Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is the most recent game in the long-running atelier franchise. It has a lighter tone than most RPGs I have ever played with a surprisingly robust alchemy system. The characters and story are not for everyone, but this may be the game of your light-hearted dreams.
The two main characters are twin sisters named Lydie and Sue. They work at an alchemy atelier, or shop, with their goofy and lazy father, Roger. Their one dream is to have the greatest atelier in the country and to be the greatest alchemists.
This is the goal of the game, and, although there are some passing serious moments, there is no main villain that must be overthrown. You are just working to help two young anime-looking girls reach a life-long dream of building a successful small business.
They will meet new friends along the way to that goal, and many of them are characters from previous games. I am new to the series, and I didn’t feel like I needed to play the previous games. Most of the interactions are about eating sweets, helping each other, joking, and discussing the Atelier Ranking System.
The Atelier Ranking System and the alchemy system are where the game becomes very serious. Alchemy is the combination of different materials into new items. The beginning mechanics are incredibly simple. There is a list of materials, and you choose which of the multiple ingredients you have to combine into one new item. Some of the characteristics can carry over into the finished product, and the quality of an item can change as you mix in different materials.
As you continue to play, more systems are added. The recipes build on each other becoming increasingly complex. You can add synthesis items, change the color of your materials, and try to make higher quality items to be combined into weapons or items. It’s gradual, but new systems and mechanics were still being introduced twenty or more hours into the game.
Alchemy’s main purpose is to help you reach higher levels in the Atelier Ranking System. With each new level, comes new ambitions. This is a list of tasks you have to accomplish to raise your public image and demonstrate your skill. It usually consists of defeating monsters, creating new items, and gathering materials.
Materials are everywhere. They are found in plants, rocks, fishing, and by defeating monsters in the world. You are constantly collecting more to use when you return home. In the beginning, your inventory is too small to fit everything you find, so you will be lugging it home and returning to grab more.
The Mysterious Paintings are separate worlds with many unique materials, and a new one opens up after each new atelier level. Each one has a boss at the end, and has a unique theme, such as a haunted woods, a volcanic wasteland, or an icy palace that would make Superman think about selling his fortress for the upgrade.
There is a lot of information, so its great that all the details on materials and where to find them is in your encyclopedia. You also have a reference for traits and effects in the menu with the ability to pull it up when you are ten steps deep into a synthesis. A helpful sort and filter function enables you to search through scores of items for that perfect ruby with an effect you cannot quite remember. The thoughtful UI throughout the game really makes it very manageable.
Every location is also filled with monsters for you to fight. The designs are nice, but they are too often repeated. The creatures throughout the game are just differently colored versions of the same monsters you saw at the beginning. I really wanted a little more variety.
The presentation is going to make or break this game for some people, and Gust has gone in a very particular direction. The character designs and voices are familiar to anyone who has seen a little bit of anime. The characters are influenced by tropes. Lydie and Sue are stereotypical squeaky voiced girls with a penchant for sweets. Mathias is a lazy and slightly cowardly knight.
In the beginning, the characters appear to barely be two-dimensional representations of human beings. The combat and alchemy are very basic. From a mechanics and story perspective, I really wondered why this series had so many devoted fans. Those first four hours are rough.
That really changed as the alchemy systems were added, and the twins grew throughout the story. Every character in the game experiences some growth and change, and the story lines are resolved. The voices stay the same, but there is more substance to the entire game.
This is also a long game with plenty of story and cutscenes. That is a positive that could become a negative. When you are looking at sheer content, it’s great. The pacing and variety are good. You have to work to meet the ambition goals, and then it is off to explore another mysterious painting or location in the world. The back and forth works well, until it doesn’t.
My frustration in Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings has a name. That name is Rainbow Corundum. When working toward your next level, you do not have to complete all the goals. You only need to complete enough to fill a star gauge to let you progress.
Although I could look to see where I could gather rainbow corundum, the drop rate on this item was so low for me that I would go into the areas, defeat monsters, pick up materials and never find it. It is a critical item that is linked to the completion of ambition goals, armor, weapons, and generally prevents you from advancing.
I was spending time trying to find this one thing, instead of enjoying the game and moving forward. It artificially made everything more difficult and took longer than it needed. Most of the time, I assume I am the problem, but I was starting to wonder if I found a bug.
This low drop rate turned the game from a disarming sweep me off my feet into a whole new world, Mr. Aladdin to crying while trapped in someone’s basement while they tell me it puts the lotion on its skin. I eventually found a rainbow corundum and progressed just fine after spending all that time searching.
With my biggest downer out of the way, the overall presentation is pretty good. The stylized visuals are appropriate, and the costumes and characters work for the world. Once again, the anime influences are very strong. I think it works, but some people are going to be put off by the design.
The music was fine, but it was remarkable in one way. For a game like this, you are going to hear the same themes a thousand times. Although you can switch your background music, I was happy with the standard tunes.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is better the further you progress, assuming you do not have any problems progressing. The alchemy system is really intricate by the end of the game, and the light-hearted story was an interesting change.
It’s definitely a niche game. If that doesn’t push you away or you have been a fan of previous titles, I would recommend you give it a try, but don’t judge it by the first few hours.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings PS4 Review
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is a light-hearted, turn-based JRPG with a deep alchemy system. The beginning of the game can be a challenge with its slow start, basic gameplay, and even more basic characters, but it gains a lot of depth and challenge to make up for it.
It's visuals and presentation make it more of a niche game, but the complex alchemy system and wealth of content make a very compelling package for fans of the genre.
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Reviewed using base PS4.