The titles of Atelier games aren’t playing around, huh? They’re long! Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is pretty long itself and it’s another strong addition to Gust’s long running series of JRPGs, and its second installment developed for PS4.
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey (seriously phew, deep breaths) follows aspiring alchemist Firis who’s never left the confines of her town before. She yearns to leave and see the sprawling sky for herself, and to go on adventures. Sophie and Plachta, from the previous game, teach her a little about alchemy so that she can learn how to defend herself and it isn’t long until Firis and her sister Liane (who already goes outside to slay monsters, provide for their home, etc) go on their very own journey together.
It’s quite generous with its time in comparison to some other Atelier titles, so it’s nothing to stress about!
Sophie is working towards taking the “Alchemist License Exam”, but you need three letters of recommendation to do so and, in a world without many alchemists, this is easier said than done. Whilse she goes off to continue her journey with Plachta, Firis and Liane are just beginning their own. The first year is spent travelling through the game’s vast open-world (maps of this scale being new to the series), and getting the three letters. The time afterwards is spent increasing your alchemy abilities and finally taking the exam itself. If you pass then you’re a qualified alchemist! If not then oops, it’s time to dust yourself off and try again. It’s quite generous with its time in comparison to some other Atelier titles, so it’s nothing to stress about!
If you’ve played an Atelier game before, you mostly already know what you’re getting into. The battle system and alchemy system are largely similar to how they were in Atelier Sophie, with only small tweaks to further improve how they work. Battles are turn-based and can be quite challenging if you’re under-levelled, but if you get the hang of alchemy then it isn’t too difficult to create items that’ll dish out mega damage — and is actually something you’re expected to do. Battling is important but not quite as vital as exploring and collecting materials for alchemy. You’ll need a good grip on it to complete many side-quests and you need good alchemy knowledge if you hope to complete the game — you don’t want to fail your exam now, do you?
Some of the most splendid artwork I’ve seen.
I’ve said it time and time again with Gust, but the character art and CG images are an absolute delight to see, and boasts some of the most splendid artwork I’ve seen. Yuugen, NOCO, and the rest of the art team sure know what they’re doing! These talents are well reflected in the 3D models and world. Character expressions are still rather stiff, and there’s notable framerate inconsistency (don’t worry, it’s far from awful or game-breaking). At some point soon Gust will need to upgrade the engine they use for better 3D visuals and exploring, especially as their games are becoming larger. The general aesthetic is still pleasing to the eyes due to the lovely artwork — immensely colourful, warm and fantasy-inspired. It’s a great looking game despite the engine beginning to show a bit of wear these days.
You can play through Atelier Firis in English or Japanese, and I chose to primarily play in English. The English dub is strong, although I found myself reading the text and skipping the spoken dialogue much of the time. The Atelier games do sometimes feel a little slow when it comes to speech, and the lead character tends to sound unnaturally high-pitched compared to the rest of this characters — though this may very well be a direction issue than anything else. All in all, though, it’s a solid dub. Atelier Firis has a catchy soundtrack (as is expected of the series) although the opening theme didn’t stick with me the same way it did in many of its predecessors.
Atelier Firis’ focus on more open-world elements is refreshing.
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey isn’t going to disappoint you if you’re a fan of the series, and its focus on more open-world elements is refreshing. Even with this, the game will still feel incredibly familiar — but that’s not always a bad thing! Atelier is a pretty unique series, and it continues to follow through on that very well. The PS4 has had a phenomenal year so far when it comes to Japanese developed games, and the latest Atelier continues that trend. Conceptually it’s a brave step forward, and hopefully with some more tweaks, the next one will be even better.
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