The prettiest Atelier world yet.
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey on PS4
The Atelier series has returned with its eighteenth installment, Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey. Developer Gust’s latest entry to the series is the second addition to the Mysterious storyline and it just might be the best Atelier game yet—although its predecessor Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book still offers some pretty solid competition. While Atelier Sophie took some pretty big steps away from traditional Atelier mechanics, Atelier Firis definitely seems to be a fair balance between old school Atelier and some of the newer features that more recent titles introduced. That happy medium ultimately gives us a game that feels familiar and delightfully new all at the same time.
Much like the Atelier games of the past, Atelier Firis follows the journey of a young, budding alchemist who is ready to embark on a journey that will push their skills to new heights and whisk them away to newfound independence. This time around, the Mysterious storyline trades in its carefree protagonist for a particularly childlike main character who has grown tired of living under her parents’ control. Firis Mistlud, who can come off a little bratty in the beginning of the story, lives in an underground mining town that her parents won’t allow her to leave. Her parents insist that it’s too dangerous to venture outside the mining city, despite the fact that her older sister Liane has been leaving the city to battle monsters for quite some time. If you’ve ever played any Atelier game, you can probably see where this is going. Firis puts her foot down, decides to learn alchemy (with Sophie’s help) and finally makes her way outside the dreary cave town.
This is where the game’s greatest improvement starts to become more apparent. Visually speaking, Atelier Firis introduces a world that is far more beautiful than Atelier games of the past. While it’s still not nearly as impressive as most of the other worlds you can explore on the PS4, it’s certainly a major step forward for this particular series. The bland, cramped regions that were overrun by enemies that respawned too quickly in previous games have now been replaced by a far more spacious map that is begging for you to explore its every corner.
The large new map gives players far more freedom when it comes to where they want to go and how they want to get there. In fact, I found myself turned around or lost several times throughout the game—something that never happened during my time playing some of the previous titles. With a world like this, however, getting lost didn’t feel frustrating at all. While on my way to complete a quest, I would accidentally stumble upon hidden villages and enchanting forests that looked more interesting than what previous games offered. Sometimes exploring these new locations was actually more entertaining than completing the task at hand.
Of course, that distraction could become a problem this time around since Atelier Firis has brought back the series’ traditional time limit. This is one of the first ways Atelier Firis combines the new with the old. While some of the newer titles ditched the clock completely, traditional Atelier titles utilized a time management mechanic that forced players to be far more strategic about their decisions in the game. Atelier Firis offers the best of both worlds by including a timed first portion and then a second half of the game that’s free of that restriction.
The reality of the game, however, is that you will likely never feel the pressure of time on your shoulders. The time limit is extremely lenient and allows for quite a bit of sidetracking, resource gathering, extra battles, and whatever other shenanigans you hope to get into on your way to the city of Reisenberg. On a more direct run to the city where alchemists go to become officially certified alchemists, you can probably arrive with a full 200 days left on the clock. In my personal run that involved a ton of cave exploration, random goofing around, and an undeniable love-hate relationship with the sheer amount of side quests available in the game and the urge to help every stranger I met, I still made it to Reisenberg with 40 days to spare. So, by all means, take the time to enjoy the visual improvements to this world.
Just be sure to watch your LP as you frolic around the large map. The LP system we saw in Atelier Sophie returns in Atelier Firis but with far more convenience mechanics that make this exhaustion system easy to cope with. Different activities like gathering resources, engaging in battles or even just running from one spot to the next will eat away at your LP. Allowing Firis to get tired (below 50 LP) will trigger negative effects like discovering fewer resources when gathering. Fortunately, the help of Sophie’s portable Atelier gift allows you to set up shop and get some Zs at any nearby campfire. What this ultimately means is that you don’t have to run to the next town to allow Firis and her team to recharge. All it takes is a quick nap inside the Atelier or even spending some time synthesizing and you’ll find your LP gauge has been replenished.
Fast travel also makes a return and, quite frankly, seems to be more time efficient than manually running from one spot of the map to the other. So if you’re going for a speed run, fast travel will definitely be something to utilize. If you want a more scenic gameplay experience, only utilize the fast travel when your LP is low or if you’re completing one of those pesky quests that has you running up and down the same path over and over again like some eager unpaid intern who just can’t seem to bring their boss a good cup of coffee.