Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack
Developer: Gust Co Ltd
Publisher: Koei Tecmo Europe Ltd
Platform: PS4 (Also available on Switch, and PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 22/04/21
A code was provided for review purposes
If you’re like me and played many JRPGs, then you’d often know what to expect from them. A world-ending/dramatic plot, playing as some sort of chosen one, as well as a focus on combat. Well, throw your expectations away as that isn’t really the case here. The Atelier franchise, developed by Gust, is an expansive series that currently encompasses 22 main games. It sets itself apart from most others in the genre with its focus on alchemy, crafting, and time management.
The Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack consists of Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book DX, Atelier Firis: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Journey DX, and Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings DX. Boasting various quality of life improvements and additional content, this is the definitive way to experience this JRPG trilogy.
Living the Good Life
The trilogy takes place in different parts of the same expansive and picturesque land. Each game follows a similar premise, where the titular characters aim to become better alchemists. Sophie wants to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps. Firis wants to become an alchemist in order to have greater freedom in what she can do in life. Lydie and Suelle want to beat their rivals and run the town’s best atelier.
The plots do develop beyond this fairly straightforward structure, in large part due to unique quirks. Whether that’s a talking book, an open world, or magical paintings with worlds inside, there’s something that helps distinguish them from each other. Regardless, I love the everyday narratives that these games focus on. It’s a breath of fresh air to have JRPGs that have you follow the life and daily activities of these characters. Dramatic events aren’t the norm.
That’s not to say the games don’t escalate and fall back on narrative tropes at all. Often in the latter half, more serious events occur, which is kind of necessary to bring a change of pace. While the stakes do get higher towards the end, the narratives remain largely subdued throughout. This really works to the trilogy’s advantage, for the most part, offering far more relaxing adventures for the player. It’s worth mentioning that it’s also not necessary to have played any of the other countless entries in the franchise. While it might benefit in some way, you will still get invested regardless, as the trilogy is standalone.
A hallmark of any good JRPG or story is the characters that inhabit it. The Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack is certainly no exception to this rule. Across all three games, there is a wealth of interesting individuals to meet and interact with. Mysterious Book DX (my favourite in the trilogy) has the endearing Sophie as the protagonist. Her, alongside Plachta and others, make up a strong cast that serves the story well and makes the adventure more engrossing. Mysterious Journey DX has an equally solid set of characters, while Mysterious Paintings DX fell a bit short in this regard, but still managed to feature a handful of fun additions.
There’s greater depth given to the characters that you can take with you in your party. These have their own bond level that increases from certain actions, like taking them on your adventures and fighting in battles. Increasing this allows for new scenes with them as well as unique endings. It’s an extra bit of gameplay to take into consideration that provides a nice touch to the story. What’s also greatly appreciated, is that there are many recurring characters throughout the trilogy. Protagonists and secondary characters alike will reappear in subsequent games, with some in relatively big roles. It gives a more lived-in feeling to this world and leads to some poignant storytelling as well.
The story and characters are good overall, presenting a solid foundation and backdrop for the gameplay to shine.
All in a Day’s Work
Time plays a key role in The Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack. The extent to which this is implemented varies between titles. The games are governed by a day and night cycle. This includes where people are located, what monsters roam the maps, whether houses/shops are open, etc. Similarly, a calendar system is used to determine time limits for certain requests and events. This might seem like a daunting hassle at first, but it’s not as restrictive as you might think. In fact, it can lead to strategic and thoughtful gameplay.
Time progresses through various different actions. Moving around the world, gathering materials, combat, as well as alchemy and crafting, these all move time forwards. However, only Mysterious Journey DX features a major time limit hanging over you. The prologue gives a month, while the main section gives a whole year. Even then, this is more than enough time. I roughly had 20 days and 200 days to spare respectively. After this, you’re free to explore the open world and continue the story without a time limit. The other two games don’t feature major time limits, instead, just use the mechanic as a framework and structure.
The gameplay loop is almost identical between each game. You’ll need to explore the various regions, gathering materials from monsters and other sources. These are used to fulfil requests, or in alchemy to synthesise other items for quests or the main story. Speaking of quests, these often boil down to fetch quests for items or to kill a certain amount of monsters. Some of these have time limits, which for Mysterious Book and Mysterious Paintings, are the only time limits present. This gameplay loop is pretty straightforward and can be repetitive, but it’s also oddly therapeutic as well.
