Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd.
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, and PC
ESRB Rating: T
Release Date: March 7, 2017
A review copy was provided by KT America
This game was ran on an i5 6600k with 16gb of ram and a Nvidia GTX GeForce 970
The second installment of the Mysterious arc in GUST’s annual series is by far one of their most ambitious takes on the franchise. “Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey” sets out to validate itself as a game that needs to be played by anyone who enjoys RPGs with a cute anime aesthetic. With a more in depth alchemy system and intriguing battle system, Atelier Firis seems to be a step forward in many directions whilst taking a step back in other areas.
The beginning of the story is quite different from previous installments. The main protagonist usually has some sort of connection to alchemy; whether it be something they learned from their mom, grandma, or someone else. Instead Firis Mistlud, a girl who lives in a secluded underground town, is someone who knows absolutely nothing about alchemy until the previous protagonist, Sophie Neuenmuller, just so happens to come across her village. Firis then starts to yearn more for the outside world as she learns more about it from Sophie and her companion, Plahta. By learning alchemy, Firis grows into a young and respectable woman and is thus granted access to leave her village (along with her sister, Liane,) through the help of Sophie and Plachta. In general, the outside world plays a big role in Firis’ story, given how infatuated with it she is.
Along her journey Firis learns more about the outside world and the struggles that others have; however, being the little ball of sunshine she is, she goes out of her way to help almost anyone in need. Her nature of a character and the experiences she has in the outside world are the elements that really make or break the game. It’s all about the interaction that Firis has with the people and the world. This is dependent on the player. Fewer interactions with the people will result in a more lackluster experience; on the other hand, going out of your way to talk to everyone and experience all of the character’s sub-stories gives a more genuine experience. This was the case for me as I only really started to enjoy the game by exploring, getting lost, talking to others, and interacting with the other playable characters. Atelier Firis is a game that you need to immerse yourself into as it really is a light-hearted game that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. To add onto this point, the game is seriously adorable, to the point where Liane will keep commenting on how cute Firis is. (Because she really is.)
Saying that Atelier Firis is a gorgeous game is an understatement; it oozes ambition. The first area of the game, Ertona, caught me by surprise as it was visually stunning. This is, of course, a huge contrast to Atelier Sophie’s graphics. The colors are brighter and contrast well together in both the PS4 and PC version (although the PC version looks a tad duller). The character models have a thinner outline compared to past games and an increase in quality texture and depth. Animations have also improved as they are much smoother and feel much more realistic rather than stiff.
The environments presented are breathtaking. Well, until you start questioning your whereabouts, as some maps do look very similar to one another. This is especially the case in maps that have an abundance of trees or maps inside caves. Other than that, every area tries to feel different from one another as they have various landmarks, towns, and the like to welcome you as you journey. With that said it is very important to explore your surroundings, take your time to gather materials for synthesis, and battle enemies as each area holds different surprises and may branch off into a different area.
Atelier Firis specifically expands on the concept of fields and how you traverse through the mysterious world. Gone are the days of using a world map to get around, as this iteration of Atelier has you traveling the world completely on foot while mapping out all of the various areas given to you. This is quite a unique aspect, as the world Firis explores is quite sprawling. Filling in each map takes time, and even if you do map everything, there’s still so much more to it than what is presented on the map itself. For instance, there are many caves scattered across various maps that house unique monsters and materials. But, then again, that can be said for every map, as they all bring different monsters and materials to the table. Basically, there is a lot to do in the maps; you’ll encounter strong enemies, materials, towns, cities, quests, and so forth.
Quests themselves are handled a bit differently as well. You aren’t limited in how you accept the quests. There’s no need to go to a bar or some official for a quest, as traveling will earn you quests— you have to go out of your way to explore the world and talk to people to initiate a quest and sometimes you’ll get a specific area quest.
Nonetheless, how do the battle and alchemy system work in comparison to the previous game? In my honest opinion I think they work much better than Atelier Sophie’s battle and alchemy system. The battle system has been re-worked from Sophie. This time the chain gauge actually determines when you can use a defense support, special attack, and or initiate the chain burst. Support moves and special attacks functioned terribly in Sophie, as you would need to build a meter’s gauge in order to use it; whereas, in Atelier Firis, you’re free to do whichever as long as you have enough built-up gauge to support your actions. Character’s actions also work different in this game as they go back to a single input to attack rather than planning out everyone’s attack and then commencing the attack.
The Alchemy system in Atelier Firis as expected has developed Atelier Sophie’s alchemy system; it keeps the tetris-like style of gameplay while adding a few hints of its own goodness. One such example is the addition of using catalysts, which chang the board you synthesize on and may or may not give you varying attributes such as keeping skill traits or quality up. Another added feature to this system is “Mass Synthesis”. Mass Synthesis is basically what it sounds like: gather a bunch of materials, and synthesize them to create a powerful alchemic object (albeit without the use of the tetris-like boards, as that would take a lot of time).
Considering this game was released on both PS4 and PC there are some minor details while playing this game. Obviously the PS4 version of the game will be the most “optimal” when it comes to shading and texturing, albeit having varying frame drops. The PC port, meanwhile, has some varying issues. Considering if you have a good enough PC running at the lowest recommending specs that game will tank, as expected. The shading has some anti-aliasing problems and the framerate can drop here and there in some areas that are very texture and material heavy. Textures in the PC port also don’t seem to be supporting all resolution sizes as many text and or art stills are not upscaled to the supported resolution. If you’re able to handle all of these problems then Atelier Firis is still a very stunning game to look at whether it be on PS4 or PC
Overall, Atelier Firis is probably one— if not the most ambitious— entries into the franchise. Following Firis through her journey and seeing how excited she gets is a great reminder that games like these are amazing. The character interaction, battles, and alchemy all mesh together to create a story about a cute girl that seriously wanted some fresh air. Regardless, Atelier Firis is available on PS4 and PC via Steam as of March 7th, 2017 and is currently priced at $59.99 USD as of writing this review.
+ Lovely environments
+ Cute character designs
+ Better alchemy and battle system than Atelier Sophie
+ Firis is cute
– PC port has various graphical issues
– Environments although pretty are very confusing as various areas look the same
– Difficulty spikes in random areas