|Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky
|Tecmo Koei America, Tecmo Koei Europe
|March 7, 2014 (EU)
March 11, 2014 (NA)
|E10+ (ESRB), 12 (PEGI), PG (OFLC)
|North America, Europe
My, oh my, this series has certainly come a long way, with it now on the fifteenth game mark in mainline titles released. Atelier has quite the history, though the West only started getting titles since Atelier Iris back in 2005. Most, if not all, games in the series since then have been localized. But, even with this many titles, the series has certainly not lost its touch. With an already huge cast of established, colorful characters and a new interesting world in the form of the Twilight Land, Atelier Escha & Logy already has potential to go in more interesting directions. But, with the additions to a system similar to another Gust franchise, and reapplying the feature of two playable main characters, the question is this – Does it administer a fresh view with all the changes to further appease newer fans while still catering to old fans successfully?
Four years after Ayesha, and after their own special introductions, we’re introduced to both our protagonists – Escha, a resident of the town of Colseit, and Logy, arriving on aircraft to the remote town, leaving Central City behind. Both are starting their careers as government workers at the R&D branch in the region, and are assigned as a team. The game begins a little differently depending on whom you choose, but both characters end up in the same room after a few sequences. As both are acting as the branch’s alchemists, their job is to continuously tackle tasks that can be sorted out with their trade, along with investigations into ruins and unexplored areas around the town. You’re quickly introduced to most of the game’s cast right off the bat, and, as you progress, more characters are introduced. New, and a few returning, characters will join your ever-growing crew.
Time is of the essence, and deadlines must be met, or the characters face a number of consequences to an already-decaying branch with budget constraints and a short-handed staff. It first begins normally, but, as time passes, the motivations of our main characters become more clear, and the troubles around the area become increasingly dire. The dream to get to the unexplored ruins, with a mystery surrounding lithographs the characters find
throughout their adventures, becomes the main focal point of the plot. While it may sound exciting, Atelier’s main plots are usually not the strongest points, since the narration is usually more character-driven. The plot is pushed to the side constantly. It tries to build up a mystery and throw plot twists at you, but it usually falls flat, and is honestly not too shocking or interesting–with very little foreshadowing that is painfully obvious.
What is possibly the most interesting addition, but not new to series, however, is probably one of its strongest points in the story department. With two main protagonists, their differences and quirky personalities bring out the strengths in the writing – whether it’s for comedic value, insightful information or the drama. Escha is more lively, energetic and overly nice, but can be naive, which is a contrast compared to Logy. He tries to see things more in a realistic sense, and can be quite blunt with criticism. He has a kind side, but, underneath it all, he is a damaged person. You really get the satisfaction of seeing the two grow as individuals, and the sense of being more of a team with growing chemistry. They really bring out the best in each other. The ending doesn’t really aspire to a triumphant victory in accomplishing some grand task bestowed on them, but, instead, is more of fulfilling emotional ride that has a payoff.
One of the biggest issues of past games was that, while the characters were uniquely charming, eccentric, well-designed, and were all designated with their own role in the plot with a decent amount of dialogue and screen time, they still felt paper thin – even with character endings. This time around, however, character events are abundant, and are usually spread out well with every new main task or after returning from a long expedition. You will come across even more cutscenes to witness. And, with the slice-of-life factor that makes the Atelier series so endearing, they’re as entertaining as they have ever been. So, the characters are more developed, and not just simple caricatures. Plus, they’re living in an environment that gets a healthy dose of world building. The town hub is constantly kept current through events and NPC dialogue that changes with the passage of time. Thankfully, the game continues with one of Ayesha’s biggest improvements to the series’ structure – letting players obtain multiple character endings in one go, instead of having to replay the game for each one individually.
As you’re working for R&D, you’re expected to clear tasks given to you. This includes fulfilling various requests in a new, restrictive sense of exploration, but with an engaging time management system with a new bingo card-like assignment mechanic. This wouldn’t be an Atelier title without a complex, but easy-to-understand synthesizing system. You will be spending a great deal of of your time doing this. Escha’s job is developing an assortment of items ranging from attacks items such as bombs, health items like medicinal herbs or equivalents to junk food and accessories. Players will also synthesize necessary materials needed to create other items, like key quest items needed to finish tasks. On Logy’s side of things, players will also be able to “imbue” and “dismantle” relics. Unlike before, you can improve both weapons and armor at your leisure in your atelier, and this is just as essential for survival as the bombs and health items Escha creates. Plus, dismantling relics can reap you items that are impossible to obtain otherwise.
Every four months, you are given a new main task and several side tasks. Accomplishing these allows you to gain extra points towards your next rank. You will also receive rewards for completing a number of them, like added bonus stats to your characters, money and recipes for alchemy purposes. Small time requests are also available from Solle, which he constantly gives out every week in game time. Completing these nets players more rank points and candy. Candy can be used in numerous ways, but their main use is feeding them to a homunculus to duplicate items. You don’t necessarily get a Game Over if you fail to accomplish tasks or turn in your report late, after the first main task. Instead, the game penalizes you by giving you fewer days for the next main assignment, and the loss of the free days during that period. This means potentially missing specific character events. But, on the flip side, you can turn in your accomplished reports early, and get extra days for the next cycle. Marion also offers ‘Research,’ for a price, which ranges from using less time to travel or fewer days to make an item. Players can also pay to make grinding for both alchemy levels and adventure levels quicker, get an extra helping hand for developing items with more CP/PP, or acquire more homunculi to copy items – the list goes on.
When not in the atelier, you will be spending most of your time out in the field, traveling from point to point to gather ingredients and fight monsters. At certain points, there will roadblocks in the way of new areas. These can be anything from debris that must be cleared out with bombs, enemy encounters that usually consists of the toughest enemy type in the area, or, at rare times, a boss battle. The new turn-based battle system, while not so much overhauled, is based on the improved battle system in Ayesha, where moving and positioning around the battle field is key to victory. Attacking enemies from behind, or having a multiple characters out of range of an enemy’s AOE attack can make all the difference.
What was added is a similar, but, sadly, underused system straight out of Mana Khemia–the ability to the switch between characters on the fly by positioning characters behind the three in the front. Each turn allows characters in the back to switch in places with those in the front. Also, the new support system, which is indicated by the Support Bar, allows you build up points from attacking, using skills or equipment to defend a character when attacked, or to continue attacking the enemy after that character’s turn. They’re indicated by a prompt above a character’s portrait which allows you choose defend or attack. You’re also able to attack enemies on the field prior to starting a battle. This allows you to initiate battle with a huge starting advantage of three full points added to the Support Bar. Soon after getting more party members, the ability to activate a “Special Support” becomes available. When the damage rate reaches a specific amount, and you have at least one point in the Support Bar, you will be able to dish out some massive damage. While each character eventually gets their own finishing move, Escha and Logy don’t have this privilege. Instead, they can use the “Double Draw,” a stronger variation of attack from the second equipment item used by the opposite character chosen.