Buy Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky: PlayStation 3
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is the direct sequel to the previous game in the series, Atelier Ayesha. Set a few years after that game, Escha & Logy focuses on the small town of Colseit, which is known for orchids and mysterious unexplored ruins. The twin protagonists of the game are alchemists who have been hired to work for the local government's R&D department. Escha is a girl whose mother was the only alchemist in town. Logix, known to everyone as Logy, is a boy from the city who took the job for unknown reasons. Together, the two take on various tasks for the city while trying to discover the secrets of the ruins.
Atelier Escha & Logy is one of the most relaxing JRPGs on the market. The plot is placed on the backburner in favor of character development and good-natured fun. The characters and personalities are stock anime stereotypes, but they're more enjoyable when they're living their lives instead of fighting for the fate of the world. The cast is memorable and fun, featuring new characters and some cameos from Atelier Ayesha favorites. There's a deeper and darker plot, but it's largely hidden behind lighthearted fun. The game world is surprisingly dark, with a horrible disaster in the distant past having put humanity into a depressing decline. There are many references to fields being overplanted, food being scarce, and the skies are always a depressing shade of gray. However, the general tone is one of optimism. Things are bad, but they will get better. After playing countless postapocalyptic games where the message is that humanity is screwed, it's nice to play one with an emphasis on improving the world.
Every four months or so is dedicated to completing a specific task. Once you've completed the task, you have the rest of the term to complete other tasks. Assignments are divided into three tiers: main task, secondary tasks, and tertiary tasks. Only the main task and secondary tasks for a period are visible by default, and they tend to include things like slaying a specific enemy or crafting a specific item. Once you've finished those tasks, you unlock the tertiary tasks, which generally consist of doing certain things, like using special skills, or performing special crafting tasks for townspeople. You can complete some tasks before they've been visibly unlocked, but certain tasks can only be started once they're made visible. Completing enough tasks earns you stat bonuses, additional research funds, and special alchemy books and upgrades.
Managing your time is probably the most essential part of Atelier Escha & Logy. Most actions use up time, and crafting items or traveling to locations can use up multiple days. When you reach a dungeon, you can battle enemies and gather materials, but both of these actions take up part of the day, and once you've used up time or moved to another area, the day is lost. There are a lot of ways to balance this out. As the game progresses, you can research methods of cutting down on travel, synthesis and gathering time. You can also upgrade your hot air balloon into an airship to cut down on travel time. My favorite was crafting a teleport staff, which allowed me to warp back home, effectively negating the associated travel time.
You may be timed in Atelier Escha & Logy, but it's a generous time limit. It takes little to no effort to finish most of the missions before the deadline. You can use the extra days to take on optional randomly generated requests, which reward you with bonuses at the end of the month and special candy that you can spend to have items copied. The requests are mostly busywork and fall into three categories: deliver items, synthesize a specific item, and kill (x) number of monsters. Since they're optional, though, you don't need to take on any requests that don't look fun.
Combat is straightforward and very enjoyable. You have a party of six, with three characters in the front and three characters in the back. The three in the front do the fighting, and the other three slowly regenerate HP and MP. You can switch front and rear characters on your turn to keep everyone healthy. Combat involves the usual attacking, healing and defending mechanisms, but every action is divided into time blocks. Using an attack may use up a few time blocks, but throwing a heavy bomb can use more. The more time blocks you use, the more time it'll be until your next turn. This applies to the enemies, too, and you can use special skills and items to delay enemy attack phases and squeeze in extra turns. There are even specific items that have designated attack phases and will only go off after a certain number of time blocks have passed. Aside from Escha and Logy, every character has a finishing meter that fills up and can be spent to unleash a powerful finishing move.
