Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemyst of the Mysterious DreamFebruary 24th, 2022
PlatformNintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemyst of the Mysterious Dream is the sequel to the first game in the series and another RPG developed by Gust. For those who have been reading my work since I joined the site, this is the second Gust RPG I have had the pleasure to review. However, this is more familiar territory for me as I’ve played other entries in the Atelier series before.
I pretty much know that Atelier fans have picked this game up and are indulging in some cool synthesis puzzles. I joined all of you before that was cool because, barring my opinions in this review, I still think that the Atelier series is fantastic and that fans will be happy to play this game. That said, I sadly have to say that newer players might disagree with us in this experience.
I should explain my review process before going any further. Whenever I review games, I always look at whether or not some average person would enjoy this game. Unfortunately, while I believe that the game can lend itself to newer players, it won’t have the same impact for them as those who know this series like the back of their hands.
How did I come to this conclusion? Let’s start with the review.
First, a little bit of history for those new to the Atelier series. Atelier Sophie was pretty much the predecessor of Atelier Ryza, the entry in the series that essentially put Atelier on the map. However, everyone who knows their stuff about the Atelier series always refers to Sophie as that hugely underrated RPG that people should play more.
Gust decided to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Atelier series by giving fans a pleasant surprise. Instead of another sequel to Atelier Ryza, we were delighted to find out that Sophie would be getting a sequel that fans waited over seven years to come. It’s meant to bridge the gap between Atelier Sophie and Atelier Firis while also resolving plot threads left unsolved in the previous game.
This adventure stars the adorable aspiring alchemist Sophie who sets off on a journey to earn her alchemist license by taking an alchemy exam. Accompanying her is the girl who was also a book (don’t ask) called Plachta. Together they set off to figure out how to restore Plachta to her original body and then proceed to get sucked off by a vortex.
When Sophie wakes up, she finds herself in what’s known as the Erde Wiege. As Sophie later finds out, this dream world is an atemporal space where people are gathered from across the universe to achieve their dreams. Before Sophie can process all of this information, she is hit with yet another revelation. One of the local alchemist apprentices is a younger version of Plachta who doesn’t seem to recognize Sophie at all.
Granted, the other Plachta is quick to clarify to Sophie that the Erde Wiege picks up people from different points in time. In other words, players can face the past or future versions of the characters that come to the Erde Wiege to find their purpose in life and subsequently fulfill it. Sophie now must find a way to escape from this dream world and find her friend (the future version of Plachta) with the aid of the younger version of Plachta and other friends who will eventually join.
In this aspect, I believe that the game is actually helpful for newer players. Even if you haven’t played the previous Atelier games in the series, you can hop into this game and start your experience with the series rather well. The game includes a helpful cinematic that explains the previous events in the Mysterious series while the story is separated from the original game.
The game’s story is quite self-contained. Some people might see this as a negative, but I believe this is the perfect way to get people to know the story of the predecessor of Ryza. The plot itself isn’t going to go into high stakes. It is another coming-of-age story for Sophie where she learns the ins and outs of alchemy and teaches the past version of Plachta how to do just that.
The charm that comes with Gust RPGs isn’t lost on me either. Before, I gave Blue Reflection: Second Light some flack for having said charm but sort of wasting it on characters that constantly mope about how bullied they are by the evil men. In Sophie, you have a far more diverse cast where male and female characters alike get the spotlight and some decent interactions.
Unfortunately, it takes a little bit of time to get there. The game spends a while introducing you to the characters and such that you feel like the adventure starts at the 10-hour mark. It becomes really interesting once you start going to different places to further the plot while collecting Dreamscape Stones to alter the weather and explore old areas from a new perspective.
However, the plot could’ve used a slight tinge of higher stakes to make itself not feel inconsequential. That said, barring the overall story not being interesting, the characters certainly make up for that slight problem. Each of the characters accompanying you throughout your quest in the Erde Wiege is memorable and full of personality.
In fact, the characters themselves are engaging and avoid being obnoxious or tokenized. They feel like people I would love to talk to about their experiences within the world. Even the character that’s supposed to be a boring straight-faced character manages to be charming in many aspects. They all go through their story arcs and have some beautiful, emotional scenes well worth watching.
Okay, enough about the sappy stuff; it’s time to transition into the gameplay aspect of Atelier Sophie 2. This game focuses mainly on having players learn a more intricate turn-based system that also makes sure players are focused. While the term “Turn-based” might make some RPG players wince, I believe a lot of things can be done with it to improve what seems to be a very straightforward formula. The Trails series can pretty much be proof of that.
Atelier Sophie 2 handles combat in the following way: battles take place with three characters on the frontline and three characters acting as backup. Each time a character attacks, they gain TP, which can be used to swap characters mid-battle through Twin Actions. Twin Actions can be used both offensively and defensively, depending on the battle situation.
When you use Twin Actions offensively, you can have two characters use their skills back-to-back with a reduced MP cost. When using them defensively, you can have the character come in to block the incoming attack and take reduced damage from an enemy attack. While this sounds simple, there are a lot of occasions where I have prioritized one over the other. This is a far more tactical approach that requires you to constantly pay attention to what’s going on in the field.
But, if you wanted another excuse to be focused on the battle, you look no further than the next addition to Sophie 2’s combat: Auras. Auras essentially act like LUFENIA orbs in Opera Omnia; they have the enemy react toward what you do. Some auras increase resistance to magic attacks, some add an immediate reaction attack toward an elemental attack, and so on.
