Atelier Lydie & Suelle ~ The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is the third and title in the ‘Mysterious’ sub-series of the Atelier games franchise. If you don’t know, Atelier is a long-running turn-based RPG franchise from development studio GUST who has celebrated their 20th anniversary release with this installment. Atelier is a french word which originates from the art community and involves a private studio / workshop in which students and mentors from the community work together to produce fine art under the direction of a visual arts master.
In this series, an Atelier is a workshop in which alchemy is performed for the benefit of the community and profiteering as well as philanthropy of its owner. Each installment of the game series revolves around a different style of objectives and will focus on one or two main characters’ journey throughout the world. Recurring themes include the pursuit of high level alchemy skills, proficiency in battle, and having a positive impact on the betterment of a surrounding community. At times players will even seek justice for an event that puts the world at peril, but these threats aren’t as dark or dominant as in other role playing games, as the series is fun-loving in nature.
STORY / CHARACTERS
In Atelier Lydie & Suelle ~ The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings players take control of twin sisters Lydie and Suelle who are on a life journey to satisfy a promise made to their deceased mother. In order to make progress on this main goal of Lydie and Suelle, players aim to increase their atelier’s reputation. In order to increase the reputation of your atelier you will need to complete quests with the best results possible and perform alchemy with the highest quality ingredients possible.
When it comes to antagonists, there are a few. Some characters will be in competition with Lydie and Suelle, particularly their childhood friend Lucia, who runs the most successful Atelier around. There will be some scenes which evoke the player to think something sinister is being planned, but the game is so pure-hearted that even antagonists to the main characters are not inherently evil. Some people who may seem at first like they are secretly plotting something dastardly actually end up becoming allies. They all have a cute side once their motives are understood, and will have moments in which they fumble, revealing the softer side of their personalities.
- Lydie is a strong mage archetype casting buffs on the party to boost defense right from the start of the game. Over time her magical prowess and understanding of how to utilize alchemy mid-battle will even lead to brand new systems being added to the gameplay of the Atelier series.
- Suelle is a rugged, if at times dense, yet lovable character who dual-wields pistols and says what’s on her mind without thinking. She will give a strong attack for any character she is supporting, or just take the lead and provide a full assault on the front line.
- Mathias, the cowardly heir to the throne. He’s definitely king material and will summon bravery whenever someone in his kingdom needs defending. However, Mathias still isn’t quite matured and ready for his reality. The events of The Mysterious Paintings could be enough to change that.
- Firis returns. She is a well loved character from the previous entry in the Atelier series. She is arguably one of the most beautiful women in the kingdom. She’s trying to be a mature sister figure for the girls around her now, but often times she’s just too silly to take seriously. Her taste in what is or isn’t cute is certainly questionable, and she favors a meat-heavy diet for her version of a healthy body. Her prowess in battle is enviable, and she will stand in place of her beloved companions to prevent them taking injury.
- Alt, a strange fellow indeed, has his dark side. He believes in justice, and doing what’s right, but secretly dreams of being an emperor in his own one world government. Although his morality could probably prevent him from doing such a thing, Alt is certainly a few steps away from being an all mighty conjuration and alteration mage capable of such world domination schemes. Let’s remind ourselves not to get on his bad side!
- Sophie is another returning star from the Atelier series and shows up in the nick of time during one of the most intense scenes in the game. If it weren’t for her, perhaps the entire Mysterious Paintings tale would have had a swift and unhappy ending. That being said, she’s mainly taking a back seat and provides the mentor / mom vibe for the rest of the cast of characters to borrow emotional strength from. She knows more than she leads on, but she is pure at heart.
The game features a bunch of other great characters as well as the ones listed above. Finding out what they are like is a large part of the charm in this new Atelier game. The twins will admire and interact with many strong female figures who are unique in their own ways and help to solidify the game’s world as a believable, lovable adventure setting. Lydie and Suelle will pry and get to know their companions in the deepest of ways as they forge friendships and alliances that could last a lifetime.
