I may be a newcomer to Atelier, but it’s not as if I didn’t know what to expect. I’m predisposed to its brand of charm and general pleasantness thanks to the likes of Rune Factory, while item crafting via Synthesis is something that appears in at least a half-dozen other JRPGs. Even so, I never expected to have as much fun with Atelier’s mechanics as I did. Though certain elements of Escha & Logy’s offering can be a bit plain, what it does do well (namely crafting and time management) it absolutely thrives on. I hadn’t realized it, but I’ve never truly enjoyed RPG crafting until now.
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is the newest game in the impressively long-running Atelier series, and if you haven’t played the previous games, don’t worry – it really doesn’t matter at all. I had gathered as much from press releases leading up to the game’s release, but it’s completely true. You’re not going to miss out on anything if you haven’t played before, so don’t let late-to-the-party fears deter you from taking Atelier’s latest for a spin. You’ll join in on the action just fine.
The game’s plot falls a fair bit short of captivating, but it’s so darn endearing and adorable that you’ll hardly mind its simplicity. As the title suggests, main characters Escha Malier and Logix Fiscario are the prime movers, working for the local government in the quaint town of Colseit. You’ll follow Escha first, with the city-slicker Logy tagging along in the first playthrough, but regardless of whether you choose to play as Logy for a New Game Plus later, your experience will only differ slightly. Certain events and endings vary, but that’s about it.
Still, Escha & Logy is categorically packed with content, so much so that you may never feel the need to begin anew at all. Governance of time is the name of the game; each year is split into Quarters, each of which will come with a main story task, and ample other tasks to go along with it. The story task is your primary focus, and you’ll want to attend to it first. Once dealt with, though, the game opens up dramatically, and it falls squarely on the player to decide whether exploration, item crafting/upgrading, handling sidequests, or simply mowing down monsters is the best way to pass the time. Of course, these activities frequently tie into each other, as one will often be needed to accomplish another (like completing a particular side-goal), and so on. I usually finished my main task with a solid 20 days to go in the Quarter, leaving plenty of time to make my own fun. Though a small thing, the freedom is surprisingly empowering.
As mentioned, it’s the alchemical undertaking itself that can often be the most engrossing aspect of the game, and though I stumbled a bit early on, crafting soon became my favorite part of the Atelier heraldry. Literally everything can be broken down to its base components, which can then be used (in conjunction with gathered or purchased raw materials) to form new items via Synthesis. The system for performing alchemy, though understandably menu-driven, is surprisingly streamlined, and is purportedly much more user-friendly than that of past games (a definite plus).
Everything from the order in which you apply required reagents to CP cost and the resulting effects on the final item is highly customizable, and you’ll even gain skills over time that make crafting cheaper or less taxing. You can also toy with the skills of items themselves, adding and subtracting them at will and testing the results. Often, removing something seemingly beneficial will boost your alchemic efficiency overall, and it’s spotting these nuances that really heightens the experience. The give-and-take of it all is a blast to explore, managing to be both extensive and extremely well-balanced. It’s really quite the achievement.
Of course, combat is also a thing in Escha & Logy, and though it’s not likely to be your primary reason for sticking around, it’s definitely fun. Your party of six will mow through most monsters with ease (even for the first two or three whole years), but as the months pass you’ll eventually be challenged. In fact, there was one point in the game where the challenge presented by enemies spiked so quickly that I felt completely at a loss for how to prepare and regroup. Luckily, a solution presented itself before long (aided by some grinding, of course), and I was able to get my combat prowess up to speed in short order. Escha & Logy almost always rewards experimentation, and any seemingly-aimless wanderings have a tendency to fasten onto concrete and worthwhile activity paths, some of which may help with a previously gridlocked sidequest or stubborn extraneous task. Even if you flub on time management, you never feel as though you wasted time, which I loved.
All-in-all it’s hard to find many faults with Escha & Logy, but they will exist for certain players. Despite streamlining, portions of the game may still be a bit too involved to call “accessible,” and it’s not impossible that first-timers will be put off by failing early on. Additionally, there will be some who are immune to the game’s charms. I personally consider the anime-inspired look and feel to be a plus, but it does permeate most aspects of the game, including its humor. Still, there are enough serious-minded characters to offset cheese levels that may (at times) rise a bit too high. Regardless of how you feel about any of that, though, the production is sure to win you over. Character models looks excellent, the world is colorful, and the soundtrack is both upbeat and subdued as needed. I have virtually no complaints in that department.
Short of potential alienation, there’s very little reason not to at least sample what Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky has to offer. It’s fun, endearing, and where its combat falls just the slightest bit flat, in-depth crafting and questing systems handily pick up the slack. The cartoon presentation may not be for everyone, but if you can get past the minor and admittedly overt barriers of entry, you’ll likely encounter a sound and wholly unique RPG experience. If by chance you do find yourself frustrated, hunched over the atelier at a loss for what to do next, well, there’s always the official art book. Everyone loves art books.
This review is based on the PS3 exclusive, which was provided to us.
Escha & Logy is great at what it does, and for that reason alone most RPG fans will enjoy it. Combat falls a bit flat compared to crafting, and it's not always clear exactly what to do next, but luckily, the enjoyable and rewarding nature of exploration largely offsets such complaints.