In addition to regular combat, you have the special support system. As you attack or use items, you build up the support meter, and you can spend it during any action. If you spend it during an offensive action, you can call in any ally to follow up on your attack. Every additional attack in a support chain increases the rate of damage, and it can really add up. You can chain all six of your allies in a row if you wish, but each one requires one support meter level. If you chain enough attacks together, you unlock a special support attack, which has character-specific properties and does a ton of damage. During an enemy's turn, you can choose to support defend, which causes a character to take damage for an ally. If you use a character in the back row, he'll take that character's place on the front row. It's a neat system and encourages you to make thoughtful use of your support gauge for maximum damage.
One cool feature of combat is how items work. You need to synthesize any items you want to use, but the township foots the bill for remaking them, since you're using the items as part of your job. In essence, this means any combat or healing items you use are replenished when you return to town. As a result, you don't have to stress about using anything, even the most powerful bombs or strongest healing items. The biggest cost is the time it takes to go back to town. It's a good balance between spamming items and making them worthless. You feel every use of an item because eventually you run out, but you never feel like it's a waste if you blow a healing item on a lesser fight. Only two characters in the game (Escha and Logy) can use items, and that prevents them from feeling too overpowered. However, if both characters go down, you're in deep trouble unless you're using the designated healing character.
Atelier Escha & Logy isn't a tough title. It seems to encourage you to finish most fights in a single round, and most of the battles require a low level of effort. You can use special field events to summon powerful monsters to fight. These monsters are often boss-level foes or souped-up regular enemies, and they drop special items if defeated. Death in battle only costs a single day of game time, and then you're returned to the world map to try again. The rewards of taking on a powerful enemy far outweigh the risks.
The meat of the game is in the synthesis system, which has been present in pretty much every Atelier offering as well as its spinoffs, like Mana Khemia. Atelier Escha & Logy doesn't break the mold here, but the system is remarkably user-friendly and a delight to use. You find various recipes scattered throughout the world. Every item you find in the game can be used in an alchemic synthesis. Some items are extremely rare and powerful, and others are plentiful and weak. You unlock new special skills as you master alchemy, and the skills are powered by the elements of the items you're using to synthesize. Each element gives you one point of elemental power, and certain items can offer two, three, or even five points. You can use special skills by spending these points.
Alchemy may sound complex, but it really isn't hard, and that is what makes it fun. There's a lot of variety and freedom in how and when you make items. It's complex enough that you can spend hours crafting the perfect weapon, and it's also easy enough that you can make whatever you need with little effort. If I had one complaint, it's perhaps too easy to make good gear. Late-game enemies drop golden apples, which give you an insane amount of elemental energy. Other items, like the SP Neutralizer and Dunkelheit, fill a similar role and are easy to obtain. Once you use one of these items, it's harder to make a poor item than a good one. It isn't a problem because it's still fun to craft powerful and useful properties onto your item, but it takes some of the satisfaction out of properly balancing items and skills to form the ultimate alchemic reaction.
Atelier Escha & Logy isn't a bad-looking game, but it's pretty low-budget. The models are nice, but their animations are stiff and repetitive. The combat animations are a step up from the walking-around models and fun to watch, but they're not great. There are a few standout locations, but most of the environments are pretty generic. There aren't noticeable improvements from the previous games, and there's a fair amount of obvious recycling.
The soundtrack is quite good, and it includes a number of memorable songs when you're exploring and in battle. It also offers the chance to use songs from the previous PS3 Atelier games if you prefer the older music. The voice acting is perfectly passible and occasionally quite good, and a dual-audio option is available for players who prefer Japanese voice acting. I didn't find one to be particularly better than the other and stuck with English voices for most of the game, but it's nice to have the option.
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky doesn't break new ground, but it really doesn't need to. The enjoyable combat and in-depth combat system carry the by-the-numbers plot, and the entire experience is fun. In a genre filled with world-saving, melodrama, and danger, it's nice to have an RPG with such relaxing goals. The visuals could be better, and there's slightly too much filler for its own good, but those don't detract overly much from one's enjoyment of the title. Atelier Escha & Logy isn't for everyone, but it fits the bill if you're looking for a fun and lighthearted RPG on the PS3.
More articles about Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky