In recent years, there has been a shift to open-world type games such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with the advancements in graphics power to handle them. While Gust made improvements to the gameplay aspects in the Atelier series, Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey (フィリスのアトリエ〜不思議な旅の錬金術士〜) is perhaps the most ambitious game they made in the franchise. It features a large world to explore while bringing new mechanics. How well did they execute this? Let’s find out.
The story focuses on a girl named Firis. She lives with her parents and her older sister, Lianne in an underground mining village of Ertona. Firis never got a chance to experience to the outside world because of her overprotective parents and village elder. One day, while looking at the closed-door that gates the village from the outside world, someone destroys it with a bomb. From there, she meets Sophie and Plachta. Sophie explains that they used bombs made with alchemy.
After Sophie showed Firis alchemy, she becomes convinced that alchemy might allow her achieve her dream of adventuring the outside world. After trying to convince her parents and doing some odd jobs, they allow her to do so with one condition. She needs to pass an alchemist certification exam within one year. With her older sister accompanying her, they head out to the outside world obtaining three letters of recommendation from certified alchemists while heading to Risenburg to take the exam.
Compared to previous games, there is no longer a central city or a world map to select where to go. Like with most oven world games, you have to travel to places on foot. You can eventually make a broomstick to move faster and later, build an airship to travel anywhere instantly.
Since you can place your portable Atelier anywhere there is a campsite, you no longer constrained to one place. It’s not surprising since the over world is a lot larger compared to previous games. This means there are more places to gather ingredients and fight monsters. In some places, there are towns, some in which you can earn a letter of recommendation.
Since the over world is larger, there are changes to time and life points. Making a comeback is the time management aspect that disappeared since Atelier Shallie. This means time can pass quickly while you travel, synthesize items, battle or gather ingredients. Also, life points will deplete as well, especially in snowy and desert regions. Thankfully, there are outfits that can solve that.
While you only have one year before taking the exam, it’s enough time to get all the letters of recommendations. Yes, you can do them in any order you please. After passing the exam, there is no more time limit. In other words, you can do anything you want such as battle strong monsters, craft items, make weapons and armor, explore more places and do character events.
The alchemy system is very similar to Atelier Sophie with some notable differences. Instead of having different caldrons, items have their own levels. This range from bronze to platinum. When you level up these items, it will grant you bonuses. Some examples are being able to rotate items on the grid, number of traits you can transfer or increased quality. If you fill the lines on the grid, it will grant you a bonus such as trait transfer, increased quantity made or additional item uses. You can also use ingredients as catalysts to give different bonuses for resulting items.
Like Sophie, you obtain recipes by doing stuff. This range from synthesizing items, fighting monsters, collecting ingredients, etc. In some instances, you can gain idea points from quests, allowing you to unlock recipes. You can obtain quests by talking to people or through events. Some quests can have different outcomes depending how you do them.
In addition to the changes made to synthesizing, you can also create some items with compound synthesizing. You can do this by obtaining a special cauldron during the main story. Compound synthesis requires you to put large quantity of ingredients to meet the quality range and ingredients needed for the synthesizing. This is usually reserved for items such as the furnace for a ship.
As for the battle system, Gust realizes that the battle system in Atelier Sophie confused players. With that, the battle system in Firis is very similar to Atelier Shallie with a few differences. When you attack, the chain burst meter will fill up. Once you fill the meter, chain burst will activate. This allows you to fill the chain linkage percentage. When you meet the requirements, you can do chain strike and finishing moves on the enemy. Note that only special skill and attack items will fill the linkage percentage. Also, using support guard will deplete the chain burst meter.
Additionally, there are other interesting gameplay mechanics that Gust added. One of the most notable is the outfits that Firis can wear. Sure, past games, especially the plus versions allow one to change the player character’s outfit. This time, the outfits aren’t just to change Firis’s appearance, they now have additional effects. Some examples are being able to move faster, lower LP consumption, gaining synthesis bonuses and so on.
In addition, you can decorate your Atelier with furniture. These items some can grant you additional effects such as faster LP recovery or reducing alchemist level requirements to create items. In addition, the Cornelia doll allows you to automatically replenish items in exchange of milk. Unlike Atelier Sophie, there is no wholesale options. In other words, you need to do recursive synthesis so you don’t lose your desired traits.
Lastly, there is the exam. Before you can take it, you have to obtain at least three, although you can get all five. You do a series of quests with a certified alchemist to earn one. After that, you can take the exam, which consists of three parts. First is the multiple choice that consists of 20 questions related to alchemy and knowledge from adventuring. The second part focuses on synthesizing an item and the last, attacking a puni using anything to deal the most damage. The exam is very easy to pass since you only need a score of 50 or higher.
If you create a high-level item with a 999 quality, you can easily pass the exam. If you manage to fail, you have to start over from the beginning. Thankfully, you get to keep your equipment, some outfits and cole.
In short, Atelier Firis is probably the most enjoyable game in the Atelier franchise. I enjoyed the characters (despite Lianne not being blood related) and the story. Sure, there are frame rate issues and nasty game-breaking and embarrassing bugs, but Gust eventually fixed most of them. Hopefully from this game, Gust will continue to improve on the open world aspect.
The Bottom Line
Strengths: Enjoyable story and characters, ability to explore the open world, interesting synthesis mechanics, enjoyable battle system and return of mechanics from previous games. Also, having a number of outfits with different effects is nice.
Weaknesses: A lot of game-breaking bugs on release, but most got fixed. Still, there are still a few annoying bugs that linger. This consists of music not playing in rare instances after saving, overflowing favor text for a recipe and random, but rare crashing issues.
Other Remarks: I have to admit that this game has some similarities with Atelier Totori. Not surprising since Firis has some similarities with Totori since they want to explore the world. Of course, Firis’s best friend, Ilmeria just make this comparison stronger.
Additionally, I have streamed this game on Twitch and past broadcasts for this game can be viewed here ¶