ESRB Rating: Teen (Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol, Partial Nudity, Language)
Publisher: KOEI TECMO AMERICA
Release Date: April 22, 2021
Nintendo || Steam
You play as Firis, a young girl who lives in an underground village. She’s never been outside, only seeing a sliver of sky from an opening in their cave system. Of course, Firis yearns to go outside, but she’s always told it’s far too dangerous. Then Sophie and Plachta literally blast their way into Firis’ world (it’s never explained why)! Sophie introduces Firis to alchemy after learning that Firis has a special talent to sense ores. Now, Firis can synthesize items to protect and heal herself, so going outside shouldn’t be a problem, right?
Firis’ parents are super jerks. I hate her mother for telling Firis that she’s a pathetic little crybaby who must stay at home where it’s safe. Her father simply follows what his wife says; he has no spine. The only person who stands up for Firis is her older sister, Liane, who regularly gets to go outside to hunt for the village. Obviously, she’ll be accompanying Firis on her journey to protect her from monsters.
The story of Atelier Firis wasn’t as strong as Atelier Sophie, but it did actually have a clear final goal. Firis is going to learn alchemy, take the licensing exam, and be free of her suffocating underground life! However, I found it strange how Sophie agrees to teach Firis alchemy and then immediately abandons her. Sophie is also on her way to take the exam, so why aren’t they traveling together? If Sophie had some other plans and was going to meet up with Firis later, cool. But it’s just a weird set up.
This version of the game includes a digital art book, which I flipped through before playing. The art is gorgeous and got me super excited to start playing. I really enjoyed the character designs. Everyone has their own unique style, but clearly belong to the same world. The only part that I felt looked a little off was the hair. It’s stiff, so the animations look a bit awkward, especially Liane’s super long locks. It’s also colored in very strangely, which was extra noticeable on Firis since she already has a line around her hear from her headband, but then another sharp line from strange hair highlights.
I do love the variety in monsters. There are a lot of different types with multiple variations, some are familiar from Atelier Sophie. But there are plenty of new ones too, since Firis is of course journeying across the world. Some were really cute, and I didn’t want to kill them!
I love the costumes! Not only can you change Firis into a variety of costumes (some of which actually give her different benefits), you also get three outfits for Liane, Ilmeria, and Drossel. It was fun to switch up what they were wearing, and they all look great, with amazing detail. Too bad the boys don’t get the play dress-up as well.
There are also so many different landscapes and biomes! The game starts inside a mountain, so it’s very grey with some pops of color. Then Firis goes out into the world and travels through desert, snow, jungle, seaside towns, and so many more! Even within each environment, there were little micro-areas that had their own details and characteristics. No two places looked the same, even if populated by the same monsters. My only complaint is that in some places it was hard to see where Firis was going. I don’t know if this was by design to up the difficulty in evading monsters, or if these places really were just too populated.
Other than the same hair issue, which isn’t really much of an issue, I still found it awkward how the NPCs are just kind of there. It’s even more noticeable in Atelier Firis, since a lot of the time you’re in wide open areas, then suddenly there’s another traveler, except they’re just standing there. In the middle of nowhere. Doing nothing. Like the guy surround by ghosts who didn’t have any kind of expression or animation.
Sound Effects + Music:
Atelier Firis is partially voice acted. Only the most important story cutscenes are voiced, at least in English. I don’t know if the Japanese language setting has more voiced dialogue or not. So you’ll mostly be reading the dialogue, which I don’t mind at all. The voice acting is fine. I do feel like the characters had the correct tone unlike in Atelier Sophie, where it sometimes felt like they were just reading from a script.
The music is also nice, although didn’t really stand out to me too much. Some of the background music is reminiscent of Atelier Sophie.
Gameplay + Controls:
Atelier Firis has three main components: gathering, synthesis, and battle. Gathering takes place all over the map rather than in specified areas. You’ll need to run around to find the ingredients needed for alchemy. Firis uses her cauldron for synthesis, which is essentially alchemizing those ingredients into useful items. And battle also takes place anywhere on the map with monsters freely roaming around. You’ll also be assigned quests from different NPCs as Firis progresses in her travels. Some are required to progress the story, while others are optional. The optional ones can be done at anytime, even after completing the main story.
Gathering and battles go hand-in-hand. Although you can sneak around or run past enemies if you just want to collect materials without engaging them. Unlike Atelier Sophie, you don’t unlock new gathering grounds. This game has more of an open world feel, where the entire region is open for exploration and populated with monsters. The enemies do vary between locations, although many are found in multiple places. Having more space to explore also made it easier to avoid combat, which has its pros and cons. You can gather without interruption, but you also won’t level up Firis’ awful 1 damage attacks.
