Atelier Firis DX Review: On the Road Again
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey DX is the big step forward Gust promised with the Mysterious trilogy but didn’t deliver with Sophie. It’s open-world — sort of — and builds Firis’ journey into a grand adventure. It's probably one of the series’ best-realized narrative arcs, despite stumbling with its character development.
One of the things Atelier Firis does best is making you feel like you’re on an epic adventure, although it works a little too well at first.
Atelier Firis DX Review: On the Road Again
Firis Mistlud lives in the town of Ertona. It’s a small berg like plenty of others, with the caveat that it’s underground and sealed off behind a giant door. The reason is a bit flimsy — monsters abound outside, though other cities exist just fine — but you get the idea.
Our protagonist is sheltered and also eager to break out and see the world, and you never want to see Ertona again by the time you’re finished either. Fortunately, the opening is the only plodding part of Atelier Firis, and the cameos from Atelier Sophie help alleviate some of the annoyance anyway.
Firis isn’t truly open world. The huge areas are still segmented, and you’ll have to move between them with a few loading screens to deal with. However, you’re free to go wherever you want on the map. The initial goal is earning three recommendations from experienced alchemists so Firis can take the certification exam and become an officially recognized alchemist themself. You’ve got an in-game year to do that.
How you spend your time and where you go is totally up to you, as long as you hit that main requirement eventually. The freedom and open structure work wonders for a series that’s usually quite limited in scope.
The Idea Point system from Sophie returns, but tasking you with doing “various things” to learn recipes works so much better with Firis’ structure.
Each area has a set number of quests tied to Firis’ education that pop up as you progress, from gathering certain items to defeating monsters. There are also random NPC travelers who have requests, along with potential party members you’ll encounter more often (more on that in a bit).
You learn more recipes in a shorter time than in Sophie because whatever you do, wherever you are, there’s so much to do that counts towards your new recipe requirements. Unlike Ryza and almost every other Atelier game, you’re not funneled along to the next objective either.
Of course, the things you’re doing aren’t new to Atelier. Gathering, synthesizing, and fighting cutesy-but-murderous creatures are the core of Atelier. Your mileage will likely vary as to how fresh the new structure makes it feel. However, it helps that the time limit and gathering point system return, limiting how much you can do in one day so there’s always drive to keep trying or to plan your tasks efficiently.
The environment design is a step up from Sophie, though it’s hard going back to sparse environments after Ryza. Still, the DX version gets rid of the horrible framerate from the original, helping it feel more polished, at least with regards to performance.
To start with, Firis travels with their tough older sister Liane, but you’ll encounter several new companions at different points on your journey. They all have requests to fulfill that push you to expand your alchemy repertoire even further. They also have full quest lines you can take on after they join, and like some earlier Atelier games, you’ll receive different endings depending on who you spend the most time with.
The time limit disappears after Firis passes their examination test, and you’re free to pursue quests, optional bosses, and whatever ending might pique your curiosity.
That said, the characters in Firis aren’t… great. You could say the same for quite a few Atelier characters, though there’s usually some core element of the character that’s relatable or likeable.
In Firis, they’re sort of just models that speak words. I don’t like saying the characters and dialogue feel careless, but even the interactions between Liane and Firis are shallower than you’d expect from Atelier. Thank you, Liane. We get it. You think Firis is cute.
Anyway, it’s nice to see the multiple endings return, even if the payoff isn’t as satisfying as I’d have liked. Seeing Firis grow in confidence and as a person makes up for shallow interactions.
Combat in Firis is essentially the same as Sophie, just without the emphasis on offensive and defensive roles. You’ll line up your party in formations to maximize damage and protect weaker members, then unleash special skills once the bar is full.
Party member skills do have more and interesting effects this time, such as delaying enemy turns or inflicting lingering effects. Still, it’s definitely not Firis’ strong point and remains a far cry from the Dusk trilogy’s combat.
Crafting is another story. Sophie introduces a Tetris-adjacent synthesis system where each item takes up a set number and pattern of squares on a grid. Firis takes that even further by adding the catalyst system. You can augment most recipes using different items as catalysts, which change the layout and elements of the grid’s bonus lines.
It makes a significant difference to how you plan your synthesis and what items to use, not least because items themselves vary more widely in their grid shapes. Different qualities of the same item, for example, will sometimes have huge differences in the shapes they take.
It’s some of the best crafting in the series — or it would be if Lydie & Suelle didn’t exist, but you’ll need to read our review for that to find out why. The same caveat of “you don’t need most of these fantastical traits” applies, since Firis isn’t a hard game. Despite that, it’s fun and absorbing making the best items possible regardless.
Atelier Firis DX Review — The Bottom Line
- Fresh new structure more Atelier games should adopt
- Excellent synthesis system
- So much to do even after the main story ends
- The characters — please stop talking and go away
- Combat needed a refresh
- Some aspects, including the world design, feel less exciting now that the series has improved even further on them
Atelier Firis does one of the best jobs tying exploration in with its crafting and gathering systems. The characters are dreadful for the most part, true. However, there’s so much to do and see, and the crafting system is so strong, it’s worth enduring or just pressing the skip button to get back to the good parts.
Like Sophie, it doesn’t transform the series. Ryza improves on most of the things Firis experiments with too, but Firis offers a unique take on the series’ structure that's refreshing and engaging, despite its familiarity.
[Note: Koei Tecmo America provided the copy of Atelier Firis DX used for this review]