The announcement of Atelier Sophie 2 was one that genuinely surprised me. After two very successful entries following new protagonist Ryza, making a sequel to a 2015 game seemed pretty unusual. Gust decided that fan favourite Sophie needed another adventure though, and although I was sceptical I’m always happy to play another Atelier game. There was absolutely no reason for me to worry, because Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream is one of the best games in the series.
Set after the first game but before her appearances in other Atelier games, our hero Sophie is adventuring with her long time friend Plachta. While checking out a big ole magical tree, a portal to another dimension separates the pair. Sophie refuses to start finding a way out of this new world before she finds her friend, and thus a rescue mission in the mysterious world of Erde Wiege begins.
As you might imagine, Erde Wiege is a curious place. This dimension is the work of the goddess Elvira, and was created to give people the time to accomplish their dreams. Once she chooses you to enter, you stop ageing and won’t be able to leave until you’ve attained your goal. Unlike everyone else Sophie didn’t get to meet Elvira on her way into the dream world, which unfortunately means she has no idea how to get out of this place. With many seemingly impossible tasks ahead, Sophie turns to the one thing that’s always helped her before. Alchemy.
The majority of your time in Atelier Sophie 2 will be spent doing alchemy. Every area you explore is packed full of ingredients, and using a variety of tools you can collect all sorts of ore, plants and bugs to craft with. The large open areas are gorgeous to look at, and have plenty of corners full of spider webs and mushrooms you’ll want to find and collect. Then when you’ve filled your bag it’s off to the Atelier.
In most RPGs you’d usually buy most of your items and gear from a shop, but in Atelier Sophie 2 anything worth using is made by Sophie herself. First you choose what you want to make, then select what materials you want to make it out of. Each ingredient is made up of different elemental tiles that slot into the alchemy grid, with plenty of rules to follow if you want to make the best stuff.
Each item requires a different amount of an element to unlock all the best buffs to it, and placing elements next to each other with certain nodes touching will boost how much they yield. Certain spots in the alchemy grid also boost the amount of element a tile gives too, making each item you craft a little puzzle to solve. It’s really satisfying when you line up all the tiles to create an amazing new potion or weapon, but if that’s not your jam you can also use the auto add function to skip the thinking and get back to the adventure and fight some Punis.
The combat in Atelier Sophie 2 is a slight step back from the Ryza games, switching the exciting active time battles with a more traditional turn based affair. Sophie and her friends all have a selection of the usual JRPG abilities (elemental attacks, buffs, multi target attacks) they can use on their turn, and using them effectively grants you team points. By using these you can activate Twin Attacks where two characters can attack in one turn, all while using less MP. It’s hardly revolutionary, but it gets the job done.
Thanks to all your alchemy, you’ll have a nice range of items to use in battle. Bombs and Puni Missiles will often deal way more damage than your standard abilities, and there are few ways to heal without the items in your bag. Making a great projectile or two at the atelier will save you a lot of hassle in scraps, and these can all be automatically replaced after combat for a small fee so using them won’t make you feel guilty.
The most interesting aspect of the combat in Atelier Sophie 2 is the weather system. You learn pretty quickly that the weather in Erde Wiege doesn’t change until you use an item to do it, and this can affect how you deal with baddies. Some enemies are stronger in certain weathers, and some of your combat abilities are buffed when the sun’s out. It’s a cool system, and one that fits with the narrative and world perfectly.
There are so many elements of Atelier Sophie 2 that I love. Just small touches that make the game more enjoyable. Things like gathering mini games activating at certain spots, with a slot machine and expert timing deciding how good the fish you catch will be. Or the greenhouse you get where you can plant seeds in different weather simulated pods for new ingredients. Even just finding beauty spots will give you points to spend on upgrading your characters or gathering abilities.
Every aspect of Sophie 2 comes back to alchemy. Whether it’s making new gathering tools to expand the ingredients you can bag, or completing side objectives from the “Recipe Ideas” menu to unlock new craftables. The loop of alchemy is intensely compelling, with every new item you create levelling up your mixing powers, every tool you craft gathering better items and even every enemy you defeat dropping ingredients. It’s so easy to get lost in a loop of crafting and gathering, and with numerous side quests and character progression systems you never feel like you’re wasting your time.
There isn’t a lot to dislike in Atelier Sophie 2. Besides the very slight downgrade in combat, the only issue I had involved progressing the main story. Sometimes to continue your quest you’ll need to create a specific key item, and it isn’t always clear where you’ll find the ingredients for them. With so many usually helpful quest markers, it can be a bit of a nightmare to figure out where to gather the right materials.
Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Dream is a fantastic entry in this light-hearted JRPG series. The loop of ingredient gathering and alchemy is endlessly compelling, and all the quests, progression systems and handy fast travel means it never feels like you’re wasting your time. The combat might be a little bit too traditional for some, but it can’t detract from this magical adventure in a dream dimension.
The loop of gathering and alchemising is really compelling
Creating the perfect item is so rewarding
Very visually striking
Combat weather effects add a nice layer of complexity
Turn based combat is a little slow
Sometimes knowing how to progress is an issue