Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book

I've never been a huge fan of turn based combat, with the exception of Heroes of Might and Magic and a small handful of other games, nor have I gone for the 'Anime' type either, other than Dragon Ball Z of course. So you can clearly see that I am fully qualified to be talking about a game such as Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book.

Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is not only a mouthful of a title, it's also a curve ball of a game. I'll start by saying you'll need a good five hour session to get into the thick of it to figure out all the ins and outs of the gameplay and story. The game is fairly simple and the title says it all. You're a girl called Sophie, you are an amateur Alchemist who has her own atelier (workshop or studio) and one day discovers a mysterious book. I know, I was amazed also.

It's a pretty simple set up, at the beginning we find out Sophie's grandmother has passed away, she was a master Alchemist, therefore it only makes sense that Sophie wants to follow in her footsteps. Upon coming up with an Alchemy recipe Sophie goes to write the recipe in an old book of her grandmothers and the book springs to life. Able to fly/levitate and talk, the mysterious book informs Sophie that it/she/he (who is called Plachta) was the grandmothers Alchemy book, but has very little memory of the recipes it once had written in it.

As Sophie ventures out into the world she meets new characters, opens up new areas to explore and finds new items to craft new alchemy recipes from. This part of the game does become somewhat of a lullaby, or in other words, puts me to sleep. Most of the dialogue to this game is written and where some of the stories in it are fairly solid, they are very simple also and come with a lot of reading. Sometimes the reading can also be pointless and for example the shop owner's store serves alcohol and meals at night because the town's people called for it. This wouldn't be such an issue if it was a spoken dialogue but the fact they make me read it is a little frustrating.

With every action you get a progress bar towards Plachta (the ever mysterious book) remembering a recipe it had written in it once and unlocking the next progression of the story, which could include the introduction of a new character or area. Generally I found myself adventuring to all accessible parts of the map, collecting what I could, fighting what enemies I could until death. Death then respawns you back at the atelier, much like Pokémon's famous "the player blacked out" death function. Each time I did this however I would have a cut scene and a story progression, so if you don't go out and die like I did and you actually revisited the atelier I'm sure the story would progress a little more naturally for you.

The two areas of the game you will get the most excitement from is the Alchemy (crafting) and the combat. The Alchemy side of things is very simple, learn recipes by collecting items in the world and getting an idea or having Plachta remember them. Once a recipe is known to Sophie, it's a simple matter of putting the right ingredients together to create it. It's all self explanatory and right in front of you. However to ensure it doesn't get boring and to pose some challenge, the quality of the item can be increased by adding higher quality items and also placing them in the correct position in the 'puzzle' type part of the crafting. Achieving a good ingredient combo can also allow you to put secondary effects into the potions/battle items such as poison effects and sleeping, or even self boosting effects such as extra damage or defence.

I hate to use the term 'typical' of the combat as I'm no turn based specialist but I have played enough turn based games to say Atelier Sophie is at least very similar to most turn based games. You've got the main character Sophie and 3 other buddies in her party who you collect along the way. They vary from spell casting types to warriors and everything in-between, using melee attacks, ranged, spells or abilities and battle items like potions and buffs. Enemies vary from coloured blobs on the ground to massive demon like beasts who really explode the difficulty curve right into your face and make you realise you weren't as amazing as you thought you were. There is also an attack timeline on the screen to show you in what order your characters and the enemy will attack so you can plan around that. Some abilities will also make the character attack maybe earlier or later than they would have if a standard attack was used. The introduction of new usable characters and a simple levelling up system make sure it's simple enough for most people to grasp but I do feel seasoned RPG players may want for something more.

I have played this game for a good amount of hours now and only feel like I've touched the surface, which is great for getting your money's worth. Unfortunately this may be one of the only reasons you will as the price tag on Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is a fairly hefty $89 in most stores. I don't sneeze at the price tag, I only wonder how it will perform sales wise at that price. The graphics are of an anime nature so quite simple, the controls are mediocre, being that its focus isn't really the exploration of big areas, I can get past that but lacking in the graphics department and not being as captivating as an $89 game probably should be is what worries me. Fans of JRPGs, anime or most turn based games will most likely enjoy this game and have a better understanding of its angle of attack than I did, at least I hope they do.

Being one game of many in a series of Atelier games I'm sure it will do well. Japan alone has probably made enough sales before the game's English release to ensure its success. I had fun with it and can see others will do the same. From a personal point of view I can't see myself buying it, however I can respect anyone that does and enjoys it. It's not up with a lot of the AAA titles we are seeing coming to PS4 but it's certainly a good step up from some of the rubbish that is also circulating. All in all it's a solid game, it plays well, does its genre justice and has plenty of gameplay hours in it to get that dollar per hour ratio up that a lot of people these days seem to focus on. Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book releases in Australia on Friday the 10th of June on PlayStation 4 and PS Vita.

Get this game or not, it's up to you. It just wasn't my cup of sake. Neeko.

  • Plenty of gameplay hours
  • Intuitive crafting
  • Too much reading
  • Low end visuals
  • Relatively high retail price
SCORE: 6 out of 10
  • Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Playstation 3
  • Genre: Role Playing Game / Turn Based Combat
  • Initial Release: 19th November 2015 
  • Developer: Gust Co. Ltd.
  • Publisher: Koei Tecmo
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