Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is a sequel to Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book, and the second game in the Mysterious storyline. Some characters from Atelier Sophie make an appearance, or are significant to the story in Atelier Firis, but you will be able to follow the story easily, even if you haven’t played the previous instalment. The game is available on both the PS4 and PS Vita. The review is based on the PS Vita version.
The game opens to Firis Mistlud, a young girl who has the uncanny ability to ‘sense’ ore, and has never left her underground mining village of Ertona. Unsurprisingly, she dreams of seeing the world outside, and this is the journey you’ll be taking her on. It’s quite refreshing to see a game where the protagonist isn’t setting out to save the world, or their village. Instead, Atelier Firis is about a journey of self-progression. You spend a lot of time in the starting village of Ertona, with the introduction/tutorial to the game being quite extended to familiarise you with the setting, characters, and gameplay mechanics.
Though it’s not obvious inside Ertona, the game has a day/night cycle, and weather changes, with some items and monsters only being available during specific times of day or certain weather. Atelier Firis also takes into account the number of days that progress, as there is an overarching time limit. Various actions will progress time, such as travelling, fighting and synthesising items.
As with each Aetlier game there are some aspects of the game similar to previous instalments, and some differences. Aetlier Firis has time management components, though rather than individual tasks having time limits, there is instead an overarching amount of time to complete the main task at hand. Your main task in Ertona has a schedule, and once you leave Ertona you’ll have a year and change to complete the main quest for the rest of the game, but these are the only real-time limits the game will force upon you.
As with other gameplay aspects, the combat in Atelier Firis is similar to previous instalments, with some slight differences. The combat is pretty simple. You can have up to 4 characters in your party, and you set the formation with some characters at the front and some at the back. As with many RPGs, you will find extra characters to add to your party as you progress.
Though the basic use of alchemy to craft items remains the same, the alchemy method in Atelier Firis is significantly different other Atelier titles. If you’ve played any of the previous titles, you’ll know that alchemy doesn’t remain the same throughout any titles in the series, and which versions of the alchemy system you prefer are very individual. Some will prefer this alchemy system, whereas others will prefer the mechanics from other games.
The game gives you an overview of the basics as you progress through the introductory phase, but it doesn’t hold your hand. You’re left to discover the finer points of alchemy for yourself, and you’ll have to put in the work to unlock new items to craft. Recipe ideas can come from all sorts of sources. Battling enough of a certain enemy might help Firis think of something new, or gathering specific resources, synthesising items, etc…
Once you leave the starting town of Ertona (which does happen, eventually), you’re free to explore as you wish, and it becomes a very open-ended game. The only thing that will restrict you from exploring endlessly from the get-go is the time limit to achieve the main goal of the game. Once you’ve achieved that though, you’re free to continue exploring with no time restrictions.
Overall the story, gameplay mechanics, music and voice acting are all of a good quality. Unfortunately, the PS Vita version of the game has a significant framerate issue. The frames per second quite regularly drops so low as for it to appear that your character is walking on the moon, or somewhere with similarly low gravity, as the frame drops mean the world moves in slow motion for a few seconds at a time. The very first area you are in is the worst for this, and it does improve, though it still persists at a slightly lower rate of occurrence.
These hangs are more significant than previous Atelier games on the Vita, which have ranged from no issues, to rarer occurrences of frame drops. Atelier Sophie, the previous game in the Mysterious storyline, actually improved on the framerate issue significantly, but unfortunately it’s back with a vengeance on the Vita port of Firis. The console Atelier games run at 60fps, versus the Vita’s inconsistent 30fps, so the PS4 version on the game doesn’t have the problem.
The issues with the framerate are a real shame, as otherwise Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is a very enjoyable game, with strong gameplay mechanics and an interesting storyline. If you can, you’re probably better off playing the PS4 version, which would be rated higher, as it doesn’t suffer from these issues.
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