Mix it Up…Literally
If it wasn’t obvious, alchemy plays the biggest role, where you’ll spend a significant chunk of time in front of a cauldron. By using the various materials you’ve gathered or even purchased, you can create so much from recipes you’ve unlocked. New recipes unlock from main story progression, gathering, and fighting monsters. You can find recipe hints in the main menu, which is super helpful. I didn’t know what to expect from the alchemy mechanics, but the almost puzzle-like design is surprisingly robust and effective.
After selecting your materials, you need to place them on a grid strategically. Each material has a shape and colour and there are many variations of what these can be. You need to organise these on the grid to fill up bars that will improve the effects of the synthesised item. There are also things like material quality, size, and traits to think about, as well as catalysts that you can use for bonus effects on the grid. While the game does well to explain the basics, this doesn’t extend to more complex features.
It can be obscure at times, especially later on, when mastery of alchemy is pretty important to beat the games. Traits are the most important part of alchemy, yet it’s barely explained in the tutorials. Working out which traits combine together, to then transfer to the new item, requires a lot of trial and error. While this can lead to eureka moments, in reality, you’re often just wasting materials and possibly rare traits without knowing. You then have to go out and gather countless more to continue the process. Alchemy has plenty of smart ideas but also stumbles with frustrating and glossed over mechanics. On a more positive note, aside from a few minor changes, the system stays mostly the same across the trilogy. Therefore, you won’t have to learn lots of new aspects each time.
Don’t Underestimate an Alchemist!
Alchemy may be the main draw as you’re playing as alchemists, but don’t underestimate them, as they can also pack a deadly punch. Combat still plays a large part that works in tandem with your expertise in alchemy. Using a turn-based system, you’ll fight enemies as a party of up to 3 or 4. Each ally and enemy take turns based on their speed stat. You can choose from many different actions, such as an attack, defend, skills, or use crafted items, like a bomb. You learn more skills as your characters level up and these can range from single target to AoE attacks.
Mysterious Paintings DX changes up combat slightly by limiting your chosen party to 3. However, it allows other characters to act as support, providing extra attacks or abilities here and there. What I really appreciated in these deluxe versions was the ability to speed up battles. This helped cut down grinding and slow animations, improving the pacing of exploration.
There’s plenty of strategies involved here and it ends up being a competent system to play. The clear ties between combat and alchemy are a bit of a double-edged sword in my opinion. It further ingrained the importance of alchemy in the story and gameplay, while adding more depth to combat. However, this also means that having a strong grip on alchemy and its deeper aspects are needed to complete the game. Even on easy, later fights in the story, especially post-game and those extra as part of the deluxe versions, are very difficult. They require high-quality gear and traits, where grinding for levels and basic gear isn’t enough. So again, making sure to master alchemy is key here. Either way, combat, and alchemy are quite rewarding when you take the time to learn.
What a Wonderful World
The Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack is definitely a case where the world design picks up the slack for the less than impressive visual quality. With its anime style aesthetic, there’s certainly a level of charm on display. Character models are full of personality and so diverse in design. Unfortunately, the rest of the visuals have a fairly dated appearance, even in the final game. It’s not bad per se, but nothing particularly great. However, the design of the different locations works to alleviate some of those concerns somewhat. Dilapidated ruins, thick forests, barren desserts, pleasant villages, and much more! The worlds that reside in the paintings in the third game are vibrant and breathtaking at times.
Music has been expertly crafted to fit the more subdued and lighthearted tone of the trilogy. There are so many upbeat tunes included, right from the main menu music, it’s pretty infectious. Voice acting is well done, even with some of the traditionally cringe dialogue that JRPGs famously have. It’s also worth noting that Mysterious Paintings DX doesn’t have an option for English voices, unlike the first two games. This wasn’t a problem for me, but I know it will be for others.
My experience with The Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack was a long and pleasant one. It provided a nice change of pace from most others in its genre. With charming storytelling, full of positive messages and memorable characters, it was nice to go through the motions of more subdued adventures. After spending countless hours mixing, re-arranging, and trial and error, it’s safe to say that the alchemy aspect has a lot of thought gone into it, despite a few gripes. Even with a focus on alchemy, the developers were still able to include solid combat mechanics.
The trilogy may not boast the grandest tale or the most lavish graphics, but there is still much to find enjoyment with here. If you’re a fan of JRPGs, then this will be a great choice for you, especially if you’re looking for something a bit different. I’m certainly intrigued at what other games in the franchise have to offer.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can get your copy of Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack from the PlayStation Store today.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.