Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book review
Koei Tecmo’s The Atelier series is a franchise I have only ever in dabbled in once or twice and for the most part, I’ve enjoyed them, and, so with that said I did enjoy Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book. Atelier Sophie takes what the Atelier franchise does best and builds upon it in many positive ways, but while some aspects have improved other aspects have not.
Atelier Sophie has players follow Sophie a young novice alchemist who lives in the medieval style town called Kirchen Bell. While Sophie struggles with alchemy, she finds a mysterious book in her house, as she writes in it, the book begins to float and talk, the book reveals its name is Plachta. However, Plachta can’t remember most of her past, but tells Sophie if she wishes to become a better alchemist a device known as the “Cauldron of Knowledge” would allow her to use powerful alchemy. However, to find the device Plachta needs to remember where it is, and so to help Plachta remember Sophie decides to learn more about alchemy and to write the knowledge she gains into the mysterious book, as writing alchemy recipes appear to restore Plachta memories.
Sophie’s journey to restore Plachta’s memories and to find the cauldron sees here venture out with her friends Monika and Oskar, as well as making new friends during her journey.
Atelier Sophie’s story is a heartfelt journey of discovery that shows that you can’t gain anything without hard work. However, the story is very slow and I can see it putting off those who aren’t willing to put in the effort. However, with that said if you put in the effort you are well rewarded as you see Plachta transform from a floating and talking book to an animated doll containing her soul, and learn more about your friends. For those wondering if the game has a major villain. Yes, it does, but you won’t find it until about 15+ hours into the game, as I said the story is rather slow.
Moving away from the story, let’s talk about the characters. I absolutely adore the characters in Atelier Sophie as the game really helps you get to know them with character events and simple interactions. You also get to see them grow as people, for example, Harol the owner of the town’s clock shop, doesn’t like clocks and only runs it because he inherited it from his father, but as the game goes on you get to learn more about him. Honestly, by the time I finished the game my opinion on Harol completely changed as we learn about him and his struggles.
Moving away from the story and characters, let’s talk about the gameplay. Just like in the previous Atelier games, Atelier Sophie’s gameplay is split between combat and alchemy, with alchemy being the more developed of the two. In the combat portion of the game, you find yourself on the world map exploring various locations, fighting monsters and collecting materials for alchemy. In the alchemy portion of the game, you find yourself taking the materials and use them to create items that can assist you in battle or further the plot. In many ways both the combat and alchemy portions of the game complement each other, as one cannot function without the other.
While you are out fighting monsters and gathering materials, you can take on requests and purchase rumours. Requests are essentially quests that ask you to gather items or kill certain monsters, rumours are pieces of information that reveal powerful monsters or increases the number of materials in a certain location.
Speaking of locations, Atelier Sophie features a day/night cycle, weather effects and a calendar. Keeping an eye on these three features is important as they help determine what monsters spawn, what materials are available and what events you can do.
Now I only briefly touched on alchemy and combat, so let’s talk about them a bit more. If you have played any of the Atelier games before you will be happy to know that alchemy has received a bit of an overhaul. There is now a lot more work required to create and discover new recipes. The most prominent change is to the cauldron because as you go to create the recipe you are greeted by a 4×4 panel. This 4×4 panel has you place the materials on the tiles with each material taking up a different amount of space. Choosing where you place the materials is important as it can alter the effects of the item you are making. Learning to use the 4×4-panel system is important as some recipes can only be unlocked by making a previous recipe with certain traits or effects, and honestly, it is easier said than done.
Overall, the change to the alchemy system is a major boost to the game, as it now feels more personal as you need to do more than just find a bunch of materials and throw them into a cauldron.
Now let’s talk about the combat, and while there are some improvements, the combat feels flat. For me combat felt like a job, it was something I had to do whether I liked it or not. Combat in Atelier Sophie is turn based with you choosing the actions of all four of your characters. Your options consisted of selecting an offence or defence support stance, followed by an attack, item usage, guard or skill. After that, you just rinse and repeat until the battle is over.
Now while I didn’t think much of the combat there are several additional features attached to it. This includes the chain link gauge and an LP meter. The chain link gauge is a bar that increases as you attack, as the link gauge fills, characters will perform support and special attacks. Regarding LP, it isn’t so much as a combat feature, but as you explore the map, each character’s LP meter slowly drains and if it gets too low, you do less damage in combat. The LP meter refills when you return home.
One final note regarding combat and that is the levelling. The max combat level in the game is 20, but once you hit 20 you gain attribute points, which allows you to increase your stats and skills.
As I stated earlier the game does feature a day/night cycle, weather effects and a calendar, but the game also features shops, doll making and a dressing room. There are seven shops in the game including a duplication store, which allows you to make copies of important items, a blacksmith for new weapons, and a clothier for armour. The shops also all sell a wide array of materials, which means you don’t always need to leave town to gather.
The doll making and dressing room features are both unlocked a few hours into the game. The doll making allows you to alter Plachta’s doll appearance and stats, while the dressing room allows Sophie to change between her “usual self” and “new self”.
Before I give my conclusion let’s talk about the graphics and audio. Graphically, the game is very eye catching as characters’ wear clothes that help them stand out from the background. On the audio side, there is an issue with lip-syncing because in the conversations (which are now all in 3D) I noticed that character’s continued talking despite their lips not moving.
Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is a heartfelt journey of discovery that features a great alchemy and gathering system, but subpar combat system.
|+ A heartfelt character driven story||– Combat is sub par|
|+ A lovable and engaging cast of characters|
|+ Alchemy is fun yet challenging|
|+ Time of day and weather affects the game|
|Gust||Koei Tecmo||JPPG||12+||PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita||June 10, 2016|
For more information on Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book, visit http://www.ateliergames.eu/sophie/.
Author: Aaron Meehan
Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.