Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is the newest instalment in the long line of Atelier series, the 17th to be exact in a long running RPG from Gust. I used to love these games back on the PS2 series, but kind of fell out of touch with the series as it moved into the PS3 era, so I was really looking forward into seeing how the game has progressed after all this time.
The premise is the same, you are an Alchemist, you can synthesise items to help you in your quest, you find these materials on the ground or after fighting an enemy, each material is split into groups, so a lot of the grass and fruit you find and be replaced with other types of grass, this will help to either empower your item with better stats or special abilities.
Now this method of picking up items as you go along is not a new idea for the Atelier series, however after playing I really missed the old mana system the PS2 games had, as it seems a bit pointless to me, as late game all of your synthases are going to be high level as you will have all the end game items, before it was about how much Mana you had to create the items, which you had to think about before you created them, as you had a limited amount.
Story wise, after doing some research seems to be…pretty similar, you play as a young girl, you live alone and are running the Atelier alone to get money, everything goes smoothly at first, and then danger kicks in, it is a very generic story, which has been seen many times before, honestly it didn’t grasp me, I found it pretty boring. In this game, you have a book that can fly and speak, finding new recipes give the book some more memories, at the start, it’s pretty boring as you have no reason to actually be helping the book apart from the fact it will teach you new recipes. But it doesn’t seem to do that at all, because you still need to run around and discover them yourself.
In this game there is a whole system based around the time in each day, each activity you take moves time along, going to a different area, collecting materials, fighting monsters or traveling to a new place takes up time, which is a nice idea in theory. The problem is it is very badly attempted, everything takes far too long to actually do, traveling to a point, collecting all the materials needed for a quest and fighting a few monsters and suddenly its 9pm, traveling back to home again takes the time past midnight in close areas, and in some further away it can take 9 hours. It’s a ridiculous time frame and quickly removes most of the day after gathering one or two material spots, well it would be, if time meant anything.
See the only thing time does is change the colour of the sky, change what monsters you meet and in some cases what materials can be gathered, that’s it, there is no penalty for staying out for days on end, apart from if you return home between 12 and 5, you will be forced to “sleep” till 6am, regardless of what time you came in, meaning in some cases it is actually more efficient to not come home at all, which removes the whole point of there being a time system at all.
Gameplay is your generic RPG affair, you take turns to attack, different attacks take more “time” and change the order of the next turn, quicker attacks mean you can attack first. But this is something we see in a lot of games, nothing new here.
Graphically, there isn’t much to talk about, it’s a multiplat game released on both Vita and PS3, so graphics are limited to still support the previous games, but it doesn’t seem to give them an excuse to have such boring areas, the town and places you visit are pretty baron, there isn’t much to see and it is disappointing, all of the areas are pretty generic;
- Forest – Check
- Farm – Check
- Desert – Check
- Slightly deeper and darker Forest – Check
- Cave – Check
This seems to be a theme going through this whole game to me, it seems very rushed, and seems like a lot of detail are missing in the world, there is a large path behind my house, why? There doesn’t seem to be anything here to find, each of the areas you can go too are baron, and don’t seem to have much to do apart from monster spawn and materials. Its really disappointing because the PS2 games were really entertaining, and they seem to of lost a lot of the passion maybe for this game series.
The game isn’t bad, but it’s as generic as it comes with an RPG, and in the series, it seems to be a formula that GUST are reluctant to leave, which is disappointing, it would be great to see them to evolve this game another step, but I’m not sure they are willing to take the risk.
Gameplay, graphics and story are all generic, and as I got further into the game, there was a lack of any real gameplay elements that make this game different apart from synthesis, but is that really enough?
It’s really a shame to see a game I was such a fan of turn out to be pretty much the exact same game so many years later, and so many released later. I really hope the next game makes some improvements on the game and build on what they have, because I can see the game being something really special, but it seems GUST do not want to expand on what they have.