered to make new items and power yourself up. A lot of the systems are a little more basic in this remake than in more modern Atelier titles, but that doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable.
The biggest thing that sets Atelier Marie apart from the games we know and love is the time pressure it puts on you. Five years might sound like a long time, but days pass incredibly quickly. Traveling to an area you want to gather materials from can take anywhere from a couple of days to over ten, and every time you collect materials at a gathering spot, go to bed or fight a battle a day passes. You’ll get quests and mid term objectives with shorter time limits too, so effective time management is key.
Once you’re done with your and excursion and grabbed all various plants and rocks you need, you’ll want to head back to the atelier and start the alchemy. Creating items in your cauldron is incredibly easy, you just plop the right materials in and as long as you’re a high enough level (and have bought any required equipment to help the process along) you’ll have a handy new item to use. There’s a little less stat maximisation and thought that goes into the process than I’m used to, but it certainly gets the job done.
Similarly functional is the combat, which is turn-based and incredibly simple. Marie and her friends can choose to attack, defend, use an item or unleash a special attack on their turn, and that’s about all there is to worry about. There’s something to be said for a straightforward combat system, but JRPG veterans are unlikely to be blown away by this particular aspect of the game in the early hours.
You’ll be spending a lot of your time in Atelier Marie in the titular town of Salburg. There’s plenty to check out around in this idyllic little settlement. The weapon shop has gear, the academy has alchemy equipment and recipes, and the tavern is a great place to hear rumours and get quests. All these places also feature locals who you can hire to join you on your trips out of town as extra party members, but for every day you’re on an expedition you’ll need to pay them a wage. Managing this alongside the time limits you already have can be tricky, but nobody said becoming a successful alchemist would be easy.
If having to worry about time limits and deadlines sounds a little much for you, there’s an option at the start of the game to play in Unlimited Mode. This removes the five year time limit entirely, and allows you to go about your business stress free. It probably won’t be the way I play the full game, but I really appreciate that it’s there for those who want to use it.
I should also give a mention to the updated visuals and audio of Atelier Marie, which are just delightful. The isometric view is just perfect for the chibi style character models, and the audio has the option to play the original soundtrack or a new remixed one. Gust have absolutely gone out of their way to update this game for those playing for the first time, and I couldn’t be happier.
Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg provides an interesting look back at how this great series began, and has been spruced up nicely for the modern age. It’ll be interesting to see if some of the more basic systems can hold my attention in the full game, but I’m excited to find out in a couple of months.
Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg is coming to PS5, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PC on July 12th, 2023.