Atelier Escha & Logy is the fifteenth game in the long running JRPG series, which predominately focuses on alchemy. The game is the second instalment of the Dusk trilogy and therefore features a bunch of familiar faces from its predecessor (Atelier Ayesha) along with two new protagonists. Yes, that’s right, the game has two main characters. This is a departure from the franchise’s other PS3 releases, which are normally fronted by a solo heroine. Perhaps Gust are trying to shed the girlie image of the Atelier titles, to attract more male players, because once Alchemists of the Dusk Sky boots up you are giving the choice of playing as a boy or girl.
Representing the Y chromosome camp is Logy the no nonsense alchemist from Central City who specialises in crafting weapons and armour via state of the art technology. His partner in crime is the sweet-toothed Escha who performs alchemy the traditional way by mixing ingredients in a cauldron. The pair has recently started to work together at the Colesit Research and Development branch, where they are expected to complete various assignments using their transmutation talents. Joining them on their adventures are various other characters including the socially awkward swordswoman Linca and the cowboy treasure hunter Reyfer who has a passion for unearthing relics.
In order to advance the story players need to complete assignments mandated by the head office within a certain period of time. Optional assignments can also be undertaken to earn points that can be invested into experimental research, which unlocks a plethora of beneficial bonuses. The tasks you will be asked to perform can range from using alchemy to help a village cope with a drought, the exploration of nearby ruins and even taking out dangerous creatures. To succeed in your objectives time management is key as is mastering the alchemy system. Weapons, bombs and healing items can be made by combining ingredients that you purchase from stores or harvest from the land during your travels.
Once you venture out of town it will soon become apparent that the life of an alchemist is not a pacifist existence. The region of Colesit is populated with hostile wildlife and aggressive golems that you will have to defend yourself against. This is accomplished via turn-based combat, which is slightly more strategic than that found in earlier Atellier offerings. Instead of commanding just three characters, during a scrap, your party can have up to six participants at any one time. The trio on the front lines are responsible for dishing out the pain whilst those in reserve rest up, gradually replenishing their health points. If an active combatant is hurt it’s possible to switch places with someone in the rear guard at the start of their turn.
As you trade blows with opponents both your group’s support bar and character’s special move meter increase. Once the special move bar is filled the character in question can perform a devastating limit break like attack. Support power on the other hand allows you to summon colleagues to either protect a chum from an incoming strike or help out with the assault by dishing out an additional attack. Unlike most characters Escha and Logy cannot perform a limit break, but this disadvantage is offset by their ability to use offensive and recuperative items. The alchemic duo can also team up, via the draw command, to launch a twin bombardment of destructive items during a single turn.
My final rating for Atelier Escha & Logy is four stars out of five. It’s just as much fun, to play, as the other Atelier games so fans of the series should be satisfied with this latest offering. Newcomers to the franchise may also want to start their Atelier journey with this game as it does a better job of guiding newbie players than the older more open-ended games in the series. Completing the assignments that are allotted to you, over the course of the story, is a good way of learning the game’s mechanics and ensures that your party’s alchemy/combat skills are at an adequate level to face the challenges you come across.
I do however have some gripes with Escha & Logy. For a start its story isn’t anywhere near as exciting as its predecessor. Atelier Ayesha had you on a quest to save your sister whilst this game has you performing fetch quests for a bureaucratic employer, which is much less stimulating. The Atelier series is also in danger of becoming the Call of Duty of niche games. Gust is churning out these games fairly regularly and it shows. The game is guilty of recycling ideas and feels a little rushed. Some of the background environments lack polish and on certain maps I encountered choppy frame rate, which is odd as visually speaking the game is hardly pushing the PS3 to its limits.
My biggest beef however is with the uneven difficulty. For the most part I found the game to be a cakewalk until I stumbled upon the penultimate boss who proceeded to wipe the floor with me. The unexpected difficulty spike was most frustrating to say the least. It didn’t however detract from making Atelier Escha & Logy an enjoyable game. I just hope the upcoming Atelier Shari introduces some new ideas to freshen things up. Even though I am a big fan of these games I fear that they are starting to become a little stale. Gust will need to do a little more than giving you the option to play as a guy to retain my interest.