IGN Preview of Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny
Last year's alchemical role-playing game Atelier Iris cast a spell on plenty of gamers thanks to its characters, a wry sense of humor and an engaging item creation system. Proving that clich?d gameplay can be invigorated with a large dose of creativity and a decent amount of user created equipment, Atelier Iris was a nice addition to an RPG fan's game library. Now, a year later, Nippon Ichi Software is preparing to release the next installment of the series with Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana 2.
Set in a completely different world than the first title, Atelier Iris 2 takes place in the world of Eden, an idyllic island world where magic using people and spirits known as Mana co-exist peacefully. Mana is essentially tied to a specific element, such as fire or water, and they make pacts with worthy alchemists to use and augment their powers. The Main characters of the game are Viese and Felt, two orphans who are looking to make their mark on the world. Shortly after Viese's pact ceremony with a wood Mana at the Dour tree, Eden is rocked to its core by a series of earthquakes that devastates the realm. Tasked with finding out what's happening to their home, Viese and Felt try to save Eden before it's completely destroyed.
Their quest to save their land takes them in two completely separate directions thanks to their skills. While Felt has been trained to be an alchemist, he's eschewed this life for a focus on swordplay. When he releases the Azure Azoth, the mythical sword that protects all of Eden from its stone-locked resting place, he becomes Eden's chosen one. Shortly thereafter, he is transported to an alternate world known as Belkhyde. Viese, on the other hand, remains in Eden, researching alchemical formulas and following clues that could provide an insight into what's happening.
What follows is an interesting balancing act between both characters with the story as the adventure plays out in both realms at the same time. The game features a new character switch system where you'll actively trade off between Felt and Viese whenever you'd like with the help of save points, switching between the tamer, synthesis driven world of Viese and the more "traditional" RPG surroundings for Felt. This includes gathering allies, collecting items and entering fights. Felt does have the option to try to avoid the standard random encounter though, thanks to an encounter meter on the side of the screen that indicates how close he is to running into a monster in a particular area.
Atelier Iris 2 now features a new battle system known as the Action Cost Time Battle System. Faster paced than the typical turn-based system, Felt, his allies and his opponents can only launch an attack based on how close they are to the right end of the gauge. You can hit with a standard "Charge Attack," which increases your Skill Gauge (a feature that governs when you can use special skills). You can also attempt a "Break Attack," which can push enemies farther down the gauge and interrupt their chance to attack. Successfully knocking opponents to the left side of the gauge will stun them, leaving enemies vulnerable to brutal combos and critical hits. These strikes, in turn, provide additional experience points and possible items for the party.
Along the way of his travels, Felt might come across recipes that he can't decipher, items that he'll collect or elements that he'll simply gather thanks to his basic alchemical skill. Fortunately, all of these elements can be transferred to Viese thanks to a share ring that the two possess that allows their inventories to be pooled together. A major distinction between Atelier Iris 2 and the original game is that you no longer have to visit a shop to synthesize items: Once you've got the material and the proper instructions, you return to Viese's home and process as many as you'd like in her cauldron.
This also unlocks the item for Mana synthesis, which is the only way that Felt can "create" new equipment. By using gathered elements, he can increase his stockpiles whenever he wants, including in the midst of battle or while he's exploring the map. Viese can also substitute base ingredients to augment the previous recipe. This is significant, because in Atelier Iris 2, manipulating your synthesis techniques is the only way to power up offensive weapons, make healing items more potent, or creating new objects. More than three hundred unique items can be created in Atelier Iris 2, not including the various modifications you can run them through by tweaking the formula.
We've barely scratched the surface of this title, and we'll have a full review of the game when it hits shelves later this month. For now, take a look at Viese and Felt in action, killing beasts and mixing potions.
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