When it comes to video games I am a hypocrite. In the past I have chastised Activision for uncreatively releasing Call of Duty games every single year, but I myself buy Atelier titles on an annual basis. 2017 proved to be no exception with me purchasing Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey back when it came out in March. This latest entry in Gust’s long running JRPG series has players guiding teenager Firis Mistlud on a yearlong pilgrimage to the city of Reisenberg. Our heroine has 365 days to reach her destination and pass the exam held there in order to fulfil her dream of becoming an accredited transmutation expert. Should she fail to graduate before the deadline elapses Firis can kiss her tan goodbye, because she will be forced to spend the remainder of her days prospecting ore in a subterranean mining town.
Atelier Firis is in a way the Dark Souls of cutesy anime role playing games. The mysterious journey that Firis has set off on involves harvesting materials, confrontations with monsters and periodically resting at campfires. Unlike said FromSoftware game Firis doesn’t however consume the souls of her victims. Campfires are where the young alchemist replenishes her life points and plies her craft. Due to the nomadic nature of her quest, Firis doesn’t have a workshop located in town so she makes do with a portable atelier. From outside the atelier resembles a modest tent, but once you step inside a spacious building is revealed housing a bedroom, cauldron and quarters for Firis’ travelling companions. Just like a time lord’s Tardis! The innards are roomier than the exterior would have you believe.
The objective of Atelier Firis is to arrive at Reisenberg within the allotted time. Along the way Firis also has to secure recommendations from three licenced alchemists, in order to prove that she is capable of challenging the city’s alchemy exam. At first Firis is a novice who can only craft a limited number of things. By battling creatures, exploring the land, gathering ingredients and reading books she will however become more proficient – enabling her to create more items. Completing quests also rewards Firis with idea points, which can be spent on unlocking new alchemy recipes. In no time at all players will be able to fashion weapons, snacks and decorations for their abode. Alchemy is easy to master and so powerful. Perhaps I should recommend it to my pals Edward and Al, as a means of resurrecting their mom. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
My rating for Atelier Firis is four stars. It’s one of the better Atelier games I have played and a substantial improvement over its predecessor Atelier Sophie. The game’s biggest highlight would have to be its expansive open world. Unlike previous titles in the series, navigation does not involve teleporting between zones via the use of a board game like map. The journey from Firis’ birthplace of Eltona to Reisenberg will involve a lot of walking, so get your hiking boots on! I found the trek to be highly enjoyable, even if the sightseeing would have benefitted from stronger graphics. The game’s turn-based battle system is rather basic, but never mind because in Atelier RPGs combat usually plays second fiddle to crafting and funny cut scenes. If Firis were an anime it would be a slice of life show rather than an action packed shounen series.
One thing that is contentious amongst the Atelier fan base is the use of time limits. There’s a faction that likes the challenge of meeting a deadline whilst the other side abhors playing under that pressure. If you happen to fall in the latter camp don’t worry because Firis’ time limit is very generous. During my playthrough I reached Reisenberg with ample days to spare (over one hundred in fact.) In hindsight I should have taken some detours rather than hurry straight to the finale. Once the end-credits roll players have the option of completing unfinished quests at their leisure in the post game, so there is no need to fret over the story’s countdown. Don’t rush because, like a wise man once said, the journey is more important than the destination. Well, unless your name is Phileas Fogg. If it is getting to the finish line ASAP is kind of a big deal.