Sorry for the late post this ended up taking longer than I expected to write up and various distractions and tasks impeded me from finishing it or even writing something in between.
So today I am going to do a game review, feels like it has been awhile since the last, over Atelier Sophie. Now I will admit. No, I am not finished with the game, but I am a good chunk into and I think I can do a good review over it.
So I guess first I will explain Atelier Sophie is probably my furthest dive into the Atelier series. I had played quite a bit of Totori but I don’t think I made it anywhere significant and I barely goofed around with Rorona. I also watched the Escha and Logy anime that was released not all that long ago.
Now with that said I can say Atelier Sophie, and really the other Atelier games I have played, are JRPG straight to the core. They are grindy, often long winded, and completely filled with cute girls and gruff men outside of their monster population. So I am just going to break things down bit by bit.
The story of Sophie is not all that much different from what I can remember of Totori, at least at the beginning.
You play titular character Sophie whom was learning the basics of Alchemy from your relative until they passed away shortly before the game starts. From there to learn more about alchemy you take on various requests to make things via Alchemy or to hunt down monsters in nearby areas.
Not far into the game you meet one of Sophie’s Grandmother’s peculiar purchases. A flying book that can talk. She helps you learn more about Alchemy and as you write notes inside of her you learn that she starts regaining memories she once lost. Including how to access a superior cauldron that can be used for Alchemy, the main focus of this game it seems.
As Plachta, the name of the book, acquires more of her memories and you learn more about Alchemy you eventually get to a point where you transfer Plachta’s… well I will just call it soul for now, from the book into a masterfully crafted doll that looks and acts like a human… with very poor fashion sense (or very good depending on your tastes I suppose) though you can also change that through the power of Alchemy!
And really that is about it. You are searching for this cauldron to Master Alchemy essentially. You get help from various companions, most of whom are Sophie’s neighbors in town. Such as the childhood friend whom can speak with plants, Oskar, the very serious and beautiful, Monika, fellow alchemist, Corneria, clock maker and gun dabbler, Harol, a church knight, Julio, clothier, Leon, and finally wandering warrior and doll maker, Fritz.
They all bring their own little agenda and personality along with you as you explore but none are nearly as important as Plachta it seems. Not even Mr. Cameo himself, Logy, as he arrives as a blacksmith in town.
As for the details of the gameplay itself it really is just a JRPG to its core as I said before. The main focus of Atelier would be the Alchemy. Either for creating things for yourself or for some quest it is probably what you will do the most behind gathering the materials needed for the Alchemy. This… can get really grindy when you are looking for a specific material that only drops on say one map or from one creature.
The Alchemy system itself is a sort of tetris style game with a “create one thing unlock the next” to get more items to create. Now I can’t really remember the older systems and how theirs worked but I personally didn’t have a problem with the Alchemy “game” though a lot of reviews seem to call out on it.
Now it could be my fault for not understanding the system but I do feel like sometimes things are balanced horribly because I can go from one fight and completely wreck the living out the monsters to going to the next and struggling to stay on my own two feet. Probably cause I am not taking the time nor money to upgrade my equipment.
But putting that thought aside for now combat is also very traditional taking on the action queue/turn based policy. You choose what you want your four members to do choosing between Attack or Defense Support then whether you Attack, use a skill or item, or defend yourself.
And if your enemy is strong enough to last through all your hits eventually you can work up you Chain Link which then allows for chained attacks dealing even more damage. This can lead all the way up to Chain Skills or even Ultimate Attacks to do some devastating amounts of damage which is practically required to whittle away the large health pools of the unique monsters holding onto special Alchemy materials.
Unfortunately for the game, and this could have just been me though I seem to recall other reviews saying it, is the progress of the game is kind of all over the place. Often I would find myself through the main story quickly but then I would hit a literal brick wall with a monster I was meant to defeat wiping out the part in one or two hits. This would then take me on a few hours journey of grinding out levels, or materials to make new equipment, until I could even reasonably take on the monster.
But even worse sometimes than that I feel was when you would run into new things but be able to get by just through basic attacking not having any sort of strategy to rely on to get through. This made some fighting tedious because you knew you were going to win but you still had to go through the annoyance of the fight anyway.
In the end I would probably slap a simple 7 out of 10 onto Atelier Sophie.
Overall it has been a good game primarily held up by an entertaining cast of characters, even if most didn’t have much to do with the story, but pacing problems on top of some combat problems brings the score down a bit for me.