By: Jeff Cater
Gust Corporation and Tecmo Koei have released a new installment in the Atelier franchise with Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky. Despite being the 15th game in the series, it is the first to offer two selectable protagonists from the beginning. With key features like combat and synthesis receiving a revamp, is this the direction that Gust should be taking the series?
Most of the game is done through various menu selections and confirmations, whereas a small portion relies on environmental navigation. In the latter, the left stick, X and Square do just about everything you need on any given stage, like opening doors or jumping over obstacles. Getting lost in the elaborate menu system during synthesis or even combat is really the most trouble I had with the controls, but after a while slip ups became a very minute factor.
As the Atelier titles are somewhat infamously known for, the visuals are a bit ragtag. While the character models and texture are extremely detailed and varied, the environments are underwhelming chunks of yuck. Levels are plagued by simple geometry and invisible fences barring you from any immersion unintended by the developer. Aside from a few swaying branches and bushes blowing back and forth, the environments are all very stagnant and dull to look at. During the exploration portions of the game, either selected character along with every NPC you encounter features the absolute stiffest animations I’ve seen in a game.
While the same could be said of its predecessor, Atelier Ayesha: Alchemist of the Dusk, it seems little to no attempt was made at any improvement. Combat animations are much better and very imaginative, it’s just a shame none of that was shared with the exploration parts of the game because it feels very uninteresting and drawn out when not synthesizing or participating in combat.
While the visuals are truly so-so, the outstanding voiceovers and musical score almost completely save the day. While you can switch between English or Japanese, default setting being English, there’s little need to unless you’re a traditionalist. The English voice actors all voice their characters as they’re represented, along with their appropriate inner monologue in slightly different tones.
The musical score is absolutely incredible and fills the otherwise empty feeling levels with intricate, swooning melodies and playful choruses, all of which are carefully tuned to the pace and tone of the dialogue. Gustsuccessfully lulls you into the dialogue by having appropriate and enjoyable music literally every moment of the game.
In line with the most recent Atelier titles, you’re an alchemist set with a surplus of tasks to complete before a given deadline. For the first time in the series, though, you’re able to select between two characters from the start. One being Escha, an up-front but cheery lady whose specialty is magical spells and imbuement; and the other is Logy, whose real name (Logix Fiscario) is more bad ass than his nickname. His specialty is more focused on the armor and weapons side of crafting, so selecting a character will somewhat tailor your play through.
Exploring the various parts of Colseit and the surrounding areas (without giving too much away), you’re on a constant quest for different materials for your alchemical ways. Different ingredients can often produce wildly different results depending on the expert at the cauldron. As long as you’re spending your extra time wisely by experimenting with different combinations, you’ll be able to create some pretty incredible spells and pieces of equipment. Spending your time wisely is pretty much key to the whole game, as every quest has a deadline. Every three months in-game you’ll receive a new set of quests and optional assignments to complete in order to gain more materials and money to fuel your research to prepare for future battles.
While the combat is much easier this time around, be it from lacking AI or simply tuned down enemy damage output, it ramps up considerably late in the game. It is still turn based, and this time you have six people in your party to lay the smack down on the enemy. Engagements are generally pretty easy if you’re paying attention to chaining attacks between characters to trigger an all-out team attack. Perhaps if you slacked on completing some side quests or item modifications/creations, you’ll find that you’ll have a much more difficult time late-game. There’s literally no reason not to complete every quest though, as you’ll find that at the end of a cycle you’ll still have ample time to experiment and create new items. So use every moment to its fullest.
When not in combat or negotiating the barren level design, most of your time is spent navigating through an absolute library of menus. Move the arrow here, press X, confirm that you pressed Xand do it all over. It quickly becomes a chore keeping track of everything that you have to do while navigating the menu system as well, so time can be lost while simply being… lost.
With its simplified combat and synthesis systems, Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky might not be the Atelier game fans have been waiting for, but having two playable characters and 11 different endings (!!!) makes it an important piece to any collection. It won’t, however, draw new players in as the beginning of the game is just far too slow and uninteresting.