Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky improves upon many of the series’ qualities, while adding a new playable character. But has Gust tried to juggle too much with the latest Atelier installment?
Fortunately, we can assure you that Gust has succeeded in making one of the best, if not the best, Atelier titles to date. With the upgrades to the synthesis system and combat, and changes to the imposed time limit, Atelier Escha & Logy helps the long-running JRPG series edge closer to the big leagues, where the likes of Final Fantasy and Shin Megami Tensei have always reigned supreme.
Admittedly, the Atelier series still hasn’t caught up on storytelling, with the plot being enough to entice you to go further, but not enough to stay with you years after you’ve experienced it. It’s all fairly straight-forward and although all characters are likable, there’s not much development in either the cast or plot during the entire game. It always feels like it ignores the larger picture in favour of smaller experiences.
Escha wants to use her alchemy skills to help people, and whilst this is all well and good, the main plot of exploring undiscovered ruins (that somehow float in the sky) gets put on the backburner for plenty of side-missions. Whilst this is necessary in-game, it all but ignores any true risk or room to really delve into her or Logy.
You can play as either Escha or Logy, but whoever you pick doesn’t change a lot, as both characters work together regardless, and both will always be in your party for battle. You can find out more of each character’s backstory, and synthesizing is shaken up, but both paths follow a similar structure and plot. Familiar faces such as Wilbell, Linca and Marion return, with Linca being a playable character.
The gameplay is similar to predecessor Atelier Ayesha, with battles being turn-based. However, now you’re able to have three people on the front line and three people on the back, opening up many new options that allow the back characters to jump in when someone falls, or to attack or defend a character (assuming you have enough support points). This adds a new layer of depth not found in previous Atelier games, allowing you to string combos which can lead into spectacularly powerful moves.
It’s not an Atelier game without alchemy, and as always, synthesizing plays a huge part in upgrading your stats and being able to complete many missions. You can find weapons that are dropped by enemies, but you can also create weapons (if you have enough materials) and imbue abilities into them, such as higher defence, speed and strength. Alongside weapons and armour, you’ll also need to synthesise your own healing items, which can also be imbued with unique abilities.
The graphics are a mixed bag. Whilst the art direction is nothing less than excellent, there is a lack of detail in the characters. They look unique enough, but they lack any true emotion and are usually seen with stiff, bland faces. This isn’t overly important due to the carefree story, but it still feels like a barrier that Tecmo Koei and Gust need to overcome to make them as strong as the other aspects of the series.
Fortunately, this is a problem that’s primarily in cutscenes, as both characters and environment look vibrant during gameplay, with a slightly cel-shaded look. We hope that when the series makes its inevitable jump to PS4, the graphics will be able to do the art style justice.
The audio is great with both the OST and voice-acting being memorable. The intro theme and many of the boss themes get your blood pumping, giving you a sense of urgency that you won’t feel for most of the game. The voice-acting should be able to please even the biggest dub-haters, specifically Logy and Awin who steal the show.
The game itself is lengthy, with my first playthrough with Escha taking over 30 hours, and then of course you can go through the story with a different perspective as Logy. There are also plenty of side-missions to tackle and many items to synthesise. It’s also useful to only aim for 100% on your second playthrough, as time management can be quite tricky on your first go.
Atelier Escha & Logy is one of the best Atelier titles to date, but the series still has work to do if it wants to be at the forefront of gamers’ minds when recommending a JRPG.