The Atelier series is one of the longest running series with JRPG, with around twenty years and eighteen major chapters under its belt. It is a charming, light exploration of the world it creates. And Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey follows suit as their latest creation.
The action role-play game is one of adventure, excitement and beauty. Atelier Firis is set in a world of scenic joy and wondrous discovery. A plot-line sequel to Atelier Sophie and the second chapter in the Mysterious story, Atelier Firis follows a the 15-year-old alchemist, Firis Mistlud, in the company of her sister Liane on a journey of mystery, intrigue and above all - alchemy.
Firis is born and raised in a small mining town where she is limited by her social expectations. She is used as an asset to the town for her ability to sense minerals and ore, which prohibits her chance to explore the world as she wishes. Every day, more than once, she finds herself at the large door that separates the town from the outside world, yearning to escape. Liane comes home from her daily hunt for food in the wilderness to numerous questions from her sister who longs to know what it is like beyond the door.
Finally, luck finds her with the sudden appearance of Sophie and Plachta (from Atelier Sophie) who give Firis the opportunity to learn the ways of alchemy, thus allowing her a chance to gain independence and finally leave the town.
The outside world in Atelier Firis is gigantic, with numerous towns and villages, traveling merchants who sell and buy things along the way and some impressive scenery. Once out of the town, the game-play offers a partial throwback to the time limit of its predecessors. The player is given one year to complete a goal, with some actions, like running and fighting, causing time to speed up. This forces the player to think responsibly about their game, utilizing in-game time with caution. However, after this goal is accomplished, the player has unlimited time to play the game. This blend of the timed and untimed appeals to both the casual gamer and those who prefer to play under pressure. It fits well into the narrative, forcing the player to think accordingly, while also giving them a chance later on to explore without barriers.
The game has a number of similarities to its predecessor, Atelier Sophie. Aside from a few design changes, battle sequences follow the same pattern of turn-based fighting with certain skills and moves affecting the order. Another similar feature is the layout of the alchemy system. You still have to find recipes and and increase your alchemy level to gain more powerful items. And then there is the LP system, also used in Atelier Sophie, where Firis must gain her stamina through alchemy or rest and loses it over time through fighting, collecting materials and pretty much anything that consumes energy. These challenges give the game some edge, especially once the time limit is removed.
Overall Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey offers a lot in terms of enjoyment and exploration. Iris and her surrounding characters have a lot to offer the game. She interacts with the new world around her with joy and a lightness that makes the game special in its own right. It is easy-going with a period of time-limited game-play to give it the extra push for a player, whilst also maintaining it’s overall goal - which is to play with the same curiosity and abandon that Firis enjoys experiencing he new world around her. Available to play across multiple platforms, it is definitely worth a try.