Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book (PC) Review

By Brandon Howard 07.02.2017 2

Review for Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book on PC

The Atelier series is something of an oddball; while it's been around for nearly twenty years now,it's never quite achieved the fame of other JRPG mega-series. It's still got a bit of a cult following, and it's renowned for its focus on crafting and items, something usually put by the wayside in many RPGs. This 17th entry in the series stars Sophie, a young alchemist just starting to make her way in the world, whose life takes a turn after encountering a mysterious book.

Sophie Neuenmuller is a budding alchemist who takes over her grandmother's atelier after her passing. While she may not have a lot of skill just yet, she's still reliable, and works hard to make life better for the people in town, just as her grandmother did. After coming home from a quest one day, she happens across a strange, talking book named Plachta, who tutors Sophie in alchemy.

Atelier games have a completely different vibe from most other JRPGs, and it's not just their largely female driven casts. While they still have their fair share of swords and sorcery, Atelier puts a huge emphasis on creating and using items to advance, both in and out of combat. It's a neat approach; most RPGs require that very little attention be paid to their items, but this goes completely off the scale in the other direction.

Screenshot for Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book on PC

Rather than progressing through various towns and dungeons, Sophie spends most of her time in her atelier, cooking up medicines, bombs, and other materials. In lieu of large dungeons, the world map has dozens of small field areas where Sophie can gather ingredients for her various recipes. Fields do have monsters wandering about, so it's still important to take the time to pick a fight, for both experience and the valuable materials they can drop.

Progression in Atelier Sophie is completely built around alchemy. Different recipes unlock more of the story, helping the mysterious Plachta regain her memory, and in doing so, unlocking new fields to gather new materials, which in turn, help unlock new recipes to advance the story. More often than not even, Sophie will be the one upgrading and enhancing the party's equipment, rather than finding it in towns or in the fields. Nearly everything is tied into crafting, so it's worth the time it takes to gather materials.

The crafting system is a little obtuse at first, and it's got a few hitches that can make it a little tricky to use. Each recipe has a few set types of material it needs, but it's up to Sophie to fill in the blanks. While a recipe may need an animal product and a liquid, she can make the call as to exactly which of those to use. Each component has its own properties and uses that will transfer over to the final item, so depending on its intended use, each item can be specially crafted.

Screenshot for Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book on PC

Each item also has a size and a colour, represented by Tetris-like shapes used in a pseudo-minigame near the end of each recipe. Combining each piece onto the grid of the cauldron, it's possible to obtain bonuses and special abilities for the items by arranging them just right. Unfortunately, there's no way to know what the cauldron's layout is ahead of time, and going back out to switch items usually requires the whole process be started over again, unless Sophie makes some lucky guesses.

While it's easy to advance the story by simply following the instructions in the various crafting books indicating what recipe will advance the plot, Sophie can also take on jobs at the local café, or chat with party members around town, unlocking new shops, sidequests, and party members. Triggering these can come down to guesswork, as there's several in game references to how to best start them, but the lack of an easily accessible calendar for when to actually try is never made available. Luckily, it's pretty easy to greet the various shopkeepers and party members, as Sophie will want to keep frequent tabs on any new or rare items that the various stores have recently obtained, as they can make a big difference in crafting powerful items.

Screenshot for Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book on PC

Those items make a big difference in battle as fighting monsters becomes more of a priority though. Sophie's handmade bombs and healing potions are far more powerful than anything the party initially has access to, so keeping up a stock does wonders for the challenging enemies which can be encountered very early on. Defeating those enemies can reward very powerful components, or offer quest rewards back at the café, so it all ties together quite nicely.

The characters themselves are largely forgettable, unless Sophie takes the time to catch all the various character events and sidequests, and while triggering them can be a pain, it's definitely worth it, even if just for the powerful components obtained from doing so. Usually, it'll just involve fighting a powerful monster or making a specific type of item, so it doesn't require much effort, and the rewards are well worth the time it takes.

While the story does progress fairly linearly overall, getting to each checkpoint in it is massively less so. As the recipe book keeps new story sections behind specific lock points, specific items are needed to advance on, which is in turn limited by the party's current power level. Since so many different fields with different components open up constantly, it's easy to get lost exploring and gathering willy-nilly, but it's definitely worth taking the time to appreciate the surprisingly deep story Atelier Sophie has to offer.

Screenshot for Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book gets off to an odd start, with its initially confusing crafting sessions and an extremely open-ended story. It does get easier as materials become easier to obtain and as the world opens up, but it's more freeform than the standard JRPG. Still, it has one of the most unique and engaging crafting systems out there, and it's exhilarating coming up with new combinations of items. It's definitely got a unique flavour, but it's charming and addictive all the same.

Developer

Gust

Publisher

Koei Tecmo

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Hows the combat compared to old A.I. games or mana khemia?

It's very unlike what little I remember of Mana Khemia, but I've never played much of Alter Iris. Mana Kehmia struck me as very combo centric, and this is definitely not that. MK had parties of what, 3-6 party members you swapped between? Actions in AS feel a lot more individual overall.

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