Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream (PS4) Review | via PS4 BC

The popular, yet niche Atelier franchise is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year – having released 23 main games and countless remasters, remakes, side games and enhanced ports on numerous platforms. It’s a fantastic achievement, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing every game which was released on the PS4, seeing how the developers have expanded upon the core mechanics whilst creating new experiences with every new title. However, rather than marking this milestone by continuing the current ‘Secret’ series, Atelier Ryza, we’ve been given a sequel to one of my favourite games from the ‘Mysterious’ series, Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream.

Although Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream is a sequel to the original Atelier Sophie, you don’t need any prior knowledge if you’re new to the series or coming in from having played the incredibly popular Atelier Ryza games. The game itself is self-contained with new characters and stories to explore, but there is also a ‘catch up’ on the main menu which tells you all the key events which happened should you wish to know more.

I’ve been playing Atelier Sophie 2 for about a week now, having completed the main story, maxed out all of my characters, synthesised every possible item, and obtained all but two trophies. I’d even go as far as saying that this is the best Atelier game I’ve played, due to the new mechanics and addictive gameplay. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. So, let’s take a closer look at why you should pick this up today if you’re a fan of the franchise or the JPRG genre…

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How exciting!

As stated above, Atelier Sophie 2 is the direct sequel to the first game, taking place between that game and Atelier Firis. However, unlike previous sequels and new titles in the same series, you don’t bump into characters you’ve met previously, including NPCs, other than Plachta who remains by your side as your Alchemy Mentor. That’s not to say you won’t stumble upon familiar faces and people who are linked to the two protagonists, but they’re not ones that you will have seen before.

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Sophie and Plachta have left their home of Kirchen Bell, searching for a way to make Plachta human again – her soul was trapped within a book in the first game, so Sophie created a life-sized doll for her to claim as a temporary body. Whilst out exploring, they stumble upon a great tree which is identical to one which Plachta had previously dreamt about – as they get closer, a vortex opens and pulls the two Alchemists in! Upon awakening, Sophie realises that she’s all alone, Plachta was nowhere to be found despite both entering the portal at the same time.

Sophie does what she does best and befriends some friendly inhabitants, learning that she’s in a curious new world called Erde Wiege. They tell her that they know of Plachta and her Atelier, guiding Sophie back to her friend. However, despite being a very uncommon name, their Plachta is much younger, less experienced and above all, human! With the help of her new friends, Sophie sets out to find her mentor whilst helping them out with their monster troubles and exploring this strange world.

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Nobody can match Sophie

Gameplay
If you’ve played an Atelier game before, you’ll know exactly what to expect with Atelier Sophie 2 – you’ll spend your time exploring, synthesising, beating up enemies, and completing tasks in order to build your relationships and earn money within the town. However, there are a number of new and improved mechanics that makes the whole experience feel fresh and advanced, especially if you’re coming into this game straight from the original Atelier Sophie (or the DX edition).

The hours will simply fly by once you really get into the groove, every element of gameplay is addictive and you’ll easily find yourself obsessed with completing the recipe book, finishing tasks for the locals, and gathering all of the ingredients so you can further improve the gear and items you have to make you stronger. I personally never found any need to grind or go out of my way, other than to collect items so I can create certain things. However, I did find myself stuck at a few points, unable to proceed due to not being able to mine or gather the required resource – after many hours of trying, it turned out I just had to upgrade my tools… 

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As you explore the various locations in Erde Wiege, you’ll unlock many, many sub-areas that are well-sized and populated with enemies, ‘puzzles’, large open areas, big boss creatures, and lots of gathering points. Although Atelier Sophie 2 isn’t an open-world game, I was very impressed with how big some of these areas were, not to mention how multi-layered they are thanks to the initiative weather mechanic the game introduced. 

That’s the general gist of the gameplay, you explore the world, unlock new areas, gather resources, craft new items in your Atelier, then return to the field to either use them or face enemies you were too weak to engage previously. But, there’s much more to the game than a single line, so let’s dive deeper…

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Shoot the bonuses before time runs out!

Exploring and Gathering
A lot of your time in Atelier Sophie 2 will be split between synthesising and exploring. First of all, unlike pretty much every game out there, Sophie keeps some of the abilities you had to unlock or enhanced in the first game – you can now see what the resources will be before you gather them, for example. This means you don’t have to aimlessly wander around hoping you randomly find the one item you need for your next creation. You initially have the ability to see and obtain one type of resource per gathering spot, but once you upgrade your tools and abilities, you can see and grab up to three types from a single spot.

Speaking of gathering points, there are now ‘big’ gathering spots to harvest, one type for each of your various tools- these require playing a simple mini-game in order to enhance the resource you’re trying to grab. For example, if using your slingshot to shoot down an item then you need to repeatedly shoot at moving symbols, fishing requires you to hold a button and release it at the right time while also moving the fish over the boost you want, and smashing a rock requires you to hold and release a button whilst a pointer spins around a set of icons quite fast. 

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What are these ‘symbols’? You can increase the quality, quantity, additional elemental traits or simply obtain an amount of money along with the resource. This fun new feature allows you to plan and strategise not only what resource you wish to gather, but also what additional bonuses you want without leaving it to a random choice made by the game. 

I loved wandering around the world in Atelier Sophie 2, each area has its own distinct design, the outdoors were very colourful and bright, and there was no time limit! Yes, the time does increase as you move about the map and synthesis in the Atelier, but there’s no strict timer or quests with a time limit you have to meet – you can play the game at your own pace without any stressful need to rush and/or look up guides beforehand so you don’t miss anything (unlike some of the previous games in the franchise).

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Turn-based fun

Combat and Abilities
Despite looking very similar, Atelier Sophie 2 has taken the combat to the next level. The core mechanics are the same as you’d expect, it’s a turn-based JRPG where you choose your actions along a timeline based upon the speed of both your characters and the enemies. However, there are a number of new features which elevate the battles and enhances the experience, whilst also making some of them slightly annoying.

First of all, the party is formatted with three characters in the front and three in the back, you don’t have to think about which characters will be in the party as there are only six in total this time around. If you’re in the frontline, you can attack, use abilities, or throw items – as usual – but the rear companions do nothing until called upon. When someone is about to get hit, you can swap them out freely for a supporting back-bencher, reducing the amount of damage they take as they tag themselves in. Alternatively, you can attack with a Twin Action move, teaming up with one of the supporting characters, both attacking, then the two swapping positions once the damage has been done.

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Similarly, once you’ve increased a ‘DT’ meter to the max (by attacking enemies), you can partner up with any other character and perform a much more powerful Dual Trigger attack – delivering potentially thousands of points of damage or fully restoring everyone’s health.

In regards to the ‘annoying’ aspect I mentioned above, enemies now begin combat with one of them shielded. Now, I enjoyed these as they require you to perform certain attacks to reduce the shield’s power so it shatters, then plummeting the enemy with attacks whilst they’re dizzy (as you deal more damage at this point). However, it can get frustrating when you constantly have to assess the shield, ensure you have abilities that can weaken it, and then reduce it to zero before you can make an impact whilst attacking them – especially on bosses where their health is massive as it is!

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Nothing quite like fishing in the rain!

Weather and Time
The weather plays a very important part in Atelier Sophie 2, not only in regards to the resources you’ll find but also the enemies and solving environmental puzzles. Initially, you’ll have no control over what the area you enter is like, but you’ll soon be asked to craft a stone that gives you the power to make it rain or return to being sunny. Later on, you’ll unlock other effects such as snow and lightning storms as well. This new ability (limited by the number of charges you have) allows you to fill up ravines with rainwater then freeze them so you can walk over the frozen lake, power up doorways with electricity so they open, and summon the sun to evaporate the water so you can walk on the river bed.

It’s a really fun mechanic that requires you to think about the area you’re in and how you can proceed to unreachable pathways.

As stated above, the weather also changes which enemies appear and also what items can be obtained by gathering, so you need to be mindful of what the criteria is if you’re looking for a specific monster or item. The time of day doesn’t appear to impact the appearances as much as it did in previous games, as it’s all based around the weather instead. However, you can swap the time of day by sleeping in the Atelier, at a campsite, or by moving around to various locations. 

