Review: Atelier Firis: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Journey (PS4).
Who has not dreamed of embarking on a journey into the unknown at least once, without a map, where their eyes will be carried away? The young Firis will do anything to leave her closed city, even undertaking alchemy craftsmanship. Traveling around the world with alchemy in the background will change her life forever. Welcome to the world Atelier Firis.
We begin our journey in the city of Ertona, isolated from the world beneath a great mountain. Residents enjoy living in isolation, so only a select few rarely come to the surface to provide food for the city. Only a young girl named Firis dreams of leaving the rock tunnel for longer, but the gigantic gate and parental opposition are an impassable barrier. Firis’s new hobby of alchemy changes the situation – he can set off on a journey, but within a year he must pass an alchemy exam, otherwise he will never leave the dungeon again. During the adventure, she is accompanied by her older, overprotective sister Liane, because yes, you can choose your path, but not the people with whom you travel.
The plot of the eighteenth part of the cycle Atelier still does not differ much from what we knew before. Despite the travel theme, we got a light and pleasant fairy tale again, which is a pretext to create new items as befits an alchemist. However, the main character is overly infantile, even when looking at the series. Of course, previously we also dealt with teenage protagonists, but they were at least a little crazy and kept their shape. Unfortunately, Firis, as befits such a young person, constantly thinks about blue almonds, squeaks for no reason and gets excited about small things. Anyway, we got a lot of little girls this time, probably the creators wanted to emphasize the “loli” theme. Personally, I have nothing against such characters, but this time their excess creates the impression that the game is aimed at a younger audience or an extremely female target. The situation is saved, however, by quite successful roles of supporting characters, such as the historian Kald, who is afraid of women with large breasts, Reva’s artifact seeker, cheerful Tanya and old friends from Sophie’s Atelier. Nevertheless, it is still felt that the writers were working in a rush and a little bit of a detachment.
However, the title attracts attention with another element: a huge and open world, which is a complete novelty in the series. We no longer jump from location to location through the world map. You have to get everywhere by yourself with the favorite means of transport of a traveler and a soldier, i.e. on your own feet (sometimes also swim or fly). Visually, the production is still far from the standard PlayStation 4, which is the norm in jRPGs, but you can still see the progress compared to the predecessor Sophie’s Atelier. The landscapes are varied – from snowy lands, through wooded plains, to scorched wastes full of hostile flora and fauna. The surroundings sparkle with a wealth of colors, giving the game a cartoon atmosphere and bringing to mind the latest installments of the series Dragon Quest. The silhouettes of the characters also look nicer than before and the dialogue scenes with their participation are very nice to follow, although the “cinematic” black stripes are still irritating.
I noticed that there is information circulating on the web that the animation was crunching on PS4 Pro. I did not notice this problem on a regular console at home. I have a reservation about the English dubbing, which was castrated and many important scenes do not have a voiceover. The situation changes dramatically after choosing the Japanese language, so I recommend you do it right away. Unfortunately, this time the publisher flew, colloquially speaking, in balls when it comes to location. The selection of English-speaking actors is also not very successful, while the music sounds quite nice and encourages fun.
Alchemy itself hasn’t changed much since Sophie’s Atelier. We arrange the ingredients still thrown into the cauldron in the Tetris fashion so as to capture as many bonuses as possible for the final product. This time, however, catalysts have been introduced, which give a chance for additional properties, and thanks to them (and the Mass Synthesis option), you can create gigantic objects, such as a ship. It’s a pity that the clear recipe tree has been abandoned in favor of a less convenient list, but creating new items is still a lot of fun. An interesting fact is that this time we do not have a permanent studio, we only carry it with us and set it up in designated stopping places. We can also furnish it at will. This is a good improvement, because to create something necessary, we do not have to run to the nearest city.
The main goal of the game is Firis to pass the alchemy exam, for which we have a one-year time limit. He admits that he doesn’t let you go crazy or explore too much, which is irritating, but after reaching the goal, the limit disappears fortunately and we rush around at will, looking for numerous side quests. The freedom in making decisions about choosing the path to the goal is to be praised. The fun is also made more attractive by the changeable weather that has a real impact on the skirmishes (e.g. bombs are less effective in the rain) and costumes that give bonuses and allow you to better withstand the unfavorable conditions of a given climate zone (heat, frost, etc.). There was also a day and night cycle, which means that some residents are unavailable after dark. In my opinion, the time in the game goes too fast, however – to scramble from one end of the city to the other is a waste of one day and we may not find the person anymore, which can really upset.
Finally, let’s move on to the skirmishes, which, although they are an important part of the game, have again suffered some degradation. Again, we are dealing with a typical turn-key, a system similar to what we saw in the old one Meruru Atelier. The only exceptions are four characters in battle, who can also use secondary weapons. We also got a special bar that allows you to fire spectacular skills and combos. The clashes are of a high level and are nicely animated, and the key to success is looking for the enemy’s weak points and using items on a large scale during combat. Although the whole system works very well, I still prefer the one present in the “Dusk” trilogy.
After quite a long association with Atelier Firis I have mixed feelings. Yes, it was a nice time, but I can’t get over the agenda, not to mention the uninteresting protagonist, poor English dubbing or a general step back on a few issues. On the other hand, the open world idea bodes well for the final installment of the trilogy, which is sure to emerge in the near future. Hopefully with a more interesting heroine.