Atelier Lydie and Suelle The Alchemists and The Mysterious Paintings Review
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4
Publisher: Koei Tecmo Europe
Release: 30th March 2018
I discovered the Atelier series with the PC release of Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book, which wasn´t the best way to experience it though. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time quite a bit, even though I never felt motivated to pick up the sequel. So, with one year in-between, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to give the last part of GUST´s trilogy tale a shot, luckily.
Playing as the alchemists Lydie and Suelle, who work in their father´s atelier, Atelier Lydie and Suelle The Alchemists and The Mysterious Paintings once again circles around two young girls and their alchemic adventures. However, during their typical errands and alchemic training, one day they discover the mysterious paintings, allowing them to enter their depicted worlds. On their search to find out more about them, they not only grow as alchemists but meet a ton of new friends as well.
As always with GUST games, the plot and characters take the spotlight here. With two new protagonists, the game tells their rise to the very top of the alchemist world on the one hand. How they improve their skills, learn new technics and much more. Since we, as the player, make direct use of all their newfound skills, their growth really feels real. On the other hand, the mystery/fantasy aspect of the plot in form of paintings can actually produce some very great moments. Who didn´t think about how could it would be to enter this beautifully painted world? Here it becomes possible. Especially due to GUST´s highly capable artistic direction, the adventure really becomes somewhat magical because every single painting looks amazing and features some really unique visual design.
Yet, all of that would be meaningless without a strong cast of characters to carry those promising set-ups. At first glance, Lydie and Suelle might look like your typical Atelier characters, weak at their profession but loved for their character. Yet, they can bring enough dynamic to the mix to develop a whole new narrative feeling. Maybe it´s just me but I really enjoyed the dozens of little chit-chats both between them or their father, the dozens of failed experiments and silly, cute moments they got in. Overall, they´re just two super likeable persons, anyone has to fall in love with. Combined with a cast of characters consisting of old and new friends Atelier Lydie and Suelle The Alchemists and The Mysterious Paintings capitalizes on nostalgia like no game before, while introducing enough new ones to support the new narrative. Given, there isn´t much new in terms of stereotypes but GUST´s strength always was in writing them into our hearts and this game is no exception.
The other big part of an Atelier game is the name giving alchemic procedures. Similar to crafting items in other JRPGs, synthesizing may sound easy but is actually way more complicated than many other systems. Considering how the game nearly solely relies on it, in order to create somewhat of a realistic alchemy game, it better be though. Every dungeon, objective or even progression relies on synthesizing items in one way or another. Be it in form of collecting tons of items in dungeons, rather than focusing on obtaining XP or the fact any really powerful item should be created through said system.
To do so, you first select an item to create, which then lets you customize every single material used as an ingredient. Depending on their rarity, type and much more, they all have different effects on the outcome. Naturally, the game never tells you explicitly what happens, forcing you to experiment and discover all possibilities like a true alchemist. Combined with the excessive amount of items, ingredients or different combo systems in this synthesizing system alone, the whole thing feels more like an own form of combat, not like a mere crafting mechanic. That´s actually pretty damn great!
Sadly, the combat inevitably suffers from this shifted focus. GUST never was great at turn-based combats, to begin with, Atelier Lydie and Suelle The Alchemists and The Mysterious Paintings takes the cake at delivering nothing new again. Honestly, while some systems may sound unique, I never noticed anything that stuck out about the combat, really. Every character has its own speed at which they advance in turns, their own class, level up in their unique way, all that stuff but nothing feels remotely new. Maybe the interface, that manages to be overloaded with information at way too many moments. Anyone who already played a GUST game (Blue Reflection in particular) shouldn´t expect any surprises or even new mechanics.
Yet, if you´re not ready to sink your teeth into collecting hundreds of items throughout the game, search levels for rare ingredients and spend more than just a few hours in the synthesizing system, Atelier Lydie and Suelle The Alchemists and The Mysterious Paintings is definitely not for you. Not only does the combat suffer from the shifted focus but the overall dungeon design as well, mostly relying on big empty worlds, more concerned with hiding items than delivering an interesting gameplay experience. It really is, in every way, a crafting-simulation.
Luckily, the biggest appeal of GUST remains their quite amazing art style, mixed with a gorgeous visual design. When those guys can do one thing, it´s drawing colourful art and transport it into a playable form. The character portraits, event screens or pretty much anything 2D looks absolutely amazing, even better than visual novels. However, the in-game models are the true gem here, managing to transport the feeling of the 2D art into the 3D space, while looking absolutely gorgeous. Sadly, most other things about the game´s graphics aren´t nearly as smooth. Textures are mushy, the world is empty, nothing really looks good nor up to par with the great art. It also suffers from a framerate below 30 most of the time.
For better or worse Atelier Lydie and Suelle The Alchemists and The Mysterious Paintings is exactly what one would expect from an Atelier game. Circling all around collecting items and synthesizing them into useful stuff is a gameplay mechanic, not anyone can get behind. Combined with a lacklustre combat but entertaining story and a ton of likeable characters, GUST delivers nothing out of the ordinary. So fans should be more than happy, anyone else maybe not so much.
[A Review Code was provided by Koei Tecmo Europe]