Table of Contents
Throughout the Atelier franchise, there are a lot of patterns that break from expectations in standard JRPGs. These are not pure-JRPGs, and cannot be fully tackled using the usual JRPG gameplay toolkit that the average player has learned over the years. Or rather, those toolkits have a tendency to lead the players down the garden path someplace they don’t understand.
First and foremost, before we get into any details, Atelier games are not meant to be especially hard. Once you understand the general layout, they’re intended to be cute and relaxing and not super difficult. You can turn up difficulty settings (many veterans start on the hardest difficulty available) or deliberately do challenge runs to make things harder, but they’re not intended to be something that you beat your head on until you eventually barely manage to win by the skin of your teeth. If that’s the experience you’re having, then there’s a disconnect with the way the games are structured and your expectations, which is why I’m writing this general guide. For example, you cannot beat Atelier games by merely grinding level. Cannot. This is probably incorrect assumption #1 for new players. There are other ways: adjust your strategy, and the game will bend to your will, I promise. (Super-bosses are a different thing entirely. Almost all Ateliers have them and they are usually a very high end challenge, so beat a game and then you still have quite a lot of optional challenge if you want it.)
Second, and we’ll get into more detail, but these are crafting games first and JRPGs second. You will spend more time in the crafting menus (and quests and events) than running around bopping slimes with your heart-shaped staff or engaging with earth-shattering plot cutscenes. Crafting is immensely powerful in this game, and you can easily use its mechanics to break it in pieces by halfway through, with a little focus and planning (which is a large part of the fun for many, including me.)
Thirdly, there are often no antagonists in Atelier games, and the plots are on the light-fare side. Sometimes a big baddie appears for part of an arc, but these are not dark and gritty “delve, blood-covered, into the depths of hell, to kill God” type adventures. You’re much more likely to be aiming to cure a local environmental crisis, improve your town, or just become a better person and use the power of friendship to make the world a hug-filled cute and happy place.
The Atelier games are at their core character, event, and quest-driven adventures. The main plotlines are not necessarily the primary material delivery focus of the series. Characters have colorful and endearing interactions with other characters, in a lot of “moe anime slice of life” ways. The protagonists are usually aspiring do-gooders that have some challenge in their lives that they need to overcome, and the interactions are designed to dive into their emotional state, and how they work with others to move forward in their lives.
Practically speaking for the games themselves, this means that plotlines are quest-locked moreso than the reverse, which would be the standard in other JRPGs. Rather than “you can’t get X until you move the plot forward”, you have “the plot doesn’t move forward until you see at least 10 new scenes out of a possible 20”. The reverse is also true, there are also quests and events that won’t happen until a certain point, but the fact that you need to “do enough stuff” in order for the next available main plot point to appear is new for many. Sometimes you just need to fully explore the areas available to you, or gather or fight a certain number of times, or just plain spend a certain amount of time crafting, before the plot will continue. Occasionally, time also matters, and you can sleep or wait a while and have things move forward, but it’s usually one of the others.
Always check all the maps, and talk to all the usual NPCs to see if there are quest indicators, and trigger everything you can at all times.
The games are also structured around resource management. The earlier games are an exercise in literally running your Atelier like a real shop, needing to make rent every month, and scraping by making just enough crafting goods to sell, plus an excess to achieve goals that move the plot forward fast enough. Over time, the rent aspect shifted into a “mandatory monthly goals” type structure, before eventually being replaced with free-form plot meandering without the time-based structure. So while you aren’t necessarily literally paying rent in modern-era console Ateliers, this is where the series started, and the mindframe in which they are created.
There’s a lot of information available to you, and you’ll need to juggle it in the games. Don’t skip the tutorials on the in-game encyclopedia and such, which you might be tempted to in other JRPGs. While you might have access to internet wikis (or this website!), the Atelier games did a remarkable job having in-game resources that are actually useful, far earlier than in other game series. You can look up what enemies drops came from, what areas enemies reside in, what gatherables are available in each area, what the meanings of all the terms are and what all the different traits, effects, and properties actually do. In addition, as we’ll get to in a bit, while looking at your stash of items, or while selecting items during crafting, there’s a highly useful sorting and filtering mechanism – use it. It’s meant to be there so you can find the list of X type items that have Y property on them and are of Z color, so that you can narrow down out of the several thousand sticks and rocks and glowy bits you have in your treasure chest.
