By David Fernandes / June 22nd, 2016
|Title||Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book
|Release Date||June 7, 2016|
|Age Rating||ESRB T for Teen|
To be frank, its rather odd to see Atelier become another addition to the yearly franchises that are released with such breakneck speed. Whether its a bad thing, at least in my opinion, has yet to be determined. With that aside, Atelier Sophie has quite the shoes to fill as it not only begins a new line of games after the Dusk series has ended, but it’s also the first entry to arrive on PS4. With that said, is Atelier Sophie a captivating and unique endeavor with the new hardware and simultaneously another great entry in this long running IP?
The game begins in the town of Kirchen Bell where our protagonist Sophie stumbles upon one of her Grandmother’s more unique books in her collection and it begins to speak. The book, calling herself Platcha, has amnesia and can’t recall much besides her name and her wide knowledge of alchemy. After telling her about a powerful item known as the Cauldron of Knowledge, which is said to bestow the ability to allow even those who can’t perform alchemy to easily do so and make just about anything, she becomes interested. Wanting to achieve her dreams of becoming a known and respected alchemist like her Grandmother once was, she sets out to fill her pages up with recipes to shed more light on her new friend’s lost memories.
While it starts out as material interest, it quickly becomes a budding friendship as the two become closer like student and teacher and she makes a promise to her to not only obtain her lost memories, but to also restore her as she once was. Atelier Sophie is definitely the most story driven game so far and it shows with the countless cutscenes you will encounter as you go in and out of areas. I was surprised with the number of times I went out to explore or gather items to only come back to a plethora of new character events. While the game’s narrative isn’t too impressive the character driven focus isn’t too shabby. While the scenarios and structure do start to get a bit samey, I’m happy that the characters turned out far more interesting and with better overall character arcs then the previous game, which was one of my biggest gripes, along with much more satisfying conclusions this time around.
The main character, while pretty typical for the series, was quite likable with her sharp wits and bubbly personality. The same can be said with Plachta acting as a nice foil with her more stern and focused personality. The supporting cast started off a little bland at first, but quickly grew on me, as more and more party members were introduced. This fit together like a fine glove in the grand scheme of things, with two returning faces that were a welcome sight though aren’t completely the same as you may remember, so its nice that they spiced things up. In the end, the game’s plot joins the rest of the franchise as unimpressive, but the story surrounding the characters fares quite well as you’d expect from these games.
Like most protagonists in this series, Sophie starts off as a novice alchemist, but unlike before where you needed to gather and buy books as you went along, instead, Plachta acts as the primary book. How this works is that each story specific and optional recipe instead gives you a clue on how to regain Plachta’s recipe memory through actions like killing monsters or crafting items with specific traits. So while you’re going through story events, each new item crafted unlocks more clues to adjacent recipes to continue at a nice pace — thus making a very clever use of progression in story as well as gameplay simultaneously in their attempt to further streamline the experience. Working hand and hand with this is of course the bread and butter of this series, the alchemy system, and it’s addictive as ever.
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