I’ve been a fan of the Atelier series since I played Atelier Iris on the PS2 but unfortunately I haven’t picked one up for a while. So I jumped at the chance to get back into this niche series! I was curious about whether the series has grown much since I last played it.
Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is the second in the dusk trilogy, set a few years after the events of Atelier Ayesha. Don’t worry too much if you haven’t played the first game as you start with new characters and while there are some returning characters you don’t need to have played Atelier Ayesha to understand what’s happening.
When you begin the game you can pick which protagonist to play, Escha or Logy. The story is pretty much the same regardless of who you pick but it’s nice to see things from a different character perspective. Escha Malier is a young alchemist who uses traditional techniques passed down from her mother; she’s energetic, sweet and charming and was raised in Colseit. Logy Ficsario has a more serious and reserved personality; he grew up in Central City and has recently quit his position in the city and made his way to the frontier region. Logy’s alchemic skills lie in more modern techniques and he needs different tools to Escha to perform alchemy.
Both Escha & Logy have joined the council in Colseit, a small outpost town famed for its apple orchards and surrounded by many ancient ruins including the ‘unexplored ruins’. So named because they float up in the sky and no one has been able to explore them due to the floating rubble and the extremely turbulent airstream which surrounds it.
You’ll be working in the R&D department with the aim of helping to revitalise the Dusklands. Every four months you’ll be set a new assignment which you need to complete to improve the department’s ratings. Assignments will range from creating parts for a windmill to investigating why a nearby village is suffering from drought. Your main priority will always be to complete the major task but there are also 24 minor tasks as well. Completing all minor tasks will grant you bonuses such as increasing your hero’s stats or new alchemy recipes.
Who knew that a career in the civil service could be so fun!
Fans of the Atelier series will be familiar with the time management aspect of the game. You have a deadline to complete your tasks but many of the actions you can undertake will take time. Performing alchemy, travelling to areas outside of town and even gathering materials all takes time to do. Thankfully the game is fairly generous with the amount of time it gives you to complete things and it was only in the later assignments that I felt like I had to plan things a bit more efficiently to fit everything in.
The alchemy system starts off quite simply, you just need to have the right ingredients and the right alchemy level to successfully create things. Each ingredient has a cost called CP and once you have used up all of your CP adding more ingredients won’t add any additional stats to the final product. As you level up your alchemy level you’ll gain more CP meaning that you can play around with more expensive ingredients. The game gradually introduces more depth by introducing things like attributes and properties. By giving an item enough of an element, such as fire or earth, you will unlock new effects. There is also property inheritance to think about when selecting ingredients – if you’re creating a bomb then you’ll want to try to use ingredients that have useful properties such as ‘Destructive Power Up’. Certain properties can also combine to create new properties which are much stronger. You can easily get sucked into this metagame and spend hours just creating new items.
The combat is much more elaborate than some of the previous entries in the series. It’s complex but at the same time it’s also fairly user-friendly. During combat you can take up to six characters into battle with you. Three will be on the front line and three in reserve, you can switch between them at any point in battle without using a turn. Characters in reserve will gradually heal HP & MP so it’s worth cycling in between characters to rest them. As you take actions during battle the support gauge will gradually increase – you can use this to either guard or chain attacks from different characters together. Chaining attacks will increase the damage rate percentage, once the damage rate reaches a certain amount you can use special support attacks which have unique effects for each character.
There is a certain amount of strategy involved in this and you will have to consider whether you want to use all of the support gauge to chain attacks or if you should conserve some to defend against incoming attacks. Later on in the game you will also unlock the ability to do special finishing attacks and link alchemy attacks together.
The combat, like alchemy, is quite a detailed system but I like the way new aspects of it are introduced. Halfway through the game I was still being shown new tutorials to things. This stops it from feeling overwhelming and lets you gradually come to grips with each new aspect of the game.
Like previous entries in the series it’s important to make trips outside of the safety of town in order to gather ingredients that can be used in alchemy but this isn’t the only way you can gain materials. The provisions department has lots of cute homunculi working in it and they will replicate some materials for you in exchange for sweets. This is really handy when you need some rare ingredients but are running out of time. Initially you only get limited use of them but as your department’s ratings improve you can get more homunculi assigned to you.
Another aspect which can save you time is the ability to equip certain alchemy items such as bombs or healing items to your alchemists. You can only use the crafted items a set number of times but when you go back to town they are instantly restocked. This really encourages you to actually use the items you create and not just save them up for boss fights.
Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is much more of a character driven game than a story driven one. The game talks briefly about things in the past era, that the people were more technologically advanced and knew more about alchemy then the people today and that farm production across the land is declining but surprisingly the game doesn’t seem to focus on this as much as you’d expect. While Escha & Logy do show some curiosity about why these things are happening they seem much more interested in raising their departments’ ratings.
The interactions between your characters are what really drives this game and makes it great. Watching your characters grow over the four years you spend with them is heart-warming. The interactions are sometimes thoughtful, sometimes comic but always something to look forward to. I loved coming back to town after a week of exploring to see if there were any new interactions to watch.
Visually, the colour palette seems to be mainly autumnal yellows and browns and can look a little bland – especially in town but there are some interesting looking dungeons to explore and of course some brightly coloured and cute outfits to dress Escha and Logy in. The music in the game is also good, it reuses some tunes from previous games but it is quite varied and does a great job at setting the scene. If any of the tunes are not to your taste then you do have the ability to go to the atelier and change the music for each area.
My main criticism of the game is that the balance is slightly uneven. Much of the game is fairly easy but there is a difficulty spike in Year 4, which if you haven’t been paying much attention to your equipment can hit you pretty hard. As the game is fairly generous with the amount of time it gives you this can, however, be rectified.
Overall Atelier Escha & Logy fits perfectly on the PS Vita and the series has definitely changed for the better since I last played it. Being given the option to choose between two characters is a nice feature and definitely gives the game more replay value. The updated combat system adds real depth to fights and I’ve really enjoyed my time playing around with the alchemy system. Some slightly uneven game balance can mar your experience but there’s usually plenty of time to go back to the atelier and work on your equipment.