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Full review (including score):
Written review below!

Another year, another Atelier game. This is now the 23rd entry in the series and it might just be the best yet.

Note: Trimmed review to fit character limit, check video for full version!

Do I need to play the first game?
As someone that literally finished the first a couple weeks ago and then played through this sequel - I wouldn’t say it’s really all that necessary. Not that the first game is bad, but just that its story is particularly weak for an Atelier game and the fact that the entire thing can be summed up in a roughly four minute recap video tells you all you need to know about how complex the story was there.

So if you do want to jump in right here, it’s completely fine and the recap video will serve you well enough.

The Tetris system makes its return and is somehow even better than it already was. Now, instead of having to swap cauldrons around to do things like rotate ingredients, you’re able to do that right off the bat and in its place you get some other neat features like link pieces, super successes, catalysts, and even an outright second alchemist to use.

It’s somehow much easier to understand and pick up than in the first game, yet maintains that same level of complexity - if not more so. The bulk of this is likely due to the new UI, which makes it much easier to identify ingredients, elements, etc. Whatever the case, I found myself really getting into it, trying to get the perfect ingredient spread to fill up all the spaces without overlapping, rotating the pieces just right to get the maximum number of links, and really just trying to min-max my way to some stupidly powerful items.

Honestly, it might be the best I’ve seen in the series yet and this is coming from someone that has played nine entries.

Gathering & Game World
Taking cues from Ryza, the game world is now this big, inter-connected thing. It’s not necessarily open world, but each area is large enough on its own that it kinda gives that impression. It’s not one of those “empty” open worlds though. There’s hills, forests, caves, ruins, and these are all flooded with enemies, items, treasure, and other stuff to find.

Ingredients are actually visible on the map this time and the combat now takes place without any loading screens. The game may have dropped some of the additional exploration tools introduced in the last Ryza game, but in its place introduced a new weather system.

The weather system was pretty cool at first, but I can’t deny that I became a bit iffy on it as the game went on. Having to cycle around the different weather settings to get to where I needed to go can be a bit tedious and it doesn’t help that the weather items have a set number of uses before being depleted.

The game does provide waypoints on the map that can be traveled to once activated, so it is not as annoying once you’ve explored an area, but I would say this new addition is okay at best.

Compared to some other genres it might not be the best, but for an Atelier game the graphics are absolutely some good stuff and comparable to the quality we got in the past two Ryza games. Actual level geometry, buildings that aren’t just giant blocks, and the character models are noticeably more crisp. Great news, as Sophie might just be my favorite Atelier protagonist design-wise.

Combat is yet again another area of improvement and it feels really nice to finally get back to the tried and true turn-based formula of past Atelier games. For one, it’s fast-paced. Because entering combat requires no loading screens, you’re thrown right into it and can immediately start duking it out. Animations can be sped up to 2x and that was pretty much the default for me. The animations are already fast enough, but keeping it at 2x makes battles go significantly faster and you can easily get the materials you need from certain monsters within a matter of seconds.

And if you do want to take it slow, there is a good bit of depth here. Twin actions, type matchups, skills, abilities, changing the weather mid-battle, and of course, all of the different items that can be crafted and then used in battle. It doesn’t go too out there in terms of complexity, but it’s not this dead simple thing either.

Game Loop
In the first Sophie, it felt like I was constantly doing the same basic process over and over - unlocking a new recipe, crafting it, then having to hunt down the next recipe to craft and so on. There was little actual story content until the end and a lot of the time I was doing guesswork trying to figure out which NPC, item, area, or whatever triggered the next recipe idea to allow me to progress.

Sophie 2 pretty much does away with this system entirely. Recipe ideas are still there and get triggered as you do stuff, but I hardly ever found myself locked behind some mystery gate for hours trying to figure out what to do. Instructions are not as vague, relevant NPCs, items, and monsters are marked on the map, and the game in general doesn’t waste your time grinding out recipes.

The story this time is actually NOT terrible. Not only is the writing better, but the plot is weaved in and out of the gameplay in a manner that doesn’t require it to all be dropped at the end to wrap up in the time remaining. From the start you are constantly getting new cutscenes, character backgrounds, story events - the entire slate. There is much more dialogue this time around, but I also found it to be more interesting.

I won’t sit here and tell you that it’s the best around - I mean, Atelier games generally aren't known for their writing - but it was engaging enough that it didn’t feel like an interruption to the otherwise excellent gameplay.

PC Port
Running at max settings, 1440p and 144 fps on my 3080 Ti was fine and I didn’t have any stability issues there, but the UI has this weird bug (I assume it is a bug) where whenever certain menus open or close, the game dips to 30 fps for a split second, resulting in a visible slowdown.

This is best demonstrated when opening a recipe for crafting or opening your storage container to view ingredients. Doing so immediately dips the fps before climbing back up again once the menu is visible. However, I also noticed the issue when gathering items on the map. When doing so, items are listed on the left side of the screen for a few seconds before disappearing and, unfortunately, when they do vanish from the screen, the game microstutters.

Otherwise, the PC port is fine. Runs well, no crashes, and even has a good amount of settings to change - at least for a Koei Tecmo port. Controls on a controller are flawless, but the keyboard and mouse controls were practically unplayable for me. There is no mouse cursor for menus, the mouse is not locked to the game window when controlling the camera, and it jitters constantly. This is definitely not a game I would recommend if you do not have a controller to play it with.

Atelier Sophie 2 is the best in the series yet, combining the elements that made the first Sophie fun with the recent advancements in Ryza to deliver a familiar, yet modernized Atelier experience. In-depth crafting, fun turn-based combat, great graphics and music, a story that is actually not terrible - there’s a lot of good to say about this game even if it may have a few technical flaws and some iffy elements. For newcomers, it still might be best to start with Ryza, but Sophie 2 is an easy next best choice.

Follow my Steam Curator Page for more reviews + videos!!
Abakills 14 Nov @ 9:32am 
+rep great trader
Sv. Prolivije 25 Oct @ 12:58pm 
reason?...why not :chuchelcrazy:
etneveL 28 Sep @ 8:12am 
+rep Fair, fast and patient trader. Thank you! :praisesun:
RAY°451° 30 Aug @ 9:31am 
very nice reviews!
Vociferous 26 Aug @ 6:12pm 
Goskata 26 Aug @ 9:02am 
Cool reviews