It’s time to blend together a few carefully selected prime ingredients and mix up a brand-new thrill-packed, exhilarating adventure!
Developer: KOEI TECMO
Publisher: KOEI TECMO
Release Date: 27 Mar, 2018
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is the final chapter in the Mysterious arc of the Atelier series from Koei Tecmo. The first entry found us observing Sophie’s trials and tribulations as she became an alchemist like her grandmother through the help of a Mysterious Book. She then went on and aided Firis on her Mysterious Journey to become a certified alchemist. Now the Mysterious trilogy is coming to an end with the competitive Lydie and Suelle as they attempt to become the greatest Atelier in the kingdom via their adventures into the Mysterious worlds found within paintings.
I actually played this series in an unusual order, I played Atelier Firis first, then went back to play Atelier Sophie, now about a year later I have finally been able to play the concluding chapter: Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings. Playing the series out of order made the transition between games actually make more sense to me. Atelier Sophie had you visiting a world map that you could slide around to go to your destination. In that game, once you picked where you wanted to go, you just pressed the button and you entered that area. Time would pass as you slid around and why that is important will come into play later. In Atelier Firis the world map was practically done away with because now Firis had to wander through each area to find the exit to the next area. You couldn’t just warp ahead to your next destination, you actually had to find your way there. Now Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings goes back to a system sort of similar to the one found in Sophie, however it actually feels like it should have been a precursor to Sophie. You simply select the destination on the map you want to go to and presto you appear there. Time still is spent moving there, but there is no need to slide around the map, you can warp around almost freely. Now that system actually makes sense for this game because you are not only going to places in the real world, you are also going to places located within the Mysterious Paintings which are not directly connected to each other.
The Mysterious Arc of the Atelier series all have a similar playstyle on the surface. Each game takes what made the previous game good and refines and adds to it. I would say Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is almost the definitive game of the Mysterious Arc if wasn’t for the fact I liked the interconnectedness of Firis a little better. Mind you at the time I was wishing I could quickly go to a newly available area rather than walking to it when I had trouble finding my way, but once I was back on track it was actually nicer. The basics of the gameplay is you take your characters of choice out into a zone and forage and hunt for components to be used in alchemy. Alchemy is your primary source of new items in this game, and you can customize those items almost to your taste based on the components you selected to construct the item and what traits you select for it. Alchemy actually is kind of complicated as each of the components you can pick have different colors, shapes, quality, and traits even if it on the surface appears to be a duplicate item. The alchemy field can also be modified to take on different properties and sizes depending on what catalyst you use for your mix. The nice thing about this game, unlike the previous ones, is that you don’t have to grind out levels nearly as much as I had to in the previous titles. There is enough supplementary work given to you by NPCs or quests that your alchemy level is generally high enough to make anything you currently need to progress the story without having to grind out too many extra items. There was only once that I actually found myself sitting at the cauldron just making random items to raise my level and that was technically my fault. One of the NPCs (who is in the previous title as well) offers to refill your items for you for a small fee. I opted to make a few really high quality and good traited items that I commonly used and just let her restock them for me. This meant I was no longer replacing the items I used with fresh items thus reducing the amount of alchemy I was doing.
Moving around the environment is simple, the mini-map shows you the shape of the area you are in which makes it easier to navigate your way around. Anything that is harvestable is obvious as you run around. Sparkles come off plants and rocks you can collect. Fallen logs and larger mineable rocks and crystals are quite noticeable. Fishing, water sources, and chests show up on the mini-map as well as show up clearly in the environment. The enemies and communicate-able NPCs are also quite obvious. From the generic NPCs which are generally found in the only town in this game that you will get general topical comments. You can enter into longer fully voiced discussions with the main NPCs. Unimportant NPCs generally don’t move around but key NPCs have their portraits showing on the town map to help you find where they are. When out in the field, the enemies will move around peacefully until they happen to notice you then an alert will pop over their head and they will begin to pursue you. Should you come in contact with an enemy either by walking into them, them running into you, or you hitting them with your weapon/foot you will engage in combat.
Combat is turn order based. The right side of the screen shows the order in which the combat will play out barring any speed altering abilities. Depending on how much punishment is dealt to an enemy or character, a yellow circle will fill around their portrait. When the circle is completely filled in the character will get stunned and unable to take a turn until they are either attacked, enough time passes, or an ability/item is used on them to wake them back up. Besides your basic combat found in the previous games in the series or turn-based combat games in general, you also have the ability for tag team play. At any given time, you can have up to three characters in combat with another three waiting in reserve. If at any time you want to swap the characters with the one behind you can switch when that character’s turn comes up, however, it costs you that character’s turn. Should that character fall in battle, the one behind it will rush into the fray. The nice thing about it though is that any characters in the back row don’t just sit around twiddling their thumbs. They slowly regenerate their health and magic power as well as provide support to the character in front of them if they are compatible. For example, Lydie will heal and replenish magic of the person in front of her and will sometimes cast a mass defense boost on the team as well if she is compatible with the person in front of her and that person used a compatible skill. Another thing they do is slowly build up a powerful move that the two characters then make together assuming both characters know that move. There is a level of complexity to the combat as well and that is immunity and weaknesses. Thankfully, the game tells you if an enemy is immune or weak to something before you attack them with it. If they are immune it doesn’t mean it won’t do damage, but it means it won’t do as much damage as it potentially should. It’s generally advisable if possible, to use an item that the enemy is shown to be weak against instead of one it is immune to. The last bit I want to mention is field effects. Field effects come into play if the area you are on has special conditions on it. You can see them displayed on the upper right. If you meet those conditions the field effect will trigger automatically. It may be a good thing or a bad thing but it is spelled out to you what will happen before you trigger it. Due to being excited about being in a really fun looking new area, I actually forgot to check to see what the new field effects were for the area and quickly found all my mana points gone leaving me unable to cast any magic/abilities.
Let’s discuss the time and environments a little now. First off, unlike in Firis, by and large the calendar doesn’t matter. In Firis you had to be mindful of the clock as you had a test to get to and if you missed it well it was probably game over. I say probably game over because I rushed so much to ensure I would reach the destination in time that I ended up having a ton of days left over and never actually witnessed what happens if you don’t make it. For Lydie and Suelle, outside of a competition with their father, there really isn’t a time limit. If you take missions off the notice board you sometimes have a time limit, and that appears to really be the only place time matters. I have missed a deadline or two there simply because it looked like I had plenty of time. Alas, by the time the clock spun forward as I went to the appropriate area and it spun again on my way back, accompanied by the unfortunate auto-time progressing event that occurred in the Atelier, I missed by deadline by a few minutes. This got me a thorough scolding by the lady. Time of day does matter in this game though. Monsters and resources gathering spots change as the time of day changes. The encyclopedia might tell you that an item you need is located in a certain zone but you can walk through it endlessly and never find it if you are there at the wrong time of day. Weather events also occur in this game but as far as I can tell that is mostly atmospheric. For the most part, although there are some very similar themes, most zones you visit are fairly unique. To differentiate the real world from the painted world, there is a special effect put around the edges of your screen while within a painting. For the most part the same materials can be found in multiple zones, but the zone it came from seems to have some effect on the properties of the material. There are also materials that appear to be unique to certain zones, but for the most part those are uncommon. The game made mention that sometimes when you revisit a mysterious painting that they change, but I never really noticed the changes myself. It’s quite possible they do change, but my observance skill isn’t high enough to notice.
As in the previous games, there is a lot to do when visiting your Atelier. It’s where you make all your alchemical items, the only place where you can save your game (and the only place you can exit the game without Alt-F4). You can change the background music you encounter and you can even change your outfits if you have any outfits to change into. Just hanging around your Atelier and crafting things will cause events to sometimes occur where NPCs will come visit you. It serves as a nice distraction and helps make the game world feel more alive. Speaking of NPC encounters, there are plenty of optional dialogues you can enter into if you pay attention to your city map. Some of these will lead you to quests you can complete as well.
In Sophie, the goal was to fill the mysterious book with new recipes, in Firis the goal was to write and pass the alchemy certification test in time and in Lydie and Suelle the goal is to raise your Atelier rank. Raising your rank is fairly easy when you start out. Basically, you just need to do actions you likely would have done anyway until you bang off enough of the reputation raising tasks in order to do your qualification test. That test is usually to craft an item or to perform an action such as killing a monster somewhere. Once completed you rank up, unlock a new Mysterious Painting to explore and the whole process starts over again. Eventually the tasks become more challenging to complete but there are enough of them that you can generally get through them without too much grinding or effort (other than the fishing ones, I had terrible luck with those ones!) In Atelier Lydie and Suelle it actually feels like it is a series of little stories that are loosely interconnected. At one point in time, an evil god arrived and I assumed I must be reaching the end of the game, but it turns out I wasn’t even halfway through the game. Firis was actually sort of similar, when you beat the game, there was still a lot of new content to visit. At the time of writing this, I am over 50 hours into the game and feel like I am only now starting to enter the final stretch of the game. The story has enough material in it and there is enough lore to keep the game interesting. It was actually quite hard to stop playing the game long enough to write this review as I really wanted to keep going, but that is what deadlines are for.
