Six years after her first appearance and after letting Ryza cut her off for a sequel, Sophie returns stronger than ever to celebrate 25 years of the Atelier series in a sequel soberly named Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream. Luckily, there’s just a few weeks to go before its release on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.
If the Atelier series remained unknown to the general public for a long time, Atelier Sophie was the first to really try to reach a wider audience, whether by making its game system less complex – if only in its time management -, or by becoming the first episode to be ported to PC, which did not fail to bring a small dose of additional notoriety to the series strongly helped by the very positive feedback on Steam of the different episodes. So it’s only natural that Sophie should come back as an ambassador to celebrate the 25 years of existence of this license, which has not been idle with almost one title per year.
The story begins shortly after the end of the first episode and Sophie’s departure from her hometown to become a confirmed alchemist. Accompanied by her partner Plachta, who is still searching for a way to get her body back, the young alchemist travels the world until she encounters a gigantic tree in front of which a strange event takes place. As the duo approaches, a portal appears and tries to absorb Plachta, but Sophie interferes and it is the duo that is taken into another world: the world of dreams. Separated from Plachta, Sophie must rely on new companions to find her friend in a world that is unknown to her.
It’s hard to say more without getting slapped in the face, but as a self-respecting Atelier, Atelier Sophie 2 continues the good-natured and positive atmosphere of the series. And that’s not the only part of the game that is conservative, as there are few new features overall.
After a quick introduction, you soon find your cauldron in order to start making all kinds of objects and if the Ryza duology had proposed a very different and not necessarily very funny system, Atelier Sophie 2 comes back to a more accessible system directly inherited from the first opus. Thus, we find again the trays with boxes that we have to fill thanks to the different ingredients. Each of them has one to four specific shapes reminding those of the game Tetris and each of them is linked to one of the five elements among the classic water, lightning, wind, fire and light. By correctly placing the different shapes on the board to obtain lines, you can grant bonuses to the objects created as well as increase their quality. It’s intuitive, easy to learn and quickly addictive if you enjoy puzzles.
To practice alchemy, you’ll need ingredients and for that you’ll have to collect in the different areas of the game. Again, no big surprises on the horizon. The areas are closed, certainly larger than in the first Sophie, but we remain in partitioned environments scattered with various collection points. We would have liked the Gust studio to show a little more ambition, but it’s hard to blame them after Atelier Firis, which had a mixed success despite its attempt at a semi-open world. And of course, these areas will also be the places where you will meet different warlike creatures that you will have to kill with your companions.
If the fights remain globally very similar to the previous episodes, a few small changes appear. First of all, starting a fight no longer requires loading, it is played directly where you meet the enemy, which improves the fluidity of the adventure and avoids breaking the immersion by using a dated mechanic that is more related to technical restrictions, which are no longer relevant today. Secondly, the combat interface has gained a TP bar for Technical Points, which fills up during the fight and offers the possibility to use two different skills: Support Guard, which allows you to protect a member of the group by taking a hit instead of him while enjoying a defense bonus, and Twin Actions, which allows two characters to use one of their skills at the same time.
These two skills depend on another new feature: in addition to the three characters that make up your group, your three other companions can be used as supports to launch Twin Actions and Support Guard, but also to replace a downed fighter. Finally, another bar appears and, once filled, it allows two characters to execute a very powerful special attack called Dual Trigger.
Finally, Atelier Sophie 2 benefits from a small graphical update, especially visible on the side of the characters, finer and more detailed than ever. Their designs are still as good as ever, even if we won’t avoid the character with a very limited outfit to highlight her generous plastic. What is sure is that with the return of Sophie, we can at least say goodbye to the exaggerated body physics that characterized the character of Ryza. As for the scenery, the evolution is slow and the graphic engine still shows its limits, but in 4K on PC, we can’t say that it’s ugly either, far from it and some scenery is even very nice if we disregard the low-detail textures. As for the music, there again no surprise, it remains one of the strong points of the license.
What can we say about this first experience on Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream? If this anniversary episode doesn’t seem to want to shake things up, it doesn’t come empty-handed either and the beginning promises great things both on the scenario and the gameplay, which could well make it an episode worthy of the top of the line for the license. And what could be better than to go through this new adventure with one of the most beloved heroines of the series? Come on, let’s meet on February 25 on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch or PC to get to the bottom of the story.