In the video game industry gamers have come to expect certain titles to be released annually. There will almost always be a yearly release for sports fans or first person shooter fans, but rarely do we have yearly releases for RPG players. However for the last ten years Gust has been doing just that with their Atelier series and even after being purchased by Tecmo Koei they have remained fairly strong every year. Now that their latest entry into the series, Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky, has been released have they managed to keep up their fairly impressive track record?
The story of Atelier Escha & Logy revolves around the small village of Colseit, best known for their apple orchards, where both a fresh young alchemist by the name of Escha Malier and a more skilled alchemist from a major city with certain circumstances forcing him to move named Logix Fiscario, or Logy for short, have begun working for the city’s Research & Development team. Because they are new recruits they have to start from the bottom and work on building the city back up a bit and eventually expand their focus into bigger things such as why the world is currently suffering from a massive catastrophe.
You see, one of the main reasons that Colseit has an established R&D team is due to a mysterious floating ruin in the sky that simply goes by the name “Unexplored Ruins” because no one has ever ventured there before. As such, one of the main goals of the game is to reach these ruins but as with a few of the past games in the series, the main story in Atelier Escha & Logy isn’t a major driving force although there are some very interesting and incredibly challenging revelations that occur later on in the story.
What makes Atelier Escha & Logy’s story worthwhile is something that Gust has always seemed to implement into their RPGs to various levels of success and in this title they have done an amazing job. For those unfamiliar with the Atelier series’ strengths I am talking about the characters of course. In many of my past reviews for games in the Atelier series, especially in the Arland trilogy, I mentioned that the characters in the game would make the whole thing worthwhile and that the old saying that the greatest part of a story is not in the destination but in the journey.
Well not to sound like a bit of a broken record but that description fits Atelier Escha & Logy perfectly. The characters in the game all have a goal of their own and a unique likable personality that never feels out of place in the game and will have players struggling to choose a favorite since every character, including our two leads, are developed nicely. Especially Logy as his past is only hinted at initially and is eventually developed later on in the game.
Now as you may have noticed, we have two lead characters in the form of Escha and Logy and although players can choose to play as either character at the start, the overall story remains pretty much the same overall regardless of which alchemist you choose, although there are some unique scenes and a few developments exclusive to each character. It is also worth noting that, while Atelier Escha & Logy features a number of different endings like past Atelier games, this one has endings that are character specific so you will not be able to see all of the endings if you only choose to replay as the same character, giving this title perhaps the most replay value of the series.
Now anyone familiar with the Atelier series probably knows what to expect in Atelier Escha & Logy but for those who may just be looking into the series now, the game is broken down into four sections: alchemy, combat, quest completion, and exploration. All of these segments then fit into the time limit that is placed on players as they must reach certain goals in a set period of time to continue on their journey. This might sound brutal but it this time constraint is fairly forgiving if you manage your time correctly and do not make any accidental side trips as your goals can almost always be met long before the set date.
Players will have to complete these tasks either by synthesizing items with alchemy, gathering items from exploration, or defeating a set amount of monsters and while many of these quests can be story related, it is good to spend some time on the side-quests as they can not only provide the player with additional items and recipes, but a way to test their skills and occasionally kill time.
Now before I touch upon the revamps to the battle system, it is worth noting that the alchemy system in Atelier Escha & Logy remains very simple at the forefront but incredibly complex at the same time as players will need to balance the cost vs reward of creating specific items that may need to be used to complete a request or be used in battle, the time that it takes to create such an item, and then the grade and value of the ingredients necessary to add specific bonuses to the created item.
Despite how deep the system can be at times and how complicated players can take their alchemy, the game never feels like it throws too much at the player at any given time and allows them learn at their own pace. It is also interesting to note that although both characters are alchemists, the majority of the alchemy will be performed by Escha as she is more skilled with item synthesis while Logy is better with forging equipment.
Now as for the exploration aspect, players will need to traverse a map and explore fields to gather ingredients for synthesis and again all of these factors take time and days can pass relatively quickly when you are in the field, so it is always good to keep an eye out on what specific items you may need or where you should be heading next as gathering items from one spot can take up to half a day of in-game time when there are numerous gathering spots in one field.
As players travel in these fields or occasionally dungeon areas they will encounter a number of monsters which can be attacked on the field for a pre-emptive strike. Once players enter battle they will be presented with the standard turn based battle system that the series has used for a while but this time things have been changed around a bit. You see, up to six fighters can take part in battle now and the support gauge is now contained in one bar instead of each character having a support gauge of their own.
Now players can only really fight with three characters at any given time, with three other fighters serving as back up. These three back up members can be called in to deliver extra damage or take a hit for the player, but they can also be swapped out with the front fighter. This is a useful tactic to move a wounded character to the back as all characters in the back will regenerate some health which is useful for difficult battles.
As for the support system, by creating a single gauge the company has made combat a more fluid affair that doesn’t limit the player too much and leave them wide open. By creating this one gauge system which fills up whenever the player gives or takes damage, it is easier for the player to call in numerous supporting attacks to deal a large amount of damage to one enemy or protect a vulnerable character from an incoming attack.
By allowing players to have six usable characters in a fight but still limiting them to three active fighters at any time Gust has made these battles not only a bit easier but also more enjoyable as the pace has been improved significantly over past titles and feels quite fast at times. That being said, even with the refined battle system there are a number of difficulty spikes that can catch players off guard, so it is always wise to make sure you are well equipped for long journeys, especially those that involve a story mission.
Another thing that has always been a highlight of the Atelier series is how gorgeous the games can look and I can say that although I had some concern about how Atelier Escha & Logy would look considering it is using a new engine and Ayesha lost some of the charm of the Arland trilogy, I can happily say that this game is wonderful looking. It is also nice to note that the mouth flap issue has been revised and a characters mouth actually stops moving once they are done speaking.
The character designs are incredibly well detailed with clothing that feels unique to the series. Plus the soft coloration used in the game makes for quite an eye-pleasing experience and although the places that you can explore still are lacking in detail, they have been improved upon. It is also nice to note that the character animations and battle animations are handled nicely and work well with the new system.
It is nice to note that Tecmo Koei has not made the same mistake twice regarding the voice track option as the company has provided both the newly recorded English voice track as well as the original Japanese voice track for those who prefer that option. For what it is worth, the English cast handles the characters quite nicely with Escha being the standout of the bunch, but at least the option is there.
Now although I found myself initially concerned for Atelier Escha & Logy’s soundtrack upon hearing the game’s intro song, I am pleased to report that Gust has continued to provide excellent pieces of background music for their games. Atelier Escha & Logy’s soundtrack is wonderful with numerous tracks fitting a variety of scenes and even though a few themes may be overused, they never wore out their welcome simply because of how impressive they were.
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky brings us the tried and true method of storytelling that has served Gust so well for so long and I wouldn’t have it any other way. With a time limit helping to keep the player focused on advancing and a cast of characters that you can’t help but enjoy, this feels like a great continuation for the series, especially when you factor in the refined combat mechanics and the nice inclusion of two playable protagonists to give players even more incentive to play through the game more than once. Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky has everything fans of the series could want and might even serve as a nice entry point for those who are still sitting on the fence on this long running series.
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