When I heard Boltrend Games was localizing Atelier Online, I couldn't help but notice the knee-jerk reaction many people had to the news.
Such was the reputation before release, and it continues to sink to the depths. Atelier Online is now offline for good, and we're still in the period where you can apply for refunds of paid, unused Cole.
...Or can you?
Credit to puchong of the Atelier Online discord, who bought a monthly pack of Cole and had 200 left unused. You can see this policy further corroborated by someone else on Facebook
They're charging 30 USD "handling fees" for refunds?! Absolutely absurd! You're shit outta luck if you aren't a whale. An amazingly scummy parting shot if I'd ever seen one, and an incredible final disservice to fans of Atelier Online.
But honestly, this all plays into Boltrend's MO. It's pretty clear they've been doing these terrible quick flip mobile games to make their financials look better to catch bigger fish... such as Project Winter, mobile edition.
I gotta give it to you straight, I did not play Atelier Online that much; I thought the game was bad, got to the middle and quit. Mobile is not my thing, gacha is a miserable experience to me. I cannot fully capture what was wrong with the game and how this ties into Boltrend's slapdash model, but I will do my best.
AO launched a little fast compared to JP, had a bit of extra content by comparison. There were some issues that were apparent on launch. Text was left untranslated, a number of bugs were present, esepcially regarding multiplayer, and the translation was poor. I will forever be annoyed about "emerald board", as it is properly the Emerald Tablet.
An interesting problem I recall on launch was that they handed out Ryza. While it's cute to have her, there was a problem with this: there was no means to level her up past 10, making her unusable. If Boltrend cared about fostering a sense of community and goodwill, they could have given the boosts to level 30... but Boltrend is shortsighted and pretty greedy so they had an exchange as their solution -- trade two other gacha character candies for Ryza candy. Goodwill doesn't make them a buck directly, and they want you to pay to get the boosts instead. This feels bad as a launch bonus, doubly so because it took around two weeks to come up with any solution.
There was a FAQ about a number of issues near launch, and from that very FAQ came this gem:
Q:I heard that Atelier Online JP has not delivered new content in months, what’s your plan on the game?
A: We, Boltrendgames, believe in the Atelier Online. We genuinely feel it’s a great game and have already seen a lot of you enjoying it. We will give our best to ensure the longevity of the game.
A year later and longevity seems to not be an issue, eh? It was obviously a lie at the time; it is true that they added some content, but it wasn't good, like they didn't know what the game was actually missing. I would assert that Boltrend doesn't care what makes their games work, so their additions and release schedule will reflect this lack of consideration.
What happens after launch is, I am informed, a common Boltrend practice: the banners come out pretty fast. Fast enough that free players (of course) cannot keep up. I understand they gotta make money, but it's important to realize the difference between a quick flip and genuinely caring about longevity and game health. The banner speed was to suck the dollars in fast before people catch on that Boltrend had no intention on releasing much content.
In the original JP release, before the release of the second (and apparently better) season, there were a handful of bad filler chapters released that didn't push the story and had bad rewards. Boltrend released these bad chapters every couple of weeks, without fixing what made them bad or increasing the reward, and... simply quit releasing content. As of January this year there was basically nothing happening, with Chapter 35 being the most recent released, and nothing at all interesting after February. They never released anything from the second season. Supposing you wanted to do end game content, there was simply nothing available as a result.
But they sure were ready to release Nelke, a powerful character, with none of that harder second season content to use her on. Instead of any real endgame content, Boltrend added a boss with a leaderboard that you could fight, as well as some paid gear and a battle pass. I have no idea why they were attempting bad new content (outside of the obvious cash grab in the battle pass) instead of releasing the content that actually existed in season two. Maybe to give the illusion that they cared about longevity? It completely failed to understand what the game needed. Eventually the content fizzled out, characters, story, and end game content forever unreleased.
One very simple and obvious example that needed improvement, your starting bag space is super small. So you throw the excess in the container...? Except that the container is not easy to access like the bag (you can't synth from it), so obviously you use some cole on expanding the bag. Just make the container act like the bag and the issues with it go away.
If you know Fantasy Life Online, you might have noticed some similar mistreatment. My knowledge on this game is spotty at best, but my understanding is that Boltrend has failed to release good number of things in the English version that are important to player progression, making it hard to complete difficult content. It shows a complete disregard and lack of knowledge on the games they are releasing.
To circle back around to what started this, the wild greed that they have, I have severe doubts about the future of any Boltrend title. In the near future, they'll likely pull the plug on an already half-assed, incomplete project and repeat the same paid refund scam they did with Atelier Online. I encourage everyone to not spend neither a dime nor a single second on Boltrend products and let them sink into the pond scum they came from.