Along with Nights of Azure, Koei Tecmo has brought a title from a much-acclaimed franchise to PC. The first instalment of the Mysterious trilogy, Atelier Sophie delivers in terms of presenting a fantasy RPG that departs from a serious plot and instead focuses on a more light-hearted atmosphere.
Steam describes the game: “17th in the Atelier series. The budding alchemist Sophie of Kirchen Bell meets the Mysterious Book, Plachta, and embarks on a wonderful adventure of fulfilling dreams.”
Despite Atelier Sophie nowhere being close to the first Atelier game, no previous knowledge is needed and is in fact a great gateway into the franchise as it is the first part of a mini-storyline in Atelier, not to mention being the first Atelier game on PC. Similar to Harvest Moon or Rune Factory, the game focuses not on slaying enemies, but on crafting. With a more laid-back atmosphere, Atelier Sophie invokes mostly a slice-of-life setting in a fantasy world.
Nonetheless, as it is a JRPG, grinding is inevitable. However, instead of grinding levels to get stronger, the game’s grinding is more based on farming for materials. There are a myriad of items to craft, with even more items that can be synthesized. Not to mention the same item may possess different traits. Though it may be refreshing at first, there is a sense of tediousness later in the game in order to find the perfect items to craft with. Nonetheless, Atelier Sophie does spice things up by adding new items for the player to craft and try out, along with the criteria for acquiring recipes are sometimes unique. The crafting system is quite expansive so not always can one make the exact same item with the exam same ingredients.
To add on to the crafting system, Atelier Sophie has a feature in which time may affect the availability of certain items and even interactions with characters. As such, it is very important to pay attention as to whether it is day or night, or a weekday or a weekend. Thankfully, Sophie can take a rest in which players can adjust the time to his or her specific needs. The amount of time spent in a certain dungeon also affects the availability of items and even the types of enemies.
The game has various difficulty levels too. Although there may not be an achievement for choosing a certain difficulty, the quality of items and amount of experience gained increase alongside the difficulty level. The monsters themselves are not hard to beat, especially if the player is prepared with enhanced equipment and a stock of items, usually personally crafted.
The intriguing part of Atelier Sophie would be the character interactions within the town of Kirchen Bell. The amount of interactions with the vast amount of characters is what brings this game to life. Also, as friendship level goes up, events can be triggered to allow for even more fun with the different characters such as Monika and Oskar.
In terms of how well the port is to PC, personally, there are no problems found that drastically hindered enjoyment of the game when using an Xbox 360 controller. Screen resolution and the amount of shadows, for example, can be adjusted based on the specs of the computer. At 1080p, the graphics look quite gorgeous for a light-hearted JRPG.
Overall, Atelier Sophie is a great addition to the Atelier franchise. Despite the story being quite weak, the character interactions made up for that, especially between Sophie and Plachta. I’ll be looking forward to playing the sequel game Atelier Firis.