Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is an enhanced port of the PS3 game, which was the fifteenth game in the Atelier series, the second in the ‘Dusk‘ trilogy of games. Don’t worry if you’ve not played the others though as this is a stand alone game and is actually a pretty good jumping on point.
For those unaware the Atelier games are JRPGs and although they have their share of turn based combat, levelling up and the like there is a very large portion of the game dedicated to alchemy. Combining items to create better or new ones is the driving force of both the story and the gameplay.
Atelier Escha & Logy starts with the two mains, Escha and Logy, being hired by the local administration as alchemists in the R&D department. Alchemy is relatively rare so although they’ve been given the job they are beginners, initially given rather basic tasks. As they complete more tasks over many years the R&D division develops and they also gain new members to help them. Typical RPG fare.
It’s not necessarily the story that will drive you on though, rather the character interactions. You can choose whether you want to control Escha or Logy at the start of the game but the story doesn’t alter and they are both ever present anyway, the only difference comes from the interactions. Often when you’ve used a character enough or for other reasons events will appear, clearly marked on the fast travel screen and visiting these locations will make a scene play out. There are quite a lot of these and they do allow you to develop an understanding of the characters and it’s arguably more natural than there being no interactions other than key scenes. Unfortunately most of the characters are kind of bland and nothing you’ve not seen before. Escha is a kind but slightly ditsy young girl, Logy is a more straight young man. There’s a cold, older woman, the little girl who runs her own shop and everyone is just so polite that it’s unbelievable, that Japanese form of manners which seems so alien when translated into English. Whether that’s a con or not is up to you.
The game is split up into assignments, which will give you a bingo grid of tasks to complete. The middle one will be your main task – the thing you have to do to progress the story. Around that will be sub tasks and upon completing those a further set of tasks will appear. Completing more tasks gets you more bonuses from stat boosts to items but you have a set amount of time to complete the main task and any extras. Time advances through many different actions. In town time doesn’t advance except for when you synthesise, the amount of time varies depending on how complex the thing you’re making is.
The main time sink comes from adventuring in dungeons. Simply travelling to a dungeon takes days, though moving within a dungeon doesn’t cost anything. As you fight and harvest ingredients time passes so you have to keep an eye out, though generally the game is quite lenient with its time limits. Sadly time is very much just a game mechanic, as time moves on the game world doesn’t change and there’s not even a day to night cycle when time is progressing out in the field. It might have looked odd to see time flying by as it takes nearly a quarter of a day to harvest one thing but for a game that’s supposed to take place over multiple years there seems very little evidence of this.
Out in the field you harvest from glowing spots on the ground. Depending on your location you can gain a variety of items from one harvest point though they won’t return until you leave the area. Also as you’d expect from a JRPG enemies roam the lands. You can see them walking around so there’s no random encounters here, you can even get an advantage by hitting them in the field before they touch you.
Battles are turn based and you get to select a basic attack, special moves which you unlock as you level up, wait or run. The alchemists can use items to heal or attack and as you gain more allies you can switch them in and out without penalty, with those on standby still able to participate in the battle and healing whilst off screen. As you fight a support meter will grow and you can use this to either perform follow up attacks without the cost of turn or use one character to shield another (including characters in reserve) which adds a tactical element.
Those are the gameplay beats: talk to people, get tasks, go to dungeon, come back and synthesise, hand in quest. It may take multiple trips to a dungeon to get everything you need if you run out of inventory space or need more healing items but this is the basic gist of it and once you complete all tasks you have to make yourself busy until the deadline to start the next. When the dungeon exploration part takes precedence I’m having fun as the combat is enjoyable and levelling up is my jam, but I personally find little joy in the alchemy side of things. I actually think crafting systems are an annoyance up there with fishing mini games so the fact I can gain any pleasure from the Atelier series shows how well put together and charming they are.
As always the music is superb with some great tunes, whilst the English voice overs are largely acceptable (you can download a Japanese track for free if you want it). The visuals are well animated and the characters look good but the muted colour palette does undermine the visuals a little. The UI is much improved over the last Atelier game I played too (Rorona) with tutorials which actually introduce concepts, though they could be explained better.
Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is a fun variant of the JRPG formula. By giving the player a time limit and concentrating so much on synthesis it differentiates itself from the dungeon crawler and power levelling crowd. I am not expert enough to compare it to the other fourteen Atelier games out there but despite its twee nature and love of crafting I found enjoyment in the battle system and I even came around to some of the characters.