Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey Review
The Atelier series recently just began its current “mysterious” ark with Atelier Sophie back in June 2016 – you can check out our review for it here. While it packed some changes, tweaks, and updates to its staple formula, they were changes that would either agitate or entertain returning fans that were largely subjective in nature. With Atelier Firis being the second installment in the mysterious ark, we get to see how Gust has decided to tweak it yet again while keeping the core alchemy, fluffy and overly cute characters, as well as other features the Atelier series is known for.
Atelier Firis begins in Ertona – a town tucked away within a rocky mountain and sealed with a large door. The people within the town survive by mining the various minerals and ores available, but are largely blocked off from the outside world except for the occasional expeditions done by certain members of the town. However our protagonist, Firis Mistlud, has never seen the outside world and yearns to experience it. With a strong refusal from her parents to venture outside, Firis’ only access to the outside world is through books and her older sister, Liane, as she often goes on expeditions. Regardless, a huge opportunity is offered to Firis as the protagonists from Atelier Sophie accepts her as an apprentice allowing her to traverse around the world to eventually take the license exam for alchemists. No knowledge of past game is needed to play Atelier Firis, but can aid in the appreciation of returning characters and related content if you have done so.
“Although Atelier Firis felt bumpy and rushed at the very beginning, it’s after you exit the mining town of Ertona where the game feels much more fleshed out and enjoyable.”
Just like past Atelier games, Atelier Firis isn’t about giving you a masterful story or anything very intricate. It really is to just present characters that you’ll fancy progressing through the game with while seeing them interact with other characters and utilizing alchemy. Although Atelier Firis felt bumpy and rushed at the very beginning, it’s after you exit the mining town of Ertona where the game feels much more fleshed out and enjoyable. This instalment also packs quite a few new features that extends its gameplay and increases its replay value.
Fulfilling quest, gathering materials, battling foes, and using alchemy to synthesize items are still the key parts of gameplay, but have each been altered in some way to keep things fresh and exciting. The completion and overall goal of quests is geared towards chaining them in a way where decisions in one quest will lead to other related quests and events. As such, choices and decisions are a focus this time around.
Gathering in general feels better and much more adventurous than in Atelier Sophie as maps are larger and gives the illusion of it being open-world. Although the maps can feel quite bare at times, it’s still a step in the right direction and a change that can evolve through future instalments. The environment is also a bit more interactive as you can break rocks, whack trees, and perform other actions that give you materials. In addition, your Atelier is portable as well as customizable which can be resurrected wherever there is a campfire in the field. There are also various areas to explore that range in season, theme, and purpose that all can be affected by the dynamic weather and day/night system. However, every action you perform still expends your stamina (known as LP) and recipes are still obtained by discovering them through collecting materials or performing certain actions, which were previously introduced in Atelier Sophie. The time limit mechanic is also present where you have to do the alchemist exam within one year or else you’ll be sent back to Ertona, but isn’t as constraining as you may think.
In terms of battles, this probably has gotten the least amount of change, but more so of substitutions. A notable one is the addition of sub-weapons and removal of stances – while a small change, it actually makes battles more enjoyable and effective as switching between stances was quite a drag while sub-weapons can be easily equipped to target enemy weaknesses. Another is the change in the gauge that increases with every action. This is decreased by using party members to defend Firis or increased with regular actions until you enter a chain burst allowing for some flashy and powerful moves to be executed. Nonetheless, it’s all still turn-based with item usages, special skills, and effectiveness based on equipment.
“Atelier Firis is a light-hearted and enjoyable JRPG where you can put your alchemy skills to the test.”
Of course, an Atelier game is nothing without its alchemy. There are some interesting changes to not only the synthesization process, but also material bonuses and effects. While the grid-like interface is still present for you to do some puzzle placing similar to tetris, where and how you place the pieces are influenced by different features. This time around the spots that will trigger a bonus in the created item are connected to one another so that if you cover all the spots that are linked together, you’ll receive the bonus. This is also influenced by the catalyst, colors and types of pieces you use. Also, materials each have their own star ranking ranging from bronze to gold that allow you to manipulate their orientation on the grid and other things the more you use them in synthesizations. This is as opposed to the randomized bonuses and effects present in previous games which is definitely a welcomed change.
Overall gameplay has been improved and adds quite a bit of new features that allow you to make choices, customize, and pave a path that you’d like to venture on. Even more surprising is that even after you finish the initial goal of completing the license exam for alchemists (which can take more than 30 hours alone), the game opens up even further and acts almost like the second part of the game. The time constrain is removed and other features are added and really makes the game feel new all over again. It gives you the freedom to explore and fully complete the game amongst other things. It’s a game you can finish however you’d like, but completing it fully and getting the different endings is a whole other adventure.
In terms of visuals, Atelier Firis surprisingly has slightly different visuals from Atelier Sophie. Usually within each ark the visuals are pretty uniform, but this could be possibly due to the two artists, NOCO and Yuugen, sharing the role. Personally, I enjoyed the art direction as well as characters much more this time around than that of Atelier Sophie. Unfortunately, the environmental and background details are still lacking from that of Atelier Sophie, but also the NPCs are annoyingly dull and replicated. It’s quite unsettling as the Dusk ark seemed to have more attention to these small details even though it was on the PS3. The main characters themselves aren’t too shabby though, but whether you appreciate them or not is totally up to your own subjective likes and dislikes.
Atelier Firis continues the dual audio options of both English and Japanese dub so you are free to choose what you personally want to hear. Dialogues are still quite long and largely full of fluff and fanservice-y content, but if you’re a returning fan you know that’s what you’re getting yourself into.
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is yet another installment in the Atelier series that boasts it’s overly cute, innocent, and naïve characters to the JRPG scene. While still keeping its staple formula alive by maintaining the aspects of material gathering, simplistic turn-based battles, and alchemy, Atelier Firis is further improved by tweaking them in ways that’ll invite newcomers with open arms while keeping returning fans happy. While visually the game is a little rough, the sheer amount of things you can do and hours you’ll subsequently expend is endless. Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is a light-hearted and enjoyable JRPG where you can put your alchemy skills to the test.
***A PS4 review code was provided by the publisher***
- Larger maps to explore
- Addition of sub-weapons
- Effective sythesization process
- Emphasis on personal choices
- Environments lack detail
- NPCs are dull and replicated
- Maps occasionally feel bare