The alchemy system of the Atelier games involve a very deep, creative, and original system for creating bombs, potions, weapon upgrades, harvesting equipment, key items to progress the story, and way more. Catalysts, enhancing agents, and neutralizers are all used in complex ways which are taught in tutorials. The combinations of different materials at varying quality and the way in which they are synthesized into each recipe will effect the outcomes of production each time. One of the new features that Mysterious Paintings introduces to the Atelier series is the ability to rotate the elements of an alchemy recipe during synthesis.
Perhaps one of the very few faults in the game lies in sorting the ingredients used during alchemy. Each time a catalyst is selected players will want to sort by quality. There are many sort options available, although this is mostly the option that will be used. The annoyance comes in the way of having to repeat this process once you move on from catalysts and are selecting your ingredients for the same synthesis. Once your synthesis has been completed your catalysts and materials will be unsorted again, meaning you must repeat the step during your next alchemy project. While this is a small user interface problem, it does get repetitively annoying. It’s a shame for such an easily fixed issue to exist in a nearly flawless masterpiece of a game, but it must be mentioned all the same.
ENVIRONMENTS, EXPLORATION, & GATHERING
Harvesting equipment such as fishing poles, gathering gloves, mining bombs, etc. will add a mini-game like slice of content to the game. The areas in which harvesting materials takes place are the most extensive locations in the Atelier series.
While in a harvesting area or dungeon, enemies can be seen walking around in their natural habitats. These can be avoided rather easily most of the time, though some will surprise you in various ways such as camouflage tactics. Once physical contact with the enemy occurs, a turn-based battle encounter will be triggered. Attacking enemies on the field before they run into you will give all of your characters a turn in battle before their opponents. Failing to do so could cause the opposite effect.
The only minor complaint in regard to exploration is that there are sometimes invisible walls holding players back from truly free roam movement. While this only happens in areas that make sense to keep players out of, and it doesn’t really hold the game back in any major way, it could be seen as a small way for future Atelier games to possibly improve upon. Having the ability to jump over all obstacles that are of reasonable height or letting players fall to their death if they aren’t careful would feel more immersive.
Weapon crafting, skills, elemental defenses, status ailments, buffs, and debuffs are all essential to the game’s incredibly well thought out turn-based battle system. There’s a lot of times when doing battle isn’t necessary. You’ll want to choose your battles wisely. That being said, the battle system in this game is very fun once mastered, and surprisingly complex once it has expanded throughout the timeline of the title.
After the second boss fight the game’s battle system really kicks into high gear. Enemies become much more fierce. Mastery of the game’s many gameplay systems is even more fun and rewarding. Surprisingly, the game offers pacifists a way around some of the fighting at times, while feeding the blood-lust of more aggressive gamers with various ways to advance their proficiency in battle.
Each mysterious painting introduces new enemies and new materials. Items like bombs can be crafted and the attributes of the materials used to make them will determine their effectiveness in battle. There are a few ways in which the game takes it easy though, for example characters who are “die” (or, K.O.) during battle still receive experience from the fight – even if they weren’t revived before it concluded.
Combat formations also hold a special place in the game’s battle system. Characters can be swapped out with their support partner during one of their turns if they’re running low on HP or MP and need backup. The great thing about this is that the combination arts and follow-up moves will continue to happen when skills are used by the attacker, and the supporter will slowly regain HP and MP with each passing turn. follow-up moves by Support characters (plus combination arts) are very powerful, awesome to watch, and these don’t require MP from the supporting character.
Field Reactions like air attacks cause the ceiling to collapse, etc., adding another special layer to the battle based on where you are. Battle Mix! For the first time in the Atelier series, players can synthesize during battle to create unique one-time items which effectively act as attack spells. Doing so requires a stock of Archeus Anima, and the ingredients for the recipe which would have been acquired on that particular field before the battle began. Extra Mix is another tool at Lydie’s disposal enhancing items by combining them with large amounts of Archeus Anima.
