As a streamer, I’ve been streaming the Atelier series on my Miranda Lemons Twitch channel. Despite streaming the latest installment the day after it came out, there was hardly anyone streaming the title.
Since the game has seemingly weak worldwide popularity, it’s worth asking: is the Atelier Series any good?
Here’s the short answer:
The Atelier game is a quality, classic JRPG series with a crafting system that has been honed over time to remain consistently engaging and fun. Atelier games come out every year since 2001 and continue to improve their systems.
The Atelier games are all similar: if you play one, you’ve played them all. In my case, I play one, and I am addicted and want to play another.
In this article, I’m going over the reasons I feel this series is great and why you might want to pick up a title yourself.
Reasons the Atelier Series Is Good
There are plenty of reasons to like the series. Here’s what stands out to me.
Reason 1 — Production Quality
For a game that is relatively unknown in English-speaking countries, the production quality of the Atelier Series is polished. With a game out each year, the Atelier series only continues to make improvements to their engine. From one game to the next, the quality noticeably improves.
Among the qualities I notice:
Character models: The character design is extraordinarily detailed and only gets better with each new game. Every character is distinct, with vibrant colors.
Character movement: When your main character walks, everything moves on the character from the tassels of their backpacks to the ruffles of their dresses.
Cinematography: I’ve only noticed cut scenes getting more dynamic. The camera is always moving in intentional ways to elevate the scene — and there is a huge number of cut scenes per came. As the Atelier series evolves, the cut scenes become far less static.
Crafting: When playing earlier titles like Atelier Rorona (2009), I felt that I had collected an excess of low-quality items. Later titles like Atelier Ryza (2019) introduce systems that allow you to turn all of your excess items into a currency that allows you to do more things like duplicate items. In the most recent titles, I love that everything has a purpose. You don’t feel like money or collected items become worthless over time.
New Game Mechanics: The Atelier series is always offering new game mechanics to keep the games interesting. For example, in Atelier Sophie 2, you can build your relationship with characters for better crafting. This new mechanic is reminiscent of the Persona series.
Reason 2 — Tight Crafting System
Let me be clear: Crafting in the atelier games is addicting and the main selling point of the game.
I love alchemy in the Atelier games and can spend hours at my cauldron completely ignoring the main storyline.
Each of the Atelier games presents a slightly different crafting system and combat system. Much like the Final Fantasy series, the Atelier series continues to change up its system.
But unlike Final Fantasy, the Atelier series has way more similarities between titles than dissimilarities given the nature of Gust’s fast development times and tight budgets.
In any given Atelier game, you can expect the following similarities:
You make a lot of the same items from each game, starting from low-level Uni bags and growing to higher-level armor and bombs
You encounter similar low-level gathering material and monsters, including rabbits and Puni
Each game has unique creations specific to furthering the storyline
Your party have turn-based combat with items and abilities
Your alchemist has an alchemy level and a combat level
The crafting system alone is why I am not bored with the Atelier series. The games change up the crafting system just enough to get me re-addicted to crafting.
In any given Atelier game, you can expect the following differences:
The mini-game when crafting changes
The battle system changes: some games use skill points (sp) and others don’t; some games are more real-time combat
Reason 3 — The Stories Grow on You
Like any JRPG, your game focuses on not just you, but a cast of characters — all with their own storylines.
The stories are quality and consistent with many anime themes and tropes. In Atelier games, there is a consistent theme of wanting to build mastery — being the very best — and helping your friends with your skills.
In each of the Atelier games I’ve played, I’ve been surprised by how invested I become in the story.
My favorite Atelier story is of Atelier Firis (2017), which is the first and only open-world Atelier game to date. Atelier Firis is a girl who grew up in a cave and never saw the outside world. She would journey to a crack of light, just to stare at it and wonder what was on the other side. Firis’ character motivation is one of the strongest of any Atelier game.
Reasons you may Dislike the Atelier Series
I’m not here to sell you on the Atelier series, but offer an honest opinion. Here are some reasons you may not like the series.
Reason 1 — Revealing Clothing
The Atelier series didn’t always feature cutesy anime girls as their title characters. Back in the PlayStation 2 era, the Atelier games looked more like gritty Final Fantasy titles with male leads.
However, Atelier has evolved to give more ‘fan service’ to its male audience, which can be awkward for Western audiences. I find myself struggling with the over-the-top outfits and the suggestive camera angles, but it’s important to know that despite these features, there are solid game mechanics under the surface.
Reason 2 — Stories Lack Depth
While the stories are quality, they are ultimately light-hearted and therefore lacks the depth of a truly artistic piece of work.
My favorite game of all time, Final Fantasy X, is infinitely darker and more complex than any Atelier title. It’s important to know that you go to Atelier games for laid-back entertainment and not to ponder philosophical or existential themes.
Reason 3 — Lots of Talking
Prepare for cut scene after cut scene. Prepare for characters to over-explain and over-contemplate everything that happens. This comes with the territory of JRPGs. The Persona series also includes many cut scenes with lots of characters standing around and ruminating over plot developments.
Still not sure about the Atelier series?
If you’re still not sure how you feel about the Atelier series, I highly encourage you to check out streams or videos of people playing the games.
You are invited to join me on Twitch to stream Atelier or to ask me any questions you may have about the game. My stream is focused on JRPGs in a late-night talk atmosphere. I hope to see you there!