Learn the menus and the organizational systems. Some games have the occasional blind spot where a particular search would have been useful, but all of them are lightyears ahead of their peers in usable, functional internal encyclopedias and search tools.
While this no longer applies in games after Escha & Logy (other than the first half of Firis), for most of the lifetime of the Atelier series, time management was the #1 limiting factor. You had X days of game to play, and when it ends, the game ends, period. If you don’t finish the plotline before that, it’s a hard game over, try NG+ and do better next time. Additionally, there are often periodic monthly demands of various sorts, either rent in the early games, or chapter or month-long goals in the Arland and Dusk games.
The key to working with these systems is care. Just pay attention to the time-cost of your actions; don’t be wasteful.
If traveling to a particular area takes a long time and you don’t need anything from that area any time soon, find something else to do. Maybe the quest item you’re making doesn’t need to be high-quality, so you can use lesser quality goods and don’t need that super shiny thing after all. Maybe you can even buy the item instead and turn around and turn it in immediately for the reward. Maybe that might not even make you money, but will benefit you in some other way and is worth the slight loss that you can make up elsewhere.
Likewise, if you have time to burn, don’t waste it. Create some common items that you will definitely need. Extract some traits and put them on common materials, or combine traits, or start your quality-grind. (We’ll get to what those mean in a bit.) But there’s always some prep-work that you can do that’s generally useful that will save time later. It’s like taking spare time at work to clean up your desk or your email queue.
In all games with time management, just keep an eye on the clock and move things forward. Be efficient. None of them are impossible. A few you would need an FAQ for to make all the deadlines and also get everything and see everything (including a true ending) on a single playthrough. But none are meant to be brick walls to get the “normal/good” ending.
Finally, though this applies mostly to Arland and earlier, there are unfortunately calendar-day specific and highly missable events in some games. Things that can cost you a recruitable character, a recipe, a major item, or even a good ending. You won’t know that they’re coming unless you’re playing with an FAQ, unfortunately, but be aware that these exist. Luckily, starting with the Dusk games, this “feature” was discontinued.
The general game cycle is as follows:
- Trigger events to unlock new areas and new recipes
- Travel somewhere to uproot unsuspecting, innocent flowers or clobber suspiciously cute bunnies on the noggin
- Craft new items to either unlock new environmental traversal options, or power up, or clear a mandatory quest item
We’ve been over events already, so let’s go over exploration. In many JRPGs, the world is there to be explored… once. Clear it of treasures and unique enemies and then move on. This isn’t the case in Atelier. Areas are definitely meant to be explored, but they’re meant to be re-traversed repeatedly. You will be coming back to areas to collect more things and bonk more beanies many times over.
While the encyclopedia does a good job reminding you where certain items are, do also keep a mental note of where particular enemies and collectables are. The areas are small and limited in earlier games, but by the time we get to Firis, the areas get huge, and “magic grass is found in area X” is no longer that helpful when you can wander through X for a half hour (on the clock, in Firis) and not find any magic grass, because it’s only in one patch of flowers in a corner, or only in the back of one cave.
Completely clear out every area the first time, and try to beat every monster if you can, to assess what the variety of finds and drops are. Some are unfortunately rare, though that, too, is less pronounced in more modern games in the series. Mini-bosses are not just one-time challenges, they are meant to be defeated repeatedly to farm unique materials or unique traits (which we’ll get to in a bit). Also, depending on the game, using every exit to an area can be the way that you open up new areas.
Gathering tools and exploration tools exist and are often mandatory for progression. They work differently in various games, so some you need to arm and some you do not. But they range from giving you new abilities like breaking boulders with bombs to get to new areas, a fishing rod to fish, a potion to dissolve something in your way, to shoes that make you run faster, lucky coins that increase your gold and exp, different tools to slash or chop or burn gathering spots for different items, or fertilizer to make collectables better in some way. Atelier is practically a 3d metroidvania in some ways. Also, most of them have a range of effects depending on how you make them, so you can make fast shoes but also much faster shoes, tools to get some new items from each gathering spot or tools to get even more new items, etc.