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I mentioned above how Atelier Sophie 2 has multi-layers to the areas – this is due to the weather. You can use the L1 and R1 buttons to flick between the various weathered versions of the map you’re on, seeing how different weather affects the way it looks and what passages open and/or close.

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Place the elemental pieces to increase quality and unlock effects

Synthesis
This wouldn’t be an Atelier game if there wasn’t a big focus on synthesising new items, armour, weapons, and accessories. Just like everything else I’ve talked about so far, Atelier Sophie 2 has expanded upon and enhanced this mechanic when compared to previous entries in the franchise. I always find myself hooked to trying to unlock every recipe within the Atelier games and this was no exception, it was also much easier to figure out what you have to do to unlock each new recipe than it was in the first game, no more cryptic clues as it just straight-up tells you what to do. 

You start with a 5×5 grid, placing the Tetris-like shapes into it in order to increase the attributes for each of the elements they relate to, unlocking traits and effects within the object you’re trying to make. However, you’ll eventually begin to craft various catalysts which offer unique abilities within the cauldron, such as turning every square next to the one you drop into the same colour. As you re-craft these catalysts, you can push them to become bigger sizes and add new effects which’ll help you out in the late game.

Another difference is that crafting items can have multiple ‘pieces’, as well as being different elements, meaning you could have water with both blue ‘icy’ pieces as well as white ‘light’ ones. There are also enhanced squares on the grid which increases the effect of the piece placed there, as well as ‘links’ on the pieces which, when placed next to another link on the same element type, also increases the influence of that element in the item you’re creating. 

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If you want to just create an item fast and you don’t care about strategically placing the parts to get the highest level and quality out of it, you can select ‘auto place’ and it’ll just plonk all the pieces down within a matter of seconds (after you pick the resources to add). I used this a lot in the first half of the game, as I just wanted to unlock all of the recipes, but I eventually started placing everything myself as you get much better results by doing it manually. If you take your time with the mechanic, get to grips with how to merge traits, improve the catalysts, and filter your resources so you maximise the elements you need, then it’s very rewarding and satisfying to become absord within.

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There are lots and lots of quests – easy money!

A helping hand
Once you’ve been welcomed within the town, you can start to undertake jobs at the Inn. The more you complete, the happier the town becomes, allowing you to undertake ‘exams’ and increase your standing so you can take on more dangerous quests. These are all as you’d expect, gathering certain items, synthesising an item above a certain quality, or taking out certain enemies. Although they may seem a little repetitive, you can accept 10 at a time and you’ll complete most of them without even realising, resulting in you having more money than you know what to do with – I never ran out of cash in this game, unlike previous games.

Aside from the townsfolk asking for help, you’ll also get asked by your colleagues to give them a hand with similar requests. There are a few different ones, revolving around performing certain actions within combat, but it’s very similar. The main difference here is that you don’t get paid for completing these missions, you unlock ability points that you can spend on improving aspects of Sophie and her colleague’s actions. For example, you can gradually increase how much money you get from quests, increase your stats, and unlock being able to mine for rarer items.

Also, as you increase these ability skill trees, you’ll also unlock new abilities and passive traits for each character as you spend a certain number of points on anything – which felt like I was constantly improving all my characters and unlocking new abilities throughout the game. You eventually end up bonding with your character by completing their quests and then viewing their events around the town, unlocking the Dual Trigger abilities.

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Isn’t that a Pokemon?!?

Minor complaints
For the most part, I loved Atelier Sophie 2 – the story was interesting (continuing for about another 40 hours after I thought it was over), the combat was fun, the world is beautiful, and the dialogue was humorous. However, there were a few things I thought could have been done better and/or that I’m baffled by their omission from the latest entry in the franchise. First of all…

No English voice acting: I know a lot of people won’t feel the same as me, as they prefer to play Japanese games in Japanese with English subtitles. But, I really enjoyed the English voices in the original Atelier Sophie, so when I started a new game and found out the game only has Japanese as an option, I was kinda upset. I hope that we’ll see the addition of the language when the inevitable DX version releases on the PS5, but I’m not holding my breath.

