Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is a Japanese role-playing game developed by Gust Go. Ltd and was originally released on the PlayStation 3 and never saw a western released until it was remastered for PlayStation 4 and Vita. It has recently been brought to Steam as of 7th February 2017
You play as Sophie Neuenmuller, an orphan who has inherited everything from her belated grandmother, who was a well known alchemist in their town of Kirhen Bell. Naturally this is where Sophie has gained her intrigue for alchemy and helping those around her. What we gain early in the story is that Sophie’s grandmother is known throughout for helping people, crafting medicines and lotions for everything that ails them, and people regularly would show up to just show their gratitude.
Very early on, you find a memo book which mysterious comes to life and assesses Sophie’s abilities as an alchemist. After finding that your abilities are lacking, the two embark on a small scale adventure to help your abilities grow – One crafting recipe at a time.
If the above isn’t any indication, the story itself isn’t that of a grand adventure and the traditional coming of a hero. It fits more into a “slice-of life” category that many anime connoisseurs are accustomed to.
As you’re not going on a grand adventure and saving the world, you’re walking around town, visiting your childhood friends and assisting them through their troubles using alchemy and because of this you won’t find a groundbreaking story here with Atelier Sophie, instead you’re going to find a relaxed, joyous adventure helping your friends, honing your alchemy skills and leveling up.
The narrative is displayed through a number of in-game cutscenes, fully voiced in either English or Japanese with very little pre-drawn still images.
Appearance and Music
The games aesthetic is what you would expect from an anime themed game, all of the characters are colourful and able to show a range of emotions – I would go as far to say this is easily one of the prettiest anime games out on the market at the moment, especially when comparing this to the recently released Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2.
However with the above being said, you will come across some bland environments or reused sections which as fans of the genre we are accustomed with. Kirhen Bell, your characters home town is going to be one of the locations you will find yourself visiting quite often and while everything is beautiful and picturesque, or generic of fantasy genre, the streets do feel quite empty despite the sheer size of the town.
It is also worth mentioning that time does play its part within the game. Depending on the time of day, different enemies will come out. Early one this is shown that during the day you will meet with slimes but in the evening there are cute ghosts wandering around which need to be defeated. Weather can also have its impact on the gathering materials you will find scattered across the environment.
What has really impressed me is the sheer amount of charm thrown into the user interface in this title. There is a lot of emphasis on the book which is helping you develop your abilities as an Alchemist and when looking at the user interface for menus and your world map look like it’s from a story book. The map itself is stunning, I haven’t unlocked every location but check it out below.
The musical score is breathtaking, everything matches the tone of the environments which you’re in or the severity of the action at hand. If enemies are a higher level than you then you will be met with a different theme, an indication that you are going to be really tested.
You are presented with a wide variety of environments which you can talk to npcs, accept quests, run, jump, gather and fight your way through.
The majority of the game you will find yourself running around attempting to find new materials to allow you to make all manner of healing consumables, bombs and weapons and throughout my playthrough I found that around 80 percent of the time I was gathering as this is what is tied into the progression of the storyline.
To unlock new locations and craftables, you need to meet different types of objectives however as there were multiple ways to progressed I never found myself to just be “grinding”, and as an mmorpg enthusiast, I found this to be important. The objectives I’ve mentioned can include, “Gaining X Level in crafting, “Completing X amount of quests from the job board” or “Gathering X Items for crafting” and once you’ve done this, you can head back to your Atelier and be greeted with a new cutscene furthering the narrative or be able to craft your newly unlocked crafts.
While the game does have a very large focus on crafting, that isn’t to say there isn’t any combat. It feels like it can be compared to that of Final Fantasy X.
In combat you can control up to four characters all of which have their own unique abilities and stats. Each character on the battlefield takes their turn depending on their stats and that of the enemy and on screen you will see what the turn order is – you will also see other useful information such as when an enemy is going to use a devastating ability, shown as warning.
The combat system itself is pretty much what you would expect of a JRPG, it does however have one distinguishing feature which is the Stance system. Each character can choose to be in either Offence of Defence stance at the start of their turn. Once the character has performed their act the stance will activate. If a character is in offensive stance then they will provide a follow up attack to the next character, using a “support attack”. If the character is in a defensive stance, they will block an attack for an ally. You can effectively train these abilities together and if at least three character are in the same stance then they will perform a powerful special collaborative attack which will deplete your chain meter.
There is nothing as satisfying as taking down a powerful enemy within a matter of turns – you only feel the impact of this system once you’ve gained your fourth character which is within the first four to five hours of gameplay. This was also the point at which I began to enjoy the combat system as before this I found combat to be a chore.
With the above being said this could be the same for a lot of JRPGs on the market as you don’t feel the effect or enjoyment until you begin to see your arsenal of abilities increase.
The main focus of the game is within its crafting system. The main reason that you are adventuring into the field is to find items which can be used within the games crafting system which at first is a standard affair.
Once you’ve gathered your materials, you can return back to your atelier and throw them into your cauldron, you can then use these items and slot them into a 4 x 4 grid, which can later be upgraded, and depending on the way you’ve slotted your items, you will be able to increase the quality of the object you’ve created.
An easy example of this is take take a basic healing consumable. If you focus your efforts into how you’ve crafted the object, you can increase the amount that it heals for or add additional effects to this – increasing its usefulness in battle.
The above makes the system seem really simple however you can create new cauldrons to increase the complexity of the system itself. There is also an added feature where you can create doll bodies and depending on way its crafted will alter the way it looks and performs in battle, however as this is a feature which is introduced later in the game I will let you discover this one for yourself.
The game itself seems to be a relatively stable port however please keep in mind that I am running an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080. Keeping an eye on my FPS counter in steam, I have maintained 60FPS throughout the majority of my playthrough with some minor unnoticeable drops which haven’t impacted my playthrough or experience.
I have enjoyed my time with Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book but there is a lot more for me to discover with this title. I would recommend it if you’re looking for a more relaxed journey and if you’re looking for a more grand adventure I would suggest you look elsewhere.
6.5 / 10