Once you destroy an enemy’s aura, their weaknesses become accentuated, and they also become stunned. In other words, they will spend one turn completely paralyzed while recovering. At this juncture, it’s best to unleash your most powerful Twin Action attacks. Eventually, you also gain access to Dual Triggers, which can completely decimate enemies when used correctly.
Atelier Sophie 2 has a stronger emphasis on buffs and debuffs (which made it painful to go through during the early game where the only cleanser was pretty much locked) than in other titles in the series. It’s vital to put a lot of debuffs on the enemy because they certainly won’t hesitate to put some annoying ones onto you, like Sleep or Doom, which have become my worst enemies.
This emphasis on the more technical aspects of battle can help you turn the tide of any battle you find yourself in if you play the game strategically while addressing the strengths and weaknesses of your characters. Olias’s Accuracy- debuff was a lifesaver against a lot of AoE attacks from enemies, and Alette’s Random Buff skill gave me some incredibly broken buffs like Health Regen.
I recommend players to focus on placing debuffs on enemies more than hitting weakness damage. A good player will be doing both effectively, but debuffs can pretty much prevent the enemy from giving you too much trouble and having your party barely survive. But even then, if you find the game too difficult (or easy) for you, you can always turn the difficulty up and down on the settings at any time.
While massively intricate despite being supposedly simple, combat is a small part of the true meat of the game, which consists of exploration and material synthesis. The world of Atelier Sophie 2 is massive and sprawling, with a lot of delicious materials to collect. This is a Gust RPG, after all, so that means there will be a lot of crafting and material gathering between battles.
As you progress through the game, you gain access to more areas, which means that you also get the chance to get even more materials to create new items. Each map is divided into different areas, and you have to use tools to gather certain materials from the world. You’ll find yourself using pickaxes, bug nets, and even your own staff to collect the materials that the world has to offer.
Once you gain access to different Dreamscape Stones, you will also get to change the weather in certain areas. This, in turn, gives you more possibilities to explore both new and old areas. While gathering items can become quite monotonous, the variety of areas to explore and the different weathers can at least soften the blow a bit.
After you’re done beating your head against a wall trying to get the Devil’s Kiss you wanted or reaching an arbitrary limit in your basket because picking up everything you see is a sin, it’s time to return to the Atelier to synthesize all of those materials you’ve been collecting and turn them into items. Sophie is an alchemist, after all, so we must do some alchemy.
Atelier Sophie 2 brings back the ever so time-consuming Synthesis Board. For those unaware, the Synthesis Board allows players to place different colored shapes representing the game’s elements (Wind, Thunder, Fire, Ice, and Light). The goal is to fill out the board as much as possible while using materials of specific elements to increase the stats of the item you’re creating.
This system essentially works like a puzzle game that feels so satisfying to get right. When you get the best effects alongside boosts from your comrades, you feel like you’re on top of the world. Even more so when you manage to get a Super Success and increase the item’s quality. I think I spent the most time messing around with item crafting than battling or exploring the world.
Honestly, I believe that this is the best Synthesis system in the entire series. While the material collecting can get a tad annoying and repetitive, it certainly is more than made up for when you start making incredibly useful items. Not just for combat but also for overworld uses. The better the quality (and stats) your item is, the bigger the rewards you get.
I believe I gushed about Atelier Sophie 2 for long enough. In short, the game is quite incredible at how much it does right. I just can’t seem to find much in the way of negatives when it comes to the game. Maybe we can regard the emphasis on Synthesis and material collecting over the actual combat of the game as a negative, but that’s ultimately up to preference.
The game does suffer some legitimate pacing issues, though. While heading off to certain areas or shops, I was interrupted by a random cutscene that builds upon certain characters. Some of which aren’t even related to the party. This became annoying because some of those scenes happen inside the Atelier itself, which meant that I had to watch them interact before synthesizing an item I needed to either clear a quest or replenish my item usages for my partners.
Also, while it certainly isn’t as outrageous as Blue Reflection: Second Light (or the first Blue Reflection), it seems like Gust can’t really help themselves sometimes and gives us some characters that look like they’re just there more for the eye candy than anything else. At the very least, the main cast (AKA the characters glued to you 80% of the adventure) don’t have this issue.
But here’s the thing. I’m describing these positives as if they were made for a new player. When it comes to giving veteran players some new stuff, this is where I believe the game falters slightly. The plot doesn’t have much development outside of a few key areas, and the way certain events are left as references made me feel a bit alienated.
Don’t get me wrong. I like the way Sophie and Firis are connected to each other. But I certainly could’ve used a way more different plot to what’s supposed to be a sequel in this series. Atelier Ryza 2 certainly didn’t feel afraid of moving to different places, so why the heck wouldn’t Sophie do so?
Regardless of my complaints, Atelier Sophie 2 does many things right to warrant a recommendation. It’s a great entry-level RPG with some intricate systems that will keep you entertained. The turn-based system might be a turn-off for some players, but I believe that we could work more with this genre, and Gust seems like they are willing to experiment more with it.
Let’s just hope that the journey to the future of the Atelier series becomes just as great.
Reviewed on PC (code provided by the publisher).
- The combat is quite intricate and has a deep emphasis on strategy
- The Synthesis Board makes a triumphant return and is as engaging as ever
- It's a fantastic experience that new players can easily get into even with no knowledge of the series
- The plot is somewhat inconsequential for a sequel
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