It’s 30fps: This one annoys me as it seems Gust are the only studio at Koei Tecmo who aren’t embracing the new PS5 hardware (aside from Atelier Ryza 2). The first Atelier Sophie is 60fps on the PS4, so is the DX version – it may have had a few hitches on the PS4 itself but it’s a locked 60fps when played on a PS5. So why is Atelier Sophie 2 capped at 30fps with no unlock framerate option or flag to detect if it’s on a PS5? They did the same thing with Blue Reflection – the first game was 60fps and the second was 30fps. To further kick it whilst it’s down – the game looks like it’s only 1080p as well (although I could be wrong). 

In short – Atelier Sophie 2 and Blue Reflection 2 need a PS5 patch to unlock the framerate and bump up the resolution. It feels like they’re trying to be on-par with the Switch version, but technically they should be mirroring the PC version instead.

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Atelier Sophie 2 9

This is no joke, once you enter the final boss, you can’t seem to face them again…

Missable trophy: There’s one trophy I won’t be able to get for a while – defeating the end boss on very hard or higher. Why? I killed them on Easy and there doesn’t appear to be an option to go back and fight them again. As such, I’ll have to load an old save and then craft all my decent gear again, then head back to the end boss. I could be missing the option, but it appears they’ve overlooked including a difficulty trophy but not letting you return to try at the higher difficulty.

I’m lost: I got very lost whilst playing Atelier Sophie 2 a few times, being unable to proceed for literally hours as I looked for certain resources or enemies. Some of these were my fault, with the mission statement holding a clue on what to do next, but other times I had to return to previous areas and see if I had missed an exit due to nothing pointing me in the right direction. The longest time I got stuck was when I needed Silver Crystals – the only area that had them I couldn’t enter.

The answer, I had to improve my tools so the item appeared in other regions, but it wasn’t clear which element I should have used to increase the correct ‘efect’ – so I kept doing the wrong one!

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You can make some fun photos!

Technical
Atelier Sophie 2 is clearly the best looking Atelier game so far, I’d say it’s even better than Ryza 2 on the PS5. It’s all very colourful and playful with great character designs, effects during combat, and animations throughout. My only complaint has to be as I said above – it’s only 30fps and seems like it’s running at 1080p, even when played via BC on a PS5. I really hope the developers release a patch to unlock and improve both aspects as the game runs flawlessly on the PS5 meaning there’s overhead for improvements.

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As we’ve seen in prior Koei Tecmo games, the photo mode is incredible. It’s very robust and feature-rich, allowing you to enter the mode and then move your character, pose them, and set their facial expressions. but, that’s not all! You can also place every companion you’ve unlocked, pose them, and move them about, as well as import a few enemies which you’ve defeated – creating your own perfect diorama. This is on top of also setting the time of day, the weather, picking from a number of filters, and other standard photo mode options. 

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream is my new favourite Atelier game, it is a fantastic and perfect instalment to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the franchise. Every gameplay mechanic and process has been improved upon, making Sophie’s latest adventure feel very fresh, new, and even more exciting than usual. The story was engaging, introducing new characters that you’ll instantly fall in love with due to their strong personalities and abundance of charm. If you’re a fan of previous Atelier games or JRPGs in general, you really should check this out.

My only gripe is the lack of PS5 enhancements or improvements – 30fps shouldn’t be the target in 2022, Gust need to embrace the new hardware and use the available power to showcase how smooth and beautiful their games can be!

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream

£49.99
9.2

Final Score

9.2/10

The Good:

  • Interesting story which has you hooked throughout
  • It looks beautiful despite seemingly locked to PS4 hardware specs
  • The improved combat and crafting mechanics make the game feel new and fresh
  • The weather mechanics add a new layer to the gameplay
  • The music and voice acting are great, albeit only in Japanese

The Bad:

  • Runs at 30fps, even on a PS5 console (when the previous game was 60fps)
  • If you don't read the mission statements fully, you can get lost for hours and not know how to proceed with the story
  • No option to re-fight the final boss to grab a missable trophy
  • No English voices
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WiiWareWave
2 months ago

Incredible review dude! This was quite the read. Congratulations on starting your own review website, it’s quite an undertaking, but so enjoyable “especially when your community begins to grow!” If you’re ever interested in a friendly Nintendo and Sony centric website to chat at, feel free to check my community out! It may even give you some ideas for your website! I will check out some more of your fantastic reviews tomorrow! 😎