Atelier series has made its way to current generation with the release of Atelier Sophie. This has also started a new ‘mysterious trilogy’ of games with Atelier Sophie being the first one followed by Atelier Firis. My first experience with an Atelier game started with Atelier Sophie and I was happy to see the series evolve with the release of the latest title.
If you are a fan of old-school Japanese role-playing games that are light-hearted and fun to play, you will feel right at home with the Atelier series. It originally started gaining popularity back on PS3 and has continued to maintain its standards despite the countless games that were released in the series. One of the reason why it is fun to play is because it offers engaging gameplay mixed with a story that is simplistic but spends a lot of time developing the individual characters, which enhance the overall experience.
This is one of the reason why the series has continued to gain popularity, because even if a new game introduces the user to a brand new set of characters, the developers make sure that they are properly introduced to the players, taking them along a journey that is memorable. However some people might be turned off by the art style for these games, as they feature completely anime aesthetics. However don’t be fooled by the charming art style, because the actual game is far away from it.
While the Atelier series has received several games, they all stand out on their own so that there is no need to play them in release order. The only time the story is linked is during each of the individual trilogies where some of the characters make a cameo in the new games. In the case of Atelier Firis, there is a cameo from an important character which sets up the story for the main game. However it is not necessary to play Atelier Sophie to enjoy it.
The game puts us in the role of Firis who lives in a small underground mining town along with her sister Liane. Firis has big ambitions and dreams of exploring the outside world, which unfortunately isn’t possible since the entrance to the outside world is blocked by a giant door. The game slowly begins by first establishing Firis’ hometown, which is a small cramped location with nothing much to do aside from performing mining tasks or alchemy trials. It gradually begins to open up as Firis manages to remove the giant door with the help of a powerful alchemist. She is then taught Alchemy by her and then begins to fulfill her dream of exploring the outside world.
Unlike the past iterations in the series. Atelier Firis is much grander in scope offering a semi-open world with much more locations to visit and towns to explore. In the previous games, most of the travelling was usually done through a overworld map which basically allowed us to select a location and then travel to it. In the case of Atelier Firis, this has changed and now the game is much more open, leading to more locations and exploration around the world map.
While the game can be considered semi-open world, it often comes across as empty since there is a lack of NPCs, sidequests and secrets to uncover around the world map. As the first step in the series, it is a good progress but it still needs work before it can be considered as something remarkable. The positive aspect of this is that now the towns are bigger and there are more villages to discover, however these often come across empty as stated before and hence don’t really provide the same excitement as a properly fleshed out open world game.
There is one aspect of the game that might annoy the new fans of the series and it is time management. This was a feature in the earlier Atelier games that basically had a countdown clock and the story had to be completed before it ended. This added extra stress to performing some of the side activities because the clock was ticking all the time, and the same feature has now been added to Atelier Firis again.
The implementation of the time mechanic is a little different in Atelier Firis. For starters, the player is immediately tasked with a deadline of one year once they step out in the open world. There are a variety of key tasks that have to be performed before this deadline ends and since time passes quickly in-game, players can often get stuck in determining whether they should persuade side-tasks or carry on with the main story tasks. Even if the game offers plenty of time to perform the main story tasks, there is always a sense of urgency. However there is a positive aspect to it. Once we are done with the main story quests, the game offers us the choice to explore the open world as we desire without any potential time limits.
The combat system is still turn-based and while there are some minor changes, mainly for the UI, the mechanics mostly remain the same. The main story quests don’t offer much difficulty so you won’t have any trouble in completing it. However some of the side content can prove to be challenging and should be reserved until the main quest is finished. Crafting is the same as Atelier Sophie and new recipes can be learned through Alchemy. Alchemy level has to be improved in order to synthesize the higher level items.
It is hard not to recommend Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey if you are a fan of JRPGs. While it is not free from flaws and the pacing of the story can be off at times, the gameplay is engaging and the exploration in the open world can be fun at times.
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is a 2016 Japanese role-playing video game developed by Gust Co. Ltd. for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Microsoft Windows. It is the eighteenth main game in the Atelier series and the second game of the Mysterious storyline.
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is bigger and better than its predecessor and shows a promising future for the series.