Graphically the game is remarkably good considering the system requirements are not that demanding. All of the characters are highly detailed and unique enough looking that you can easily tell them apart. The monsters are all highly detailed, even the humble Puni (a kind of gumdrop looking monster). Each time you change your weapon, the weapon changes in appearance when being held by your character. I didn’t notice any difference when I equipped other pieces of gear, but that really isn’t needed considering the fact you can change their clothes if you get tired of their current look. You can also switch between which of the sisters you want to play with. Lydie the more bookish traditional alchemist who uses a staff as her weapon, or Suelle, the tomboy who likes to kick things and shoot guns. While this isn’t exactly graphical in terms of how good something looks on screen, I feel this next bit fits this section. A few familiar faces show up in this game and take up a prominent role in the game. Of those familiar faces, Firis and Sophie are the most interesting. The reason for that is that, and perhaps it is just my imagination, is they have both matured more in appearance since we last see them. The other characters to me look like they could just be the models used in the previous games, but I swear Firis and Sophie have aged, in the very least Firis has grown taller. If that is the case, it’s actually a really nice bit of attention to detail that the developers put into the game to show time passing.
The music in this game is wonderful. Each area has its own atmospheric tune which really helps set the mood. The arrangements all work really well and I have to say it’s one of the few games where I didn’t need to go back to double check if it actually had any background music that I liked before commenting on the background music. Sometimes the music is so generic that I tend to tune it out or simply forget it existed because it wasn’t very memorable. The sound effects are on par with the previous games, nothing that stands out as extra attention-grabbing, but it still worked very well for the game. The only real complaint I have with this game is the fact the previous two games in the Mysterious trilogy were dubbed in English. This one only had English subtitles. I found that to be a bit disappointing and strange since it seemed weird to deviate during a trilogy arc. All of the characters sounded wrong to me because I was familiar with their English voices, but in time I grew accustomed to it. Despite not having a clue what the characters were saying besides what the text boxes told me, it seemed to me that the voice acting was quite well done. Each character had a dynamic range of emotions they conveyed. I also have to admit I particularly liked Lucia’s laugh. Her and Ilmeria are to be available as DLC later, but I truly wish I would have had them as I played through the game.
I played this game exclusively with a gamepad and I can say that the controls in this game worked really well. There was nothing that seemed illogically placed or excessively difficult to input. Both the keyboard and gamepad buttons can be easily rebound should you find something in an awkward place. The settings menu shows the Xbox button and the corresponding button/letter next to it so it isn’t a challenge to figure what buttons do what. Interacting with the game, the only thing I ever had trouble with were sometimes treasure chests that spawned after killing a monster would spawn in a place I couldn’t access or I would need to finely move my character until the opening prompt would flash on the screen. Similar issues occurred when fishing or gathering water that you would be in the right place but not on the spot you needed to stand in order to trigger the action prompt. Ignoring those niggling issues, the game controlled flawlessly.
So, should you consider picking up Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings? If you played the previous titles in the Mysterious Arc, then yes you most certainly should. If you can get past the fact they won’t speak to you in English anymore, then you will likely find this to be arguably the best one in the trilogy. If you are looking to play an Atelier title but have never played one before, you can easily start with Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings. The game lets you know who was in previous games, but if you never played those games, you will simply learn about those characters as Lydie and Suelle do. I mean, spoiler alert, Plachta used to be Sophie’s book but got turned into a doll-person. You won’t know that if you never played Atelier Sophie (where it happened) or Atelier Firis (where it was mentioned). You would learn that Plachta was a doll when you met her disembodied head on Sophie’s workbench as Sophie gave her a tune-up. You would likely assume, much like Lydie and Suelle, that Plachta has just been murdered by Sophie. So, I can honestly say it will be great for either previous players or new players alike. Now if you will excuse me, I left something in the Alchemy cauldron and it should be just about done now. I better get back to it right away!