In short, make use of your exploration tools, and fully explore every area and defeat every enemy at least once. You will be back and need to know what’s available and where. Also, note that fast travel and instant-go-home items exist in many of the games, and can often even drag you out of a deep dungeon safely, so do consider making sure you have those on you at all times. Also always increase your basket size when possible, that is always useful.
I can’t do proper service to each game’s battle system, but I can say that you should pay attention to all the tutorials and get to know every game mechanic. This isn’t like many some JRPGs where you can just skip them all because “I know how to click attack”. Atelier games often continue unlocking new mechanics all throughout the game, each one more powerful than the latter. And some of them can be hard to understand or use. But many of them can really break the game in half if you work at them. So my first advice is to just pay attention and learn the system for the one you’re playing. Combo attacks, support actions, party wide specials, powering up items being tossed, etc.
Secondly, buff and debuff. Many games don’t have a robust buff and debuff system, but there’s layers and layers to elemental weaknesses, status ailments, and even level-up or level-down mechanics. Be nasty, inflict horrible things on your opponents. And be careful, because they’re certainly going to do that to you. If you suddenly find yourself unable to use items or cast magic, inflicted with no-heal, at half your level, poisoned, and stunned… welp… you’re toast, sorry. But all’s fair in love and war, so you can do the same to the enemy.
Some attack and heal items can be imbued with attributes that make them trigger repeatedly. So throw one bomb and it will explode immediately and also for the next 3 turns, even as you continue to throw other bombs. Or use an all-party heal item that will trigger on successive turns even as you do other things.
There are healing item attributes that auto-trigger when you hit certain HP threshholds. So you can have potions in your basket that automatically get used on a character when they hit 30% max HP, without using a turn. If you stack more things on those potions like resurrect, auto-life, cure all status ailments, and something that makes the next incoming attack less effective, this can make you nigh invincible with enough preparation.
Break. Or stun, depending on the localization. Focus on breaking hard enemies and then unleashing something big while they’re weakened and taking extra damage. In some battles, this is literally the only way to win. Stun, and prevent or heal stun on yourself.
It doesn’t fit elsewhere so I’ll mention it here: it might seem prohibitive to keep making new bombs just to throw them all at the enemy, but most games offer a way to refill them automatically at some point. So even if you exhaust their uses down to 0, the item will not disappear, but will simply be “empty”. You’ll need to refill it, for money or otherwise, when you return to base. This is not always available, and not always immediately available in all games, but it is a common staple in many games.
Finally we get to the crux of the game. I said it was important, so I left it for last to give it the final space for the guide. I can’t go into details of the crafting system, because every game is at least a little different. The arcs tend to share some game mechanics among them, so that as you move from one to another within a series, they will feel somewhat familiar. But from series to series, the exact details of the system vary wildly. Arland is pretty simple, without much in the way of a puzzle aspect. Dusk added abilities that you use during synthesis (crafting) to alter things in various creative ways. Mysterious has the popular “fit the Tetris pieces together” type puzzle game aspect to it. And Secret (the Ryza games) has a rather free-form string of nodes system.
Not everything you craft needs to be high quality. The first time you craft something new, you usually get more “points” for it towards additional alchemy levels, which you want. So, if time and resources are available, definitely make one of every single item. It doesn’t have to have the best attributes, feel free to throw low quality junk into it just to get it over with. You can always use the result as an ingredient in the future, or maybe sell it off for spare change.
Buy all books and check all unlock conditions. You want to unlock all recipes eventually. Some are unlockable via various conditions that differ from game to game, so there’s often a menu of “hints” that tell you that if you defeat 5 of this and craft 5 of that and whatever else, you’ll get a new recipe. Some are only found in recipe books. Always buy them as soon as reasonable possible. Some are even plot mandatory in that you can’t move forward until you’re able to make X, but the recipe for that is in a recipe book at the general store you haven’t visited in a while.
