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Atelier’s Mysterious Trilogy was recently re-released on the PlayStation 4 but Gust has obviously decided that it isn’t quite finished with that story. Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream takes place in between the first and second games, and we were recently given access to the opening couple of hours on PC. So far, our impressions are pretty positive.

The story follows Sophie and Plachta as they leave their hometown to try to learn more about alchemy. Things are rarely straightforward in Japanese RPGs though, and it’s not long before the duo end up getting sucked through a portal into another world — one created by the Goddess of Dreams.

It seems that the Goddess has the ability to see into people’s dreams and if she likes what she sees then she invites them into her world. Usually, people get an audience with the Goddess before being brought over, but for unknown reasons this doesn’t happen to Sophie. Also, despite coming through the portal at the same time, Plachta seems to have gone missing.

One of our criticisms of the first Atelier Sophie game was that the story had fairly slow pacing. Obviously, we’ve only seen the first few hours of this sequel, but so far it seems to be off to a strong start. The mystery of how Sophie has ended up in this strange world and where Plachta has disappeared to makes for a compelling intro, and we’re definitely interested in seeing if the story can keep up the momentum.

Atelier games tend to all have the following gameplay elements in common: exploring, gathering materials, combat, and of course alchemy. But how these tasks actually work tend to be quite different from one game to the next.

It definitely looks like this game has taken a few ideas from the more recent Ryza series. When out exploring the world, you can see that some gathering spots will need specific tools in order to harvest them. This means that you’ll have to learn how to make things like fishing rods and sickles before you’ll be able to gather certain types of ingredients. There’s also a fun new minigame with spinning slots that lets you try to select which elements appear on your gathered materials.

The alchemy system goes back to using the grid-based method from the first Atelier Sophie game. Materials will have different shapes and elements and you’ll need to place them on to the synthesis panel to activate new effects, or enhance existing ones. While it does seem quite similar to the first game so far, Atelier titles tend to add additional aspects to alchemy as you advance through the story, and so there are likely to be at least a few new quirks to the system.

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The world that you get to explore is much prettier and more vibrant than before. It’s also filled with plenty of monsters to fight. Battles are turn based and you’ll have a front and rear line of characters. During fights you’ll build up a gauge which allows the characters in the rear to provide support by jumping in front of attacks, and you're able to perform powerful twin attacks using the same system. We only had access to a handful of different characters but it’ll be fun to see how the combat plays out with a full party.

So far it looks like Atelier Sophie 2 is using a blend of ideas from both older and newer entries in the Atelier series. These seem to be working together well and it’ll be interesting to see what new things this game brings to the table. Even if it doesn’t add anything particularly innovative, as long as the new characters and story are as charming and endearing as they currently appear to be, then more of the same is not necessarily a bad thing.

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This is the second time in recent years that Gust has gone back to tell a new story in a previously complete trilogy (the last one being Atelier Lulua in the Arland series). It just goes to show that these worlds do have plenty more stories left to tell, and as big fans of the Atelier series we’re pretty excited to get our hands on the full release and find out more. Thankfully we don’t have too long to wait, as it’s due to launch for PS4 on 25th February.

Are you a fan of the Atelier series? Did you play the first Atelier Sophie game? Let us know your hopes and dreams for this sequel in the comments section below.