For those that are unfamiliar, the Atelier series has been a staple in the JRPG genre since 1997. It has spanned from the original PlayStation One, all the way to the present. The game has built a following around the use of alchemy and making powerful items through the synthesis of common items. It has followed the games since the beginning, and if there is anyone out there expecting Atelier Escha & Logy to stray from this tried-and-true formula, they should look for their next JRPG adventure elsewhere. However, as the series progressed, it has always innovated to be greater than the game that came before. Atelier Escha & Logy does manage to make some tweaks to the gameplay that help present the series in a new light.
The story revolves around two main characters. On one hand you have Logix Ficsario, a skilled alchemist and fighter, who works for a local governmental organization. This organization works to improve a remote village called Kolseit. This brings us to our other protagonist, Escha Malier, who is an alchemist that lives in the village of Kolseit. Since she and Logix share the same profession she is recruited into the Center’s development team. They work together aid Center in its development efforts using their knowledge of alchemy. However, as simple as their task sounds, they uncover more secrets in their quest to develop Center.
Right off the bat, the series allows you to choose which protagonist you’d like to play as. Traditionally, you’d only have one choice, but now you’ll be able to pick the alchemist that best suits you. If you decide to choose Logy, the story will take a more serious tone and it will play more like a traditional RPG. However, if you prefer to choose Escha, the gameplay will be more focused on the alchemy itself and the tone will be much lighter. The general plot doesn’t change, the only thing that changes is how you perceive the events.
The story itself is segmented into 10 different missions with many sub-sections of each mission. These missions range from crafting and delivering to discovery to battle. Each mission is given a certain amount of time to complete and getting tasks done on time is important. If you succeed early, you can spend the extra time developing your characters, but if you fail the mission or take too long, you’ll loose time for the next mission causing a ripple effect. There are plenty of extra mission in the game that give you goal points which allow you to advance the story. This ensures that even if you fail missions, you’ll be able to continue the story. The story itself lasts for 4 in-game years where the first 3 are dedicated to the story and the last year determines your ending..
The combat system has also been slightly tweaked and modified to improve the design. For instance, you can now bring six characters into battle, three which fight and three in reserve. You can swap out these characters at any time and while a character is swapped they regenerate their HP and MP. This new mechanic becomes an important part of the story and you’ll need it against some of the stronger foes in the game. There is also a new gathering system which makes leveling up a bit easier and it increases your chances of obtaining rare items under specific circumstances. If you didn’t like having to grind it out in past games, this one provides a meaningful solution to that. Finally, there is an improved alchemy system in place which leads to you being able to craft items earlier in the game. It also lets you pick the traits of the items you are creating. In past games, you would get random traits which led to a lot of extra alchemy. Now, you can craft a very specific item which makes all the difference in the world.
From a graphical perspective, this game looks great. There is a nice mix between characters we’ve seen throughout the series as well as plenty of new environments, monsters and textures. The game also features plenty of new 3D cut scenes that are fully voice acted. If you played earlier versions of the game, you’d know that this was something that was lacking in the previous games. All in all, the game looks great which is a welcomed addition to the game.
Overall, Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is shaping up to be a strong addition to the Atelier franchise. The game addresses some of the past issues of the franchise while maintaining a certain familiarity with the series. If you are a fan of the series, you are going to love this game. However, if you are new to the franchise, this is a great place to start. You may not get a proper introduction to all the characters since many of which were introduced in Ayesha, but from a gameplay perspective this is a very easy place to jump in.
Look for Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky to be released on the PlayStation 3 on March 11th. Pre-orders are being accepted at preferred retailers now.