Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Book
Publisher: Koei Temco
16GB of RAM
Nvidia GTX 970
ESRB Rating: T
“Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Book” follows the adventures of a young girl named Sophie who embarks on a journey to become a great alchemist. This is the first installment to the Mysterious series, with the second being “Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey.” As the beginning game in the Mysterious series, it introduces new mechanics such as a new and much simpler Alchemy system and a very drastically different battle system from previous Atelier series.
The story itself is always a very compelling aspect of an Atelier game as you follow the flag-ship alchemist of the game through their journey. In this case, the alchemist that the story centers around is Sophie, a 16 year old girl who had picked up alchemy from her late grandmother and has stuck to it ever since. Being a novice to alchemy, Sophie seeks to become more knowledgeable, thus making her way to read every book of alchemy that her grandmother had owned. This becomes a rather peculiar case as she stumbles across an emptied notebook. This notebook, in turn, is actually a great alchemist of the past, Plachta. Plachta suffers from amnesia and cannot recall the events that led to her becoming a book but retains the knowledge and wisdom when it comes to synthesis. As the story progresses, the two grow alongside each other as they experience the world around the Kirchen Bell, all while learning more about the great wonders of alchemy.
The game itself is much more simplistic in the aspects of storytelling; additionally, the game itself is very easy and straightforward in terms of gameplay. The game focuses on a wide range of activities that the is up to the player to do. The two key components of the gameplay itself is synthesizing and defeating foes in battles.
This particular addition to the Atelier series focuses on adventuring and battling as a part of progressing through the story, along with alchemy. Sophie and her friends visit the various areas that surround their little town of Kirchen Bell. That being said, these areas range from all sorts of environments; from lush jungles, barren wastelands and beautiful clusters of islands to an upside down castle and ghost houses. Nothing much has changed in the sense of hub worlds and areas you can explore. In Kirchen Bell you are able to accept requests, buy ingredients, and interact with the townsfolk. The town of Kirchen Bell itself is rather barren though, much like other hub worlds in Atelier games; yet the town and environments come to life as a time and weather system are introduced. This allows the hub world to become interesting in terms of who is awake during the night and where characters are in the town as their placements change as the day goes on.
The battle system of this specific entry takes a huge step back in intractability from its predecessors. Instead, the game opts to use a much more simplistic style and traditional battle system. The battle system does not include a burst mode nor does it allow for characters to move amongst the battlefield like in previous games. Moreover, instead of the character directly attacking after a command, the player must first input all the commands before Sophie and friends commence their attack. Arguably, this can be seen as a godsend as players are now able to think about all the attacks they are going to perform before it actually happens (i.e. very similar to double battles in Pokemon). Assists also make a return, but they are much different from previous games. Characters are able to be put in either an attack or defense stance. The stance, accordingly, will be their inputted command that they will execute. With this new battle system, Atelier Sophie provides new players the ability to earnestly grasp its straightforward nature; However, there is almost a lost of depth to the assist system. Previous games gave you the ability to control them on command as long as a gauge was filled. There is also the difficulty system. But unless you know what you’re doing, you aren’t going to be using it that much, as difficulty really ramps up when put on higher difficulties.
Likewise, synthesizing in this iteration of Atelier is drastically different from its predecessors. Instead of a ‘card based’ system, Atelier Sophie uses a grid based system that is rather limiting, but simple to understand. For reference, Atelier Escha and “Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky” presented ‘cards’ to a player that the player could rearrange and add various attributes and traits to the item they wished to synthesize. The main premise in this game is that instead of being presented cards and playing around with different attributes in order to get certain traits; you as the player, have to manage each ingredient onto a grid in order to obtain those specific traits. The downside to this is the cauldron you perform synthesis in. I mentioned before that this system can be very limiting. This is in regards to how terribly designed the cauldrons are. Basically, cauldrons have various traits depending on the one you use. This can range from time limits to restricted grid frames.
In all, the new systems have a lot to be desired. But, they’re a great addition to bring in newer players.
Now, because this is a review of the PC port I’ll talk about how well it performs. Firstly the configuration of the game boils down to a very simple config menu. The lowest resolution it supports is 1280×720 up to 3840×2160 at a refresh rate at 60Hz. The game looks very crisp when initially ran with character models looking great thanks to a heavy emphasis on the character textures. The environmental textures, on the other hand, aren’t quite as upscaled as the character models, but it’s not that big of deal. Moving along, the game is very consistent when it comes to handling performance, as I didn’t notice any significant frame drops. The only time frames were dropped were during synthesis. This isn’t that bad though as the PS4 version also has frame drops during these sections of the game (this can also be seen in the Vita ports of Atelier Escha, Logy Plus and Atelier Shallie). Nevertheless, the PC port of the game runs very smoothly given my specs.
In conclusion, “Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Book” is a great game to introduce yourself and your friends to if you wanna get into the Atelier franchise. A simple yet straightforward system that isn’t as complicated as past games and is a very welcomed addition to the series. This loses the depth and complexity of past games but it isn’t that big of a deal as the game almost seems as if it was made to be like this. The only aspect to make the game much more challenging is the difficulty system. Aside from that, Atelier Sophie is a very simple entry to the Atelier franchise, but despite it’s simplicity, it offers a very colorful and bubbly cast of characters and story.
+Cute Character Designs
+Straight Forward Gameplay
-Simplified compared to previous entries