Title: Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream
Release Date: February 23, 2022
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Genre: Alchemy RPG
The Atelier series is a traditional JRPG that evolves across each entry for fans—providing new characters, battle options, and refining the synthesis system. The developer has returned to previous characters in recent years to expand on their story. Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream gives players just that. This happens to be a massive adventure that I wasn’t expecting to leave such a meaningful impact on me.
Although typically slice-of-life to the core, Atelier Sophie 2 manages to provide all the makings of a classic friendship adventure while boarding on some emotional themes. The game begins as Sophie and her alchemist teacher, Plachta, are mysteriously pulled into the dreamworld of Erde Wiege. However, when Sophie wakes up, Plachta is missing, and after looking around, she meets another Plachta who isn’t her lost friend.
They don’t play dumb in these opening moments and overlook the coincidences. Sophie and her friends use this opportunity to understand why there are so many similarities here and explore more of the strange world. The mystery grows as Sophie meets a woman by the name of Ramizel Erlenmeyer, which happens to be the name of her grandmother. Yes, the one who was in a grave during the first game.
I don’t know if it’s completely necessary to play the first game as the opening does well at catching players up to speed. However, the memories that a player creates throughout the Mysterious trilogy may allow some more emotional beats to land. There are some truly tense moments in this game as Sophie struggles with piecing together the clues of Plachta’s disappearance, which expands into a much larger conflict. However, some of the characters didn’t really stick with me early on, which made their internal conflicts less impactful than they should have been.
Story aside, there are so many quality-of-life features in this game that make it easy to play endlessly. Everything is streamlined in this adventure to keep you progressing. Fast travel allows multiple drop-in points; quests are precisely mapped out with various markers used to highlight side-quests, speed in and out of battle is almost instant, and more.
The theme of friendship is highlighted to directly affect combat skills. In fact, everything you do outside of the main quest is rewarded. Spending time with characters increases their relationship with Sophie, which provides buffs, and exploring key areas increases AP, which is then used to grow your character’s combative abilities. This can all be seen on the map and rolls out over the first 8 hours of the game. After that, however, the skills seem almost endless, with character abilities becoming more fantastic across each milestone.
Combat takes place where you interact with a monster. There are some nuances to battle with strong enemies having the ability to cast a shield that requires players to use skills to break their guard. However, it keeps the action interesting, especially since it happens at random, so don’t expect to spam the same attacks every time. Further, party members can be switched to help alleviate damage. It’s also possible to see which character is being targeted if you wish to block.
Skills steal the show during battles, each accompanied by some great animations. There are collaborative skills that unlock over time as well, which are just as spectacular. Skills also have elemental properties tied to them. I liked this feature because it means you can’t just spam the largest MP burning skill for the most damage. After all, the enemy may not even be affected by it. There’s so much strategy added within these systems that are seen further when you can control the weather of a battle in hopes it decreases the enemy’s power.
Exploration is also a highlight, with light puzzles incorporated into the environments. Players can alter the scene by changing the weather to access new areas. The only problem with this feature is that it exists within the already massive areas. Each area can be maze-like, especially when you get into the weeds of Erde Wiege. The developers have broken it up with more ways to interact with the world, but trust that there is a lot of ground to cover. I had to have the map visible on the screen in several dungeons, so I didn’t get lost. These Weather Stones are unnecessarily limited uses. It’s possible to craft more, but I thought seeing them visible on the screen at all times just caused a bit of clutter.
The material and synthesis system has been streamlined, but similar to the combat, there are a lot of nuances here. Each material has a designed set of squares that it takes, which is then tied to an element. Things such as quality and added traits have returned in this entry, but those aren’t really needed until about 20 hours into the game when you need them for specific quests. There are also a few mini-games accessible on the field that allow you a chance to create a unique elemental item, along with field skills such as fishing and cutting making a return.
One interesting aspect is how Sophie and Plachta share the atelier. You can switch between the two alchemists who have access to unique items. It’s a seamless switch, but I lost time looking for an item I thought Sophie could make, but it was in Plachta’s menu. I will say that I really enjoyed the synthesis system in this entry. It’s one of the best in terms of a more classic Atelier experience. It mirror’s Sophie’s original system but adds a layer of complexity that gives players more room to experiment. However, if that’s not your thing, the auto synthesis option works just as well.
Graphically, Atelier Sophie 2 sports a more coloring book look for its characters. It shows in the bright stages, which all have a day and night cycle, and during key animated scenes. Characters are all voiced with a high degree of quality in every performance. I truly enjoyed the range in this entry and the attention to detail when story events shift the mode of the party. Gust has also created some amazing tracks that play into the original’s soundtrack for this entry, but I really enjoyed the battle theme here.
Atelier Sophie 2 offers a heartwarming and nostalgic adventure. While most of the cast is new, the game doesn’t shy away from providing a narrative that both new and returning fans can enjoy. Its battle system is highly addictive as it evolves throughout the game, mirrored by the updated synthesis system with streamlined options and quality-of-life improvements. There are some low points in this adventure, but Atelier Sophie 2 proves traditional JRPGs can still flourish in this modern world.
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