The protagonist of Atelier Sophie: ~The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book~ is the alchemist novice Sophie Neuenmuller who lives in a small town. One day she finds a speaking book which bears
not only the soul of the alchemist Platcha, but also promises of a powerful alchemy item. Unfortunately the book suffers from amnesia which has to be countered by adding new alchemy recipes.The biggest change in comparison to the earlier part of the series is the removal of the time limits (except for a few side quests).
To gain recipes and progress in the plot, Sophie simply has to follow her ideas (basically hints for what to do next), e.g. visiting a location, defeating a monster or talking to someone. Time still plays an important part because the night/day cycle, day of the week and weather influences the behaviour of the town people and which ingredients/enemies can be found in the game world.
Those are required for using the alchemy system, as usually the heart of the game. After activating a cauldron, it is represented with a grid as well as colored orbs. An item is created by putting ingredients, which have a shape and a colour. All those properties interact with each other, for example when two ingredients overlap, the impact of the underlying one is lost and the placement of orbs in relation to the orbs (if they are near of overlap) influences the outcome.
There are also different cauldrons which have special impacts on the process, e.g. one makes especially powerful items but has a time limit.When exploring the areas, Sophie and her party (up to four people overall) will encounter monsters to fight.
Then the game switches to a round-based system where the player gives order like attacking, defending, using items or using abilities. The new stance system replaces the previous support system: each character has offensive and defensive stances which can be chosen instead of a regular command. Then the character automatically uses an appropriate action when their turn comes. This powers up the chain meter; the higher the more effective the actions become.
When multiple characters have their meter up, a very powerful special attack which drains the meter is performed.Of course the effectiveness also depends on the character level which increases after collecting enough experience points. After the level cap of 20 is hit, a level up rewards skill points which can be used to improve statistics, acquire passive skills or improve active skills. Regarding this system it is also important to keep in mind that after clearing an area, enemies and items respawn with a higher difficulty respectively quality.
Another important aspect is the friendship level which increases when talking to people regularly (and at the correct times) and, later in the game, giving them presents. This unlocks things, e.g. a new party member, item presents or combat bonuses for active party members.