Accessories and Bombs are King
Usually, every character has two accessory slots, and everyone can wear every accessory. This makes them versatile, so that you can swap them around in any party and not have to craft custom weapons or armor for each person, at least early in the game. Thus, it will behoove you to focus on making a couple decent accessories for your active party as early as possible. It’s usually cheaper than weapons and armor anyways. Give them a little more HP/MP, a few more stats, some HP-absorb or HP-regen of some sort. It will go a long way. Often, you can breeze through more than half of an Atelier game with an early but well thought out set of accessories for everyone.
Alchemist characters can attack regularly and use skills, just like your playable non-alchemist characters. But only alchemist characters (usually) can throw attack weapons, typically bombs. These are your primary damage-dealing device for the entire game, and in most games, for most of the game, they’re an expendable resource, so you have to keep making a stock of them to chuck at the cute little demon rabbits and adorable smiling flowers that want to hug you to death. Give them whatever decent attributes you reasonably can, keep a stock of them (and some healing items), and start your career as a professional pitcher, lobbing grenades at the enemy.
Note that in many games, the top-level critical-hit Trait for Bombs is often an instant kill on everything but bosses. Toss this on a wide-area-of-effect bomb and genocide some griffons!
Now we get to the nitty-gritty. Each item has several different attributes associated with it.
Effects refers to attributes of an item that are affixed to that item only, are one-item specific, are generally activated during the synthesis process by getting “enough” of some elemental value in some slot or another, and are non-transferrable (we’ll get to transferrable ones next). For example, a Bomb item might have a Damage S and Damage M Effect. Small and medium. Obviously you want more damage. So where feasible, do whatever the particular crafting system calls for to increase that effect bar until it hits the next Effect. Often, Effect names are hidden until you get it on one item once, and then are visible from then on. Or you can look at various FAQs (such as here!) to see what each item has to offer. Healing items, accessories, weapons, and armor also have Effects.
What Effects do can vary wildly from game to game and even from item to item. Some can make a bomb target the entire field of enemies instead of one, or target one enemy with higher damage rather than many.
Traits or Properties or both, depending on the particular Atelier game, are the attributes that are transferrable from item to item through synthesis. This is a core game mechanic that you must understand and master. A primary reason you’re running around pickin’ posies and bonkin’ bunnies for meat and fur is their Traits. Each will have a semi-random selection of them, like Attack+3 or Destruction++ or something. You want that Trait on an item that you can use, be it a bomb, potion, weapon, or so on.
Every game has a slightly different mechanism for limiting how many Traits you can transfer at once (to make it a little more puzzle-like, to not let you get too overpowered too quickly, and to present a growth arc where your crafting “gets better” as you level up). But the main idea is that if you put a flower with Trait-X and rock with Trait-Y into your recipe, then in the end, you get to pick X or Y or both to put on that final item. And, critically, if you use that item with X and Y on it in another recipe, you can transfer it again. And again. Until it lands on something you actually use.
Also, again critically, this allows you to copy traits. Many are rare or annoying to find or create (more on that in a second), so you do not want to use them in something frivolous, or forget to transfer them and lose them. Or, again critically, never put traits directly onto a final item. Never. Make a dozen of some intermediate material (like a Neutralizer or Supplement) with them on it, so that you have a stock of that Trait for future use. If you find yourself down to one left, use that in another recipe to make a bunch of it, so you keep a stock. Not every Trait is critical, but when you get a good one, you do not want to lose it. Also be careful that you don’t try to put a Trait on something that won’t carry it – depending on the game, this differs.
Many very rare and powerful traits are only on items dropped by bosses, or even super-bosses. Many are only on items that are in hard to reach areas. Many can only be found if you max out your exploration items that increase gathering level or trail level or so on, depending on the game. Some are only on particular materials that you may not have found yet, or even need to buy from specific shops.
