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Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey
Score: 82%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: KOEI TECMO America Corp.
Developer: GUST
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is the latest game in the Atelier series and the second in the "Mysterious" storyline. You will definitely see a lot of characters from the previous games.

When youíre in Firisí hometown of Ertona, it feels like a port from an older system, based on the graphics. Once you get into the outside world, it looks more vibrant for some reason. I canít really describe the difference, but you donít spend much time in Ertona though, so itís not a big deal. Atelier Firis is a very pretty game, but doesnít push the capabilities of the PS4 for sure. That could be partially because you can also play on the PSVita, so that limits things a bit, I think. Whatever the case, I was not blown away by the graphics. At times, the camera seemed to get stuck zoomed in when I was in a cave, so that it was hard to see where I was going. I realize that was probably because the cave passageways were narrow, but it would have made sense to make them wide enough that the camera could be moved a bit. Other than those places, I didnít run into any problems and I was pleased with the overall appearance of things. There were a variety of monsters, most of which you will recognize from previous games, which makes sense because they are in the same world. The characters are a bit varied in appearances, at least the playable characters. A huge portion of the NPCs look like clones of each other. There is at least one blonde woman in a red dress in every town and at least one man dressed in blue and silver, usually more than one. They could have used more variety in the NPCs, especially in places where the climates were vastly different.

Atelier Firis is in English with subtitles. I quite liked the voicework as they did a really good job. My only complaint is that there is not enough variety in their chatter after battle. Usually it is Liane that speaks and it feels like she always asks Firis "ÖAre you hurt? No? Good," even if Firis happened to die in that battle. I think that should qualify as hurt! I do like the music, though. The background music is pleasant and you can change your background music if you would like in the atelier. If you have previous Atelier games installed, then you will unlock their music as well.


Gameplay:
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey introduces us to Firis. She lives in a town called Ertona, which is inside the mountain, and itís a boring place. They are trapped inside, not allowed to leave, with no visitors. Firis Mistlud doesnít accept this. She has an ability to know exactly where to find ore, which is very handy in a mining town, but she want to see the world. Liane Mistlud is Firisí older sister. She is one of the few who gets to leave the town, since she is a hunter. Firis loves to hear her stories every time she comes home to bring food and supplies for the town. Lukas is their dad and Nicola is their mom. They both know how much Firis wants to leave, but they fear for her safety. As you can guess, circumstances arise that lead to Firis being allowed to go outside. There is one condition. You have 365 days to become a licensed alchemist. If you fail, you must come back to town, never to leave again. Once you are allowed to leave town (which you knew was going to happen or else it would be a very boring game), Liane, or Lia as you call her, will join you.

Firis was introduced to alchemy by Sophie. She and Plachta showed up in Ertona. Itís good to see Sophie and Plachta again! They now have a "tent" where you can take your alchemy on the road. Itís a bit like the Tardis, a whole lot bigger inside than out! Your tent will serve as your atelier, which is really handy. Youíve got a cauldron in there, as well as the diary where you can save your game, change the music, and even change your clothing once you get more outfits. Unfortunately, you canít just set your atelier up anywhere you like. You will have to find a campfire first and these are scattered out around the landscape. You will need to watch your LP as you travel. It will continually decrease as time moves and also as you gather items and fight monsters. If you donít make it to a campfire before your LP hits 0, you will automatically be returned to a campfire to rest.

As you travel, you will find more companions to join you. They might have things they need from you, like fixing a key for Revy Berger, or money in the case of Angriff (a mercenary who resembles Keithgriff enough that I wonder if they are related somehow). You can have five in your party at one time, four of which you can have in your fighting formation. You can talk to them at the tavern in towns to add one to your party, after they choose to join you. While you are on your trip, you will find merchants in towns and some even wandering in the wilderness. You can go see Logy for weapons (good to see him again, too). Youíll also run into various people for side quests. Talk to everyone because you never know who might have work for you. You will even find Meklet and Atomina in some places.

You do have a time limit, like some of the previous games, but it is only until you pass your exam. At that point, the time limit disappears and you are free to finish the game on your own time. I donít think that you have time to do every single quests that you run across on the way to the exam. You need three letters of recommendation to take the exam. Personally, I recommend that you get those letters, take the exam, and then youíre free to go back and finish the rest as you want. Then you donít risk missing the exam and failing the game. Fair warning, the exam is an actual test. You have 20 multiple choice questions, an alchemy portion, and a fighting portion. I donít know if you can actually fail it, but you can place third (out of three). Once you complete the exam, you get a long cutscene and credits, like it is the end of the game, but it is not. All your quests are still there waiting. Youíll also unlock Alchemistís shops after you pass your exam. After the exam, the real mysterious journey begins!


Difficulty:
There are several things that can make Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey more difficult on you. First off, you can accidentally run into monsters or areas that are WAY too difficult for you to beat at that time. Hopefully, you will be able to run away quickly enough, but be prepared to die. If you die, you will lose some of the stuff that was in your basket from gathering, but thatís about it. Youíll be returned to your atelier at a campfire. Still, it can be frustrating to not be able to put a dent in a monster.

We are back to time limits. I really did enjoy not having a limit in Atelier Shallie. Time passes when you gather items, fight, or walk/run. If you stand still, time doesnít pass, so you can put the controller down and not worry about running out of time. Luckily, as I mentioned, there is no time limit after you pass your exam and the time limit for that should be plenty. I did a whole lot of side quests on the way because I thought that would be the end of the game and I was trying to finish it all. I didnít get them all done for sure, but I got a lot done and still had time left over.

You need to watch for the weather. Bad weather can cause you a few problems, like fog. Fog makes it so that you canít really see much on the map, so you are more likely to run into monsters and less likely to find what youíre searching for. Alchemy can be a bit confusing at first. You will need to place your items in specific places to try and maximize what you want to get out of them. You will be able to use catalysts to make things easier on you and to make your items even better. I do recommend making yourself a pickaxe as soon as possible. Itíll make breaking up rocks a lot quicker, and since you do have a time limit, quicker is better!

You have a 1,000 item limit in your container. While that sounds like a lot, it fills up quickly when you want to keep some of everything because you donít know what you might need. Once you are able to decorate your atelier, you will be able to add items for storage. A safe will add 500 more items to that storage and you can add more than one safe if you want.


Game Mechanics:
I found Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey quite easy to get the hang of. Battle is turn-based, so you select what you want. You can easily see where everyone is on the turn list by the bar on the right side of the screen. (Triangle) brings up your Main Menu, which has all sorts of handy info. You can find a larger map there, plus see your basket, find info about your quests, items, and more. I found it quite handy to be able to look up an item that I already had to find out where it came from when I needed to find more. Use (Square) to swing your staff. You can use it to hit enemies first and break open things like boxes. (Touchpad) brings up a big map with everything labeled and shows you where to go for your quests. I really like how easy it is to change out a material when you are about to synthesize. You simply press (L1) and you can go see if you can find one that fits better with what you want.

Overall, I like Atelier Firis, but I am not in love with it. It feels to me like the balance between quests and fighting is a bit off. Maybe I just did not go the correct way, but it felt like I was always missing what I needed so Iíd spend forever looking for a specific item just for one quest. Of course, after the time limit was gone, this wasnít a problem because I could just go back to it later. I thinking playing it knowing that all I have to do is go take the exam and then I can do whatever whenever I want will be a lot less frustrating in the beginning.

If you are a fan of the series, you are definitely going to want to find out what happens in this chapter. If youíve never played the series before, I think you will still like it if you like RPGs. Just know that you can take that test as quickly as possible and then you are free from time limits.


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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