The Atelier Arland series continues to amaze me in ways I never expected from the outset. Atelier Totori, like Rorona before it, features deep, engaging gameplay systems which demand thinking and strategy despite people frolicking around in what is to be considered the alchemical equivalent of “tutus.” The story isn’t going to be the driving force of the whole experience, but it does have the potential to wrap up neatly enough in the end. The pacing here is so much smoother than that of Rorona, to the point that I wish that this would have been my first foray into Arland. Alas, you really should play Rorona before diving into this one, unless you don’t care about the story and characters whatsoever. That said, if you enjoyed Rorona, definitely give this one a go. It won’t blow your socks off, but it is still worth your time.
While not a perfect game, nor will it be for everyone, Atelier Rorona can easily provide hours of entertainment for those that dig time management, intricate crafting mechanics, and especially multiple endings/playthroughs. Resource management is a must in order to get the most out of the experience, and your familiarity with the franchise may end up affecting the overall opinion you form of the title when it stands on its own. As I’ve come to experience first hand, growing pains might detract some from fully appreciating the game, especially if you aren’t interesting in playing through it more than once. That said, the core mechanics have certainly piqued my interest, and I’m genuinely looking forward to my next outing in Arland, and there will be another soon!
The focus on masquerades and pushing it to a legitimate political centerpiece, as well as infusing it with otherworldly magical properties, is both refreshing and interesting take on the "detective's tale". That is why it is all too unfortunate that Masquerada's potential is marred by poor, repetitive combat and meaningless character progression – which would not be an issue at all if it weren't billed as an RPG in the first place.