Also, many games have a nutrient or tonic item that, when used, temporarily and for one “entrance of an area”, makes all the collectables in that area “better”. Higher quality, better traits. When feasible, make a stock of this and use it constantly as you pick things up, you’re much more likely to get the collection of traits you want, earlier, and on better base items to boot.
Trait Combining and Hoarding
The next major aspect of Traits is that some of them combine. If you put a Destructive+ and Destructive++ Trait on the same item, these will merge into “Intense Destruction”. Destructive and Destructive+ will become Very Destructive. Then those two combined Traits, when combined, become Ultimate Destruction or something else of that nature. Not every Trait combines, and the Traits available can differ from game to game (though they were consistent through Arland and into Ayesha, then from Escha&Logy through Lydie&Suelle, and are now consistent amongst the Ryza games).
Note that Traits can stack if they don’t combine. You can have Destructive++, Intense Destruction, and Ultimate Destruction on the same Bomb, because none of those combine. Abuse this heavily. Not every single stackable Trait necessarily stacks their effectiveness in battle, but most do. Stack stat-ups on equipment, stack damage-ups on bombs. Stack stat-ups across equipment, too: you can use the same stat-up on multiple wearables. This is how you really open up the game, you can get 10x the stats and 10x the damage on items that you’d normally get from just leveling.
So take note of what combines, and what combined ones further combine. This two, or even more, step combination process is a staple of the series. Keep an eye out for the ones you’re missing.
Periodically open up your container, do a filter by Trait, and scroll through all your Traits. See what you have and what you don’t yet. If you have a new one that’s important, go and put it on something more permanent so you don’t accidentally lose it. Even if it’s an intermediate one like an X++ trait that isn’t immediately useful, but you know will combine with something else later. You gain a sense of what’s going to be useful as you play Atelier games, and strategies differ from person to person, but this is the general idea.
In addition to Effects and Traits, items also have Quality. Max Quality and how it’s displayed differ from game to game, but it usually pegs at 120 or 999. Depending on the game, Quality can be helpful on some items and not others. Most games offer a system where a higher Quality bomb does more damage, but not every game gives you better stats from equipped items of higher Quality. You have to check that out for yourself in each game. However, it usually helps with something, and in many cases, higher Quality items are needed for various quests.
One thing that is universal is that the Quality of an item is the strict average of the quality of the ingredients, plus or minus things that adjust that during the synthesis. Every game has different ways to adjust it, but another universal is that there are at least some Traits that increase it. From Escha&Logy through Lydie&Suelle, there’s Quality, Q+, Q++, Well Made, Pro Perfection, and Super Quality. These combine in the same way as above with Destruction. And they apply themselves as multiplicative factors on top of the quality when you finish a synthesis. 100 Quality + 100% increase in Quality from various Traits equals a Quality 200 item.
The way you get max-Quality items is to find a single item that is an ingredient in itself, or a short cycle of recipes that feed into each other. Let’s say Alchemy Clay is a (Clay) type and also takes (Clay) as an ingredient (it is in some games, not others). So, optimally, put Super Quality, Pro Perfection, and Quality++ on it to get a pretty high quality item. Use it in itself, which will already be naturally higher quality even without Traits, because the ingredients used are themselves higher Quality… and the end result will be even higher. After a few cycles, you can have an item that’s 999 or whatever the max in that game is.
Then make a few other common items that use that one as an ingredient, and maximize them. Then use those to make other Q999 items. You don’t have to do it for everything, just the ones that are commonly used as ingredients in other recipes, like Alchemy Clay, Neutralizers, Zettel, Distilled Water, etc.
If a recipe that feeds into itself isn’t available, find a short loop. Perhaps X goes into Y, which goes into Z, which then feeds back into X again. This is often referred to as a cycle or loop in community discussions.
While early game can be completed with whatever ingredients you have on hand, eventually you hit a point where you need to do some planning in advance. Don’t be afraid to take out a notepad to draw some diagrams. I won’t judge you. In fact, I’ll be sitting here with open spreadsheets, staring nerdly. OuO
If a particular item requires a high quality ingredient of a particular type, or one with particular attributes like element or category value (depending on the game), then you often need to make that ingredient. And sometimes you need to make ingredients to make that one, and so on, working backwards until you have the raw ingredients to start the chain of synthesis. You can beat most Atelier games on Normal difficulty without having to go nuts with this process, but if you’re in it for the postgame or DLC, then this becomes increasingly mandatory. It also makes early game-breaking possible.
