It’s not at all unusual for RPGs these days to contain a significant post-game component: something to spend your time with once the credits have rolled for the first time.
It’s a little more rare for games to take the approach that Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey does, which is for what is technically the “post-game” to feel pretty much like a whole new game in its own right.
Yes, you could quite feasibly put Atelier Firis down after you help her pass her alchemy license exam. But you’d be missing out on so much — so let’s explore what this whole “second quest” has to offer!
Once Firis passes her alchemy license exam, the credits roll and you get an “ending” of sorts.
Once that’s over and done with, the time limit is removed from Atelier Firis and, after a short story sequence back in her hometown of Ertona, you are once again given the freedom to roam outside wherever you see fit.
Almost, anyway; you may notice as you explore that there are a few areas which you are unable to reach at the outset of this new section of game — mostly with the implication that you’ll need to either swim or dive underwater.
Beyond that, you can go where you please — and the fact you have no time limit to worry about this time around means that you can really take your time exploring each and every map to see what you can find. You’ll doubtless discover certain zones have significantly more powerful enemies in them than others, but you can reach pretty much everywhere aside from the aforementioned waterlogged areas.
Interestingly, this part of the game opens without any clear direction. Firis leaves Ertona for the second time purely because she has determined that she doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life — and as such thinks that as good a way as any to figure that out would be to take another journey across the entire map to Reisenberg, site of the alchemy exam, and from there see what happens.
Once you reach Reisenberg — which you can either make a beeline for or take your time exploring all the zones on the way there — you’ll meet up with Sophie and Plachta, who will finally join up with Firis on her adventures, and this acts as something of a trigger for several lines of events to get underway.
Up until this point, you’ll have had the opportunity to get to know some of the recruitable party members available to you over the course of the game as a whole through conversations in the Atelier. In some cases, you might even be able to see these questlines through quite a significant amount — but it’s not until Sophie and Plachta join that most of them can be completed.
In fact, some of them don’t even start until Sophie and Plachta join — most notably the questline that relates to Firis’ sister Liane, who has been a constant companion to our heroine for the entire game up until this point — but nonetheless a character that it feels like we haven’t really got to know much beyond her adoration of her little sister.
From this point on, it’s entirely up to you how you choose to spend your time. Sophie, Plachta and Liane’s storylines lead on towards the game’s “true” ending, but there are plenty of other narrative threads to tug at along the way. And, much like the stories Firis encounters while on the way to take her alchemy exam, there are a lot of lessons she can learn in the process.
Many of these relate to the idea of “coming of age” and learning to act like a proper adult — something which a fair few of the characters Firis encounters on her journey haven’t quite mastered themselves as yet.
Take the busty axe-wielding warrior Drossel, for example; Firis first encounters her lost in a forest, quickly and correctly surmising that she has a terrible sense of direction. Initially, Drossel might just seem like a fun, scatterbrained older sister sort of character — something of a contrast to the typically quite composed Liane — but over time it appears that there’s a lot more to her. And a few subverted expectations along the way.
After a few conversations in the atelier, for example, Drossel reveals that she is longing for someone she only refers to as “him”. Those who have played Atelier Sophie will, at this point, probably notice a few familiar character traits at this point in terms of how Drossel tends to describe “him”, but it’s not until quite a while later that we learn a few more details.
Firstly, we learn that Drossel is a playwright, but she’s extremely self-conscious about anyone reading her work in progress. Secondly, we learn that she is fascinated with dolls and puppetry to an obsessive degree; her attitude changes significantly any time the topic comes up. Thirdly, by this point in the story you will have almost certainly encountered someone else who fits this description: Fritz, the itinerant puppeteer who first appeared in Atelier Sophie.
Drossel, it transpires, is Fritz’s daughter, and the pair have a somewhat complicated relationship. The pair of them share a dream to perform the ultimate puppet show together, but it also seems that their shared obsession caused Fritz’s wife and Drossel’s mother to leave them.
Just to make things a little more complicated, the “him” that Drossel was constantly referring to earlier in the narrative is a small, puppet form of Fritz himself — who, it transpires, was the star of the first puppet show that Drossel ever saw. And the performers in that puppet show? Fritz and his wife — Drossel’s mother.
The lessons to be learned here are doubtless obvious: having an interest that you’re passionate about can be a wonderful thing, particularly if you can share it with family — but taking things beyond “passionate interest” and into “obsession” territory can end up having a negative impact on both yourself and those around you. If you recognise that, there’s a chance you can fix things, of course — but it involves reaching an important understanding with yourself.
Elsewhere in the game, there are some fascinating lessons to be learned from the relationship between Firis and her friend Ilmeria. Ilmeria is initially introduced as the obligatory tsundere rival character, but it’s not all that long before she becomes a bit more honest about her feelings and agrees to travel with Firis.
Ilmeria is seemingly very cocksure and arrogant about her own alchemy abilities, habitually referring to herself as a “genius” and seemingly putting across the impression that she thinks she’s better than everyone else.
Except there are numerous times over the course of the narrative where Ilmeria deliberately holds herself back in order to allow Firis to take the spotlight — because she wants to spend time with Firis.
The most notable of these is a point where Firis, Ilmeria and local alchemist Ren are all attempting to deal with a local waterspout that has prevented local shipping from crossing a lake. Firis comes up with a design for a new ship, but requires Ilmeria and Ren’s help in finalising the components — a task that both of them are more than happy to help with.
We learn after most of the hard work is done that Ilmeria had already figured out a solution to the problem that would have taken considerably less effort — but that she deliberately kept quiet about it so she could help Firis realise her own potential.
The pair are obviously very close with one another, and, depending on your performance in the alchemy exam in Reisenberg, may even end up getting the exact same score. On your first playthrough, Ilmeria will more than likely come out on top — ties are broken with an alchemical fight, and Ilmeria is a formidable opponent! — but she still loses out to Sophie who, after all, is an incredibly powerful alchemist by this point.
Subsequent story sequences reveal that Ilmeria’s confidence took a considerable knock from the fact that she didn’t get first place in the exam. Not only that, but her parents, who are the heads of a long line of renowned alchemists, are seemingly disappointed in her — despite the fact that she’s clearly demonstrated herself to be more than just “competent” by this point in the narrative.
Firis, naturally, attempts to comfort Ilmeria the best way she knows how, but the pair end up in a fight; it doesn’t take long for them to resolve things, however, because they both realise that they very clearly know what each other are thinking, even those things that are habitually left unspoken.
From there, the obvious lesson to learn is that when you’re with people you love, trust and depend on, it doesn’t pay to have secrets. If you’re struggling, it’s okay to ask for help, or simply to express the fact that you’re having difficulty. True friends and family won’t judge you for having a “low point”; they’ll support you through it and, if they are able, help you out of it.
This is a lesson it’s arguably more important for Ilmeria to learn than Firis, but the pair of them get some value from it, for sure. Firis learns that she shouldn’t make assumptions about people from the outward attitude they display towards others, because it could all be a defence mechanism. Ilmeria, meanwhile, discovers that you don’t have to be closed off all the time; sometimes it’s okay to show your own vulnerability and accept the support offered by others.
There are plenty of other such lessons to learn over the course of Atelier Firis’ second half, and the joy of this part of the game is that you really do feel like you can explore all these stories at your own pace. This is a story about Firis learning who she really is and how she wants to live her life, after all — so it pays for her to seek out as wide a variety of experiences as she can find, with as diverse a crowd of people as she can muster.
And the group of possible companions Firis can adventure with over the course of her journey is nothing if not diverse. We’ve talked about just two of them in this chapter — but there’s plenty more to discover before Firis’ journey is done with!
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