Combat is really straight forward. At first I felt like I was missing something, but nope. It’s just easy. Much like Atelier Sophie, you’re shown the order your party and the enemy will attack. But instead of choosing all your actions at once, then having it play out, each action is performed immediately. I did prefer this, because I liked seeing how much damage was actually done by an attack, so I could better decide what to do with the next party member.
Firis is a delicate little flower though, so if an enemy aims an attack at her, there’s the option for another character to shield her and take the damage instead. You’ll only have Firis and Liane for a good portion of the game, but eventually you’ll be able to add three more characters to your party, although only two of them will be in your battle formation. They vary in amount of HP/MP and the type of weapons used, so you can mix and match to form a party that suits your battle style.
I did not enjoy combat though. I liked the battle system, but with such weak weapons, poor defenses, and low HP/MP on every character, it wasn’t fun. The only monsters that were easy to defeat were the blue, green, and red punis. Nearly everything else wiped me out every time. Maybe I was missing something, but weapon upgrades seem extremely rare, nearly nonexistent. Even paying 5,000 for a mercenary was a waste of money. Sure he had better attacks than everyone else, but he had extremely low HP, so he’d get knocked out quickly. Thankfully, combat isn’t necessary to finish the story, and enemies are generally easy to evade. Although, there is a battle portion of the exam, but it’s more focused on your item stats.
Synthesis is straight forward but also incredibly complex. Depending on how you want to play and how much time you want to put into selecting and arranging materials. I wasn’t sure about it at first. You still have to select the materials to use and they still have sizes and shapes to fit with the grid system. But now you have bonus lines set into the grid (these change based on the catalyst used) which give bonuses if you completely cover the lines.
You also still get special traits based on the component value of each material, but instead of being a simple bar, it’s a star level system. Bonuses also depend on the color of the material components (and sometimes the catalyst bonus lines). When making an item for the first time, I didn’t pay too much attention to all of these factors. But for equipped items, it pays to take a closer look to get the best traits and effects.
There is a time limit, but I felt like it was super generous. You have 361 in-game days to make it to Reisenberg and pass the alchemist exam. During that year, you’ll traverse a variety of landscapes, meet other travelers, and collect the three required letters of recommendation from established alchemists. I was worried about the time limit in the beginning, since synthesis does take quite a bit of time. It’s important to synthesize every recipe you unlock in order to level up, but before you know it several days have passed! This made me feel rushed, so I didn’t take as much time in each region as I should have. As soon as I found the entrance to the next area, I moved on.
The only area where you’re forced to spend a significant amount of time is Flussheim, since there is literally no way to leave at first. There’s a pretty lengthy quest to build a ship to carry everyone on to the next town. On top of that, there’s an alchemist who will have assignments for Firis before writing her a letter of recommendation. You are able to travel backwards though, so it’s not impossible to visit a couple of close areas to gather some much needed materials.
I still made it to Reisenberg with 120 days left, so instead of taking the exam, I backtracked to find the regions I missed on the way. I had traveled south to Reisenberg, so I had completely missed the areas in the north, including a village with an alchemist. I was able to travel there, get a fourth letter of recommendation, and explore a bit more. I tried to get the fifth letter, since I had plenty of time, but I couldn’t find the last alchemist. Instead of continuing to search, I just went back to take the exam with 72 days left.
But after registering for the exam, Firis can’t leave Reisenberg while waiting for the exam day to come! So the time limit isn’t really a limit, it’s more of a countdown. There is no reason to hurry across the map to take the exam, because you won’t be allowed to take it until the specified day anyway. You can run around the city, collecting the meager amount of materials, synthesize with whatever materials you already have, or sleep until exam day.
All of this to say that the time limit is extremely generous and a nonissue. I wish I had realized this sooner, so I could have taken more time in each area, rather than feeling rushed. Sure, I was able to go back and do more quests and fill in a few more places on the map, but I was just killing time until the exam. After passing, Firis is free to go wherever she wants, whenever she wants.
I do think Atelier Firis is more replayable than Atelier Sophie, even though I didn’t enjoy it as much. The main story is way shorter, if you accidentally (or intentionally) rush through it like I did. In fact, I did immediately start this one again, since I now know that 361 days is way more than enough to get everything done. Firis failed her exam on my first playthrough, because she wasn’t prepared. On the second playthrough, I plan to level up Firis and Liane’s battle skills and upgrade their weapons, rather than running past every monster I saw. I’ll also pay more attention during synthesis to get the best items possible for the exam.
Atelier Firis is another fun game in this series. It is more focused on gathering and synthesis, with combat being more of a optional feature, so that’s something to keep in mind, if you do prefer more action. I think it fits the story and Firis’ journey though, since she is not a warrior. She just wants to become a great alchemist and explore the world on her own terms.
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