The first Atelier Sophie was part of the Mysterious Trilogy we reviewed last year but originally launched back in 2015. Now, Koei Tecmo is back with a sequel: Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream. It’s out now for the Switch, PC and PlayStation 4 – here’s our take on the PS4 version.
Although we regularly see new Atelier releases, we rarely encounter a sequel with a familiar protagonist, but a new game about Sophie is certainly welcome – it was the most dated-looking game in last year’s trilogy pack and that’s been updated, while the excellent story is continued here. There’s a short summary of past events in case you didn’t play it in the trilogy (or in its original form), after which the sequel once again focuses on Plachta. Her soul gets lost in as Sophie and her travel to a mysterious realm, after which you’re tasked with reclaiming it.
As with any Atelier game, however, the narrative then branches out from there, with a whole range of characters and side stories and sometimes lengthy dialogues. In between that, there’s a good amount of exploration as well, during which you’ll encounter combat scenarios and pick up and combine items – which is where alchemy comes in. At a few rare instances this means you’ll end up with missing ingredients and this can cause mild frustrations, but our search for whatever was missing never felt overly long. You’ll have to be careful about leveling up both Sophie and Plachta though, because if you don’t then you’ll run into a bit of grinding later on.
As usual, the alchemy process comes in the shape of a minigame of sorts, where you group together matching ingredients in order to craft the best items. You can have this done automatically, but the hands-on approach usually yields better results, and the things you bring into and get out of the process tie in with your exploring and fighting – so you’re already invested.
Combat plays out in a turn-based manner, with basic attacks, team attacks and magic attacks available to you. Some of the items you craft during the alchemy process can also be used in combat, and these range from defensive items like health packs to offensive weapons like explosives. Combat can be quite tactical in nature if you choose for it to be, although you can also lower the difficulty level and focus on the narrative instead.
Atelier Sophie 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel and won’t lure you into the franchise if previous games didn’t do it for you, but if you enjoyed the previous Atelier titles – especially the first Sophie one – then you’ll have a great time playing through this one as well. All of the familiar ingredients are there, and backed up by improved visuals and streamlined gameplay.