Many rare and exotic, often high quality materials for alchemy are found inside of special mysterious paintings which contain a living, breathing world that changes a little bit each time you enter them. New mysterious paintings are unlocked as Lydie and Suelle prove themselves. As players unlock more and more quests, side-quests, enemies, the game continues to evolve and never stops providing new avenues of advancement.
There’s also the good old-fashioned notice board with which players perform requests from villagers while exploring to gain rewards like ingredients, coll (the game world’s gold coin currency), new battle mix recipes, and more. The ambitions journal will guide players in raising their Atelier’s reputation in order to gain prominence in the Atelier Ranking System. An extremely detailed Encyclopedia is available at any moment which also gives information on any item in the game, where to get it, which enemies drop it, where those enemies reside, and more. The links between game objects described in the Encyclopedia make it so that using an online wiki is probably not required at all, allowing continued immersion.
GRAPHICS / PERFORMANCE
Atelier Lydie & Suelle ~ The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings combines hand-drawn graphics that are breathtaking with a fully three dimensional open world in a way that looks like the envy of any cell-shaded title. There was an anime produced for the intro of the title which is astoundingly beautiful, but even this visual art piece cannot compare with the perfection of the graphics in this game.
While playing on a PlayStation 4 Pro we experienced excellent frame-rates and textures were very detailed yet maintained their beautiful manga-inspired art direction. Atelier Lydie & Suelle ~ The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings feels like a masterpiece artwork that has been brought to life and is brimming with color. Various times of day and night, a huge amount of unique biomes, and just lush expanses of fantastical wonder await.
SOUND / MUSIC
Atelier Lydie & Suelle ~ The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings does not have any English dubs. The game is entirely voice acted in Japanese. The beauty of the language and the way characters are so well-defined and expressive makes this feel like a very good choice. It’s been long said by fans of Atelier games that the Japanese voice acting tracks were the only true way to experience the games. Now players will need to be brave and dive into that option. After a while, I forgot I was even reading subtitles and listening to Japanese because the game is so immersive anyways. There wasn’t one scene where I had wished to take away the Japanese audio in place of the convenience of a dub. I love it how it is.
The sound effects in the game are a huge part of the charm. The musical soundtrack though, is a crowning achievement for the series. In addition to an excellent original offering, GUST has given players the ability to download every soundtrack from the entire Atelier series for free (over 800 songs) and customize their own playlist for each scene in the game such as area-based or event-based (like picking which songs would play during a boss fight for example). This is a truly worthy celebration of two decades of excellence in sound design and orchestral direction which was hugely appreciated as the game provides so many hours of entertainment and does well to utilize such a wide variety of musical selections.
If you’re looking for an intricate single player RPG with lengthy, hand-crafted, and well balanced gameplay – then you’ve come to the right place. One of the major strengths of Atelier is that it maintains perfect pacing throughout. There’s always more cut-scenes, game-changing recipes to unlock, new enemies and materials alongside fascinating locations, and tons of quests to participate in. Whereas most games build up to a point in which everything has been revealed, and all that’s left is repetition to get to the end, Atelier truly has something new to offer every step of the way.
Atelier Lydie and Suelle and the Mysterious Paintings does a perfect job of giving the fun, extensive gameplay experience it promises. Its charming atmosphere matches a colorful cast of characters, unique environments, engaging story-line, plentiful quests, equipment, and unlockable skills. Around every corner there’s more content than expected. It’s easy to recommend Lydie and Suelle and the Mysterious Paintings to long-time Atelier fans and newcomers alike.
RGN Rating: 9.8 / 10 (Platinum)
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Available On: Nintendo Switch, PS4
Also Available On: Vita, PC
Played On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: March 27, 2018 (North America)
Review Copy Info: A physical copy of this game was purchased by RealGamerNewZ for the purpose of this review.
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