Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings Review – A Few Steps Back
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious PaintingsMarch 27th, 2018
Gust’s Atelier series has become, over the years, one of the most appreciated Japanese role-playing game series thanks to its light-hearted nature and the sense of discovery represented by some of its unique mechanics, such as alchemy. Last year’s entry in the series, Atelier Firis: Alchemist of the Mysterious Journey, brought everything up a notch, granting players a huge amount of freedom, which is unprecedented for the series. This year, Gust is back with another entry, Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings, which sadly takes a few steps back, resulting in a game that’s surely enjoyable but also quite predictable.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings stars the twins Lydie and Suelle Marlen, alchemists who work at a modest atelier together with their father, who’s more interested in painting. The two young sisters aren’t exactly master alchemists, and they’re having a hard time getting customers. A fateful day, however, the twins discover a mysterious painting in the atelier’s basement, a painting which leads to an unknown world full of dangers as well as high-quality ingredients, which help them create some impressive items through alchemy. Excited by the discovery, the duo decides to make their atelier the best in Merveille, entering the new Atelier ranking system and beating the competition.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings story is honestly nothing exceptional, as it treads the same ground as some of the previous entries in the series. What stands out, as usual, are the characters and their interactions. The contrast between the shier Lydie and the more carefree Suelle is on the forefront most of the times, but others also get the time to shine, whether they’re party members or simple NPCs. As in other Atelier games, completing sub-events is recommended for those who want to learn more about all characters. Additionally, being the third entry in the Mysterious sub-series, expect to meet some familiar faces from Atelier Sophie and Atelier Firis.
The story of Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings isn’t the only part of the game that treads old ground, as the gameplay experience sports pretty much the same features of the previous Mysterious titles, sadly also taking a few steps back from Atelier Firis. Like in Atelier Sophie, Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings lacks a time limit, so players have way more freedom in creating items and exploring the world. Progression is also pretty straightforward: wanting to make their atelier the best, Lydie and Suelle have to complete the so-called Promotion Tests where they have to create a specific item through alchemy, gather items and so on. Following the first Promotion Test, which grants the sisters’ atelier access to the Ranking System, the others require the atelier to reach a certain level of reputation. This is done by completing a variety of smaller tasks that are kept track of in the Ambition Journal, such as visiting locations, talking to NPCs, surprising enemies and so on. The process is definitely fun the first few times, but it gets somewhat boring along the line and ultimately feels like ticking a checklist.
Alchemy plays a big part in Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Painting. The system is basically the same of the previous two entries in the series, where players have to select materials and place components on a board to increase the item’s efficacy. Later on, players can also add some enhancing elements which can make the items even more powerful. To create items with alchemy, however, players require recipes which can be unlocked in a variety of ways. The most common one is to gather new materials, which will make Lydie and Suelle automatically discover a new recipe and write it down in their Idea notebook. Players can also get some hints from the notebook by checking out the yet to be discovered recipes.
The game’s combat hasn’t changed much from the previous entries, getting a few enhancements that don’t really change its core. Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings employs a turn-based combat system where playable characters and enemies take turns to attack and unleash special skills. Lydie and Suelle can also use items created through alchemy if they have been equipped properly before battle and these are the best attack and defense options most of the times. Follow-up skills and stand-in defense, where characters can take damage in place of the twins, are also back. New to Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings are Combination Arts and Battle Mixes. The first are combination attacks that can be performed by two characters in a pair. The second, which can only be used by Lydie and Suelle, allow players to create alchemy items during battle, granted that players possess the correct items. The new battle system options make it a bit more varied, but it doesn’t really change the fact that most battles are quite easy at Normal difficulty if the player is well prepared with a good stock of items.
Another fundamental feature of the Atelier games is exploration, and this is where Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings feels like a way worse game than its predecessor. In the second half of Atelier Firis, players have the freedom to explore a vast world at their leisure; in Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings this doesn’t happen, as players are limited to a handful of locations, both in the real world and the paintings’. Real world locations are well crafted, although not particularly original, while the paintings allowed the team to be slightly more creative. Whether it’s a real world field or a painting’s, players should expect to find a lot of items lying around and plenty of enemies to fight.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings’ presentation is definitely one of its strongest features. Characters and enemies are created using cel-shading, which gives everything a very Japanese look in terms of design, menus, and interface are simple and functional, and locations generally look acceptable. What isn’t exactly acceptable is performance, especially in battle, where it takes very little to see some slowdowns on the regular PlayStation 4. The game is a JRPG, so a smooth framerate isn’t quite mandatory, but the frame rate drops during battles are still distracting. The soundtrack is also in line with the other entries in the series, with some upbeat tracks for combat and soothing ones for exploration. Baffling, however, is the lack of an English dub.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is a difficult game to rate. There’s nothing fundamentally broken in it, so fans of the series and those simply looking for a light-hearted JRPG will surely enjoy it. On the contrary, the lack of the innovation introduced in Atelier Sophie and the few steps back taken from Atelier Firis make it a very predictable game.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is a serviceable entry in the long-running JRPG series by Gust, offering an experience that's surely entertaining, but not as good as Atelier Firis. Additionally, the lack of any real innovation in both story and gameplay departments translates into a very predictable game.
- Charming characters
- Engaging Alchemy system
- Functional turn-based battle system
- Predictable story
- Small performance issues
- Even with some tweaks, the gameplay experience lacks innovation