Having played every Atelier game that made it to the States since Atelier Iris on the PS2, it doesn’t really need to be said that I’m a fan of the series.
Throughout the various iterations, I’ve seen the franchise hit its highs and lows, but there were only a handful of times where the series really took a risk in changing how it played. One such an instance was with the beginning of the PS3 era of games with Atelier Rorona, where the “Atelier Formula” as we know it now first began.
However, many sequels later, Atelier Firis seeks to shake up the formula once more with the introduction of one major component- a much bigger world.
Voice Acting Selection: JPN/ENG.
Length: 30~ Hours
The tale begins in a secluded mining town located underground, where the only way in or out is shut almost at all times. Enter the titular heroine Firis, a plucky young woman who has spent her whole life in the town and wishes nothing more than to venture into the outside world in search of adventure.
Luckily for Firis, the heroines of the previous title, Sophie and Plachta, enter her life with a literal “BOOM” and change her life forever as she learns of the existence of alchemy and her natural aptitude for it.
With Sophie as her tutor and help from her doting older sister, she decides to go out into the world for the first time on a journey to take her alchemy license test to prove to everyone that she can be independent.
The main theme that proceeds over Atelier Firis is one of discovery and adventure. Visiting new places and experiencing nature in all of its glory for the first time to Firis’s delight was a pleasure as she was always quite enthusiastic.
What enables the feeling of adventure are the various interconnected areas which absolutely dwarf the areas in the previous Atelier titles. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that one map in Atelier Firis could fit 6-8 areas from a previous game with ease.
This was quite jarring at first since I wasn’t expecting at all, and with things like a dynamic weather system as well as a day/night cycle it was pretty impressive to behold. Unfortunately, there were some visual glitches with lights flickering too fast and major dips in performance during certain areas in conjunction with varying weather conditions.
Suffice to say, this was a far cry from the smooth visual experience of Atelier Sophie.
As there is no singular main hub to always return to, I was given access to a portable Atelier, which could be summoned at any campfire. In the Atelier, I could synthesize items, rest, chat with my party or even decorate the interior for various bonuses.
Given that the elder has stipulated a strict time limit of one year, everything I did from simply walking around to battling monsters took time, and I was always wary of running out of time even though I accomplished my goal with more than 140 days left to go.
While it was nice to have a sense of urgency in what I was doing, it also felt like I needed to make the best use of my time and not go around doing things without purpose, which runs a bit contrary to the ideals of “discovery”.
Even though there are the traditional recipe books that can be purchased to learn new formulas, most of the recipes were learned through simply by doing.
Battling, synthesizing, exploring, gathering items, talking to people and anything else would lead to some kind of a new recipe, and the vast majority of my formulas were learned this way.
Unfortunately, this particular iteration of the alchemy system felt overly grindy, as I had to craft the same item over and over again in order to make it with the best possible modifiers.
Given I usually spend hours in an Atelier game just min-maxing overpowered sets of equipment for my party, I neglected to do so here as I didn’t have the patience or the excessive amount of time necessary.
Speaking of my party, the characters felt pretty typical, without a single standout among them. Even though it was nice to see faces returning from Atelier Sophie, I didn’t gravitate towards any new character in particular, and while inoffensive, none of them left any strong impressions.
The combat felt a bit bare-bones compared to the earlier entries in the series, with limited options as well, and while serviceable, I can’t point out one thing it does here that’s not done better elsewhere.
After passing the exam the credits rolled, but that actual spelled the beginning of the unlimited time section where I was free to explore and go about my business doing whatever I wanted, unlocking new events and gaining access to some quality of life mechanics that probably should’ve been there from the beginning.
It’s at this point that the game really opened up, as I was able to thoroughly explore every nook and cranny and get to know my party members better. It served as a change of pace after the first major arc of the game and allowed me to pursue character and event based endings.
Atelier Firis is an ambitious entry in the long running series, with many new mechanics and a larger than ever world map to explore. Unfortunately, the inconsistent performance and a poorly implemented alchemy system hinder the overall experience greatly.
Fun Tidbit – When they say “license exam”, they really mean an EXAM.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.