Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky (PS3) Review

The newest Atelier game comes almost a year after the last console iteration.  Atelier Escha & Logy offers players the choice of which of the two heroes (natural alchemist Escha or city synthesizer Logy) to follow through the story.  The two will work together and join the R&D department in the frontier town of Colseit.

The look and style of the game is similar to previous entries.  There are cel-shaded looking 3D models, and I still like how the game looks.  Environments are filled out and enemies are detailed, although they are mostly the same enemies you have seen in the Atelier games before.  One complaint I have is some of the text not fitting in its area.  It's not a huge thing, but it just looks sloppy.  Audio-wise, the game offers both spoken English and Japanese for the characters, so everyone can be happy.  Most of the dubbed voices are fine, with Logy sounding flat some of the time.

The basic premise of the game is that both playable characters have just joined the R&D division of the government in one of their frontier towns, Colseit.  Escha has grown up there, but Logy volunteers to be assigned there.  They both have to work together and improve the town, explore ruins and make items using alchemy.  One famous part of the Atelier games is the 3 year time limit.  This is broken up into four month increments, with certain tasks being required each time.  The task are now laid on on a grid, with the main one being the center.  The eight around it are secondary tasks that will reward the player with bonuses when they are completed in groups of three (think bingo).  Around them are tertiary tasks that will give some points toward your rank if completed.  Finishing all the tasks in a given four month period will give you another bonus.

Moving to a dungeon (or back to town) will take a few days.  Thankfully, moving around the different areas of the dungeon will not.  Each day in a dungeon has ten segments, which are taken up when fighting battles or gathering items.  This is fairly standard, but there are some new things to make it easier and better to make your way through the game.  First is the new meter that you build up in each dungeon.  Gathering and fighting will raise it, and when it is over 100%, you can use it for a Field Event.  Field Events can do several things, like make monsters stronger, find a rare artifact, or gather all items in the area.  Very useful when used properly.  Mostly, I used them to gather rare items in an area so I wouldn't spend so much time to gather them manually.  It was also good to use it to acquire relics.

Second would be the battle items, like crafts, bombs and healing salves.  They can be used a few times, but are now refilled when you go back to town.  Wow.  This might be my favorite new thing added to the Atelier series, and I hope it returns for future games.  Spending days to make a really powerful bomb now pays off in spades.  Lastly, you can spend your money on research that improves various thing, like taking less time to gather or travel.  Previously, there were items you could create and equip, but I think I like this better.

Battles in Atelier Escha & Logy are similar to the Mana Khemia series.  All participants in the battle are on a moving line based on the characters' speed and the wait time of their previous action.  When someone's turn is up, you decide what they do.  There are ways to delay an enemy's turn, which moves them farther back in the line.  It's nice because you can see who goes when, and plan your moves accordingly.  Plus, skills and items that do damage for a few turns actually show on the line when that comes up.  I really liked that aspect of Mana Khemia, and I was happy to see a similar battle system in Escha & Logy.

A new aspect to the battles is that now you have 6 characters in your party, 3 of which participate at a time.  When a character's turn is up, you can switch them with the person behind them, and that character gets to take a turn.  The assist meter is still present, and lets you chain attacks together.  When you have a full party of 6, doing enough of these assist attacks can result in a special assist, which stops the combo, but allows the character to use a powerful and fancy attack.  Thankfully, the main characters can now spend their MP on battle skills, making them much better in battle than previous entries.  Couple that with the replenishing battle items, and the main characters are a force to be reckoned with!  Outside of actual boss battles, I rarely needed to heal because of this.

Of course, being an Atelier game, you must also gather ingredients and make items using alchemy.  While it has no impact on the overall item, Escha is the one who uses the cauldron and makes the items, while Logy can use specialized equipment to make/improve weapons and disassemble relics found in the field.  As you level up your alchemy level, you learn new skills to make the process easier than ever to manipulate.  While it sounds complicated when you are first starting, after some experience and skills, you can make high quality items.  My personal favorite skills so far are one that allows you to add an ingredient twice, and one that takes three earth points, but adds either another use to an item or makes one more.  Very useful and easy to do!  I'm sure long time fans may not like that you cannot craft items above your alchemy level, but you level up so quickly that it was never an issue for me.

There are 9 assignments during the story, and each took me several hours to complete, so overall it take at least 40 hours to complete.  There is some replay in using the other character as you main, or trying to complete every part of every assignment, or getting all the trophies.  The trophies are fairly standard for the Atelier games.  You get one for completing each assignment, and ones for seeing special scenes (usually accompanied by a special image).  If you are interested in going for the platinum, you will have complete the game as both characters, which will take a long time.

I'm not a fan of the time limit in the Atelier games, but it was barely an issue in Escha & Logy.  The battles were easier and more fun because of the item refill.  Alchemy is now easier (for me at least) to manipulate the final outcome, and the skills are very useful.  I felt like I had enough time to fight for experience, get lots of materials, and make lots of items, which is a first for me in the series.  It's my favorite so far, because even though there is the time constraint, I rarely felt the pressure that accompanies it.  While not as hard as the previous entries, I love all the improvements it has made and hope they return for future installments.

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