Duplication and Warehousing
Most Atelier games offer some kind of duplication scheme. (I’m aiming my stink-eye at you, Firis, for not offering this!) That’s where you can hand over an item of yours and get identical copies back, either for free or for money. This means that once you “register” that item, it’s “safe” and you can always get more copies of it. This is particularly important for items that are hard to find or hard to create. Definitely make use of this when it’s available.
Constantly need to hand over Barrels to someone for their stream of “gimme” quests? Register a high quality Barrel and just pick it up or buy it when you need it, rather than having to craft it each time. Have a perfect high quality Distilled Water that you need in every other recipe? Register it and stock up, rather than having to remake it. Super hard to create Philosopher’s Stone with crazy Effects and Traits? Register it and buy as many as you need. Only need a lot of the item and don’t care about the traits? Dump a bunch of “price down” type Traits on it and make it free or close to free, even if it’s usually expensive. (You can make price-up ones and sell them, too. And if the game offers free duplication, then this is literally printing money.)
Aside from the duplication, you’ll also find yourself just plain stocking up on materials, whether via gathering or synthesizing. You are now a professional warehouse manager, so get used to it. 🙂 When time and money allows, keep a running stock of what you need, and sell or trash low-Quality things with bad Traits, to make room. There’s always a storage limit, different in every game. Usually it’s expandable, but sometimes it’s big and sometimes feels tiny.
Trait Grinds and Post-Games
Near end-game, you usually cannot just breeze past the final boss. You will need to put together some reasonably decent weapons and items. However, be not afraid, dear mortal; this is not insurmountable.
While each game has a dedicated fan community that are more than happy to regale you with their favorite specific setups for each character in each game, I’ll give a few overall pointers.
Firstly, you’re going to need good Traits (and sometimes also raw materials of high Quality). Go to the highest level areas, set the difficulty to the highest you can reasonably manage (this sometimes improves drops), use whatever the highest level fertilizers or such are that increase Quality and Traits on collectables, and go flower picking. Also, perforate those punis and pidgeons; beat up everything, particularly mini-bosses and boss refights. They often drop materials with the best traits. Though, depending on the game, there are other specific ways to grind for good Traits. Make copies of them, and get synthesizing.
Most endgame setups have:
- All equippable items with “increase all stat” Traits of some sort, preferring speed to anything else, as more turns equals more opportunity
- Equippable items that prevent status ailments
- Bombs with added damage and either added elements or “no element” to eliminate bosses with element immunity, inflict lots of Break or Stun, and that hit for multiple turns in a row
- Either high Critical-chance Traits on your bombs, or buff items that do that for you
- Debuffs that break, de-level, reduce defense, reduce elemental defense, or cause status ailments (particularly the nasty ones like No Heal, Seal, and Curse), and that hit for multiple turns
- Healing that affect all players (preferrably) that auto-life, auto-regen, cure all statuses, cure stun/break, that hit for multiple turns
- Also a stock of healing items that auto-trigger at HP threshholds without needing to be used, with whatever buffs you can on them
- Buffs that increase defenses and elemental defenses, level-up, speed-up, that hit for multiple turns
It’s common to need to put together one set of items in midgame, another better one near the end of the game, and another ultimate one to tackle DLC or super-bosses, particularly on highest-difficulty. In many games, if you do a really good job with things you can get at the halfway point of the game, you can beat the boss with that, and sometimes even on an elevated difficulty (tho not a max postgame difficulty).
The Atelier games are cute and funny and intended to be huggalicious. If you put a little bit of effort into making a few decent Accessories and Bombs for everyone, and trigger all the events and quests you can, you can usually make it through 80% of any Atelier game without much trouble. End bosses do require some additional effort, but most should not require you to be Sun Tzu to strategize just beating the game.