Review: Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky (PS3)

atelier-escha-and-logy-review-banner

Title: Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (6.2 GB)
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd.
Original MSRP: $49.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is exclusive to PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation Network download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Gameplay:
Set in the same world as last year’s PS3 title Atelier Ayesha, Atelier Escha & Logy takes place in the remote village of Corseit and is centered on two alchemists: Logix “Logy” Fiscario and Escha Malier. Both join the Corseit Government’s Research and Development team on the same day and are tasked with using their alchemy to  help develop the town and to explore and document local points of interest.

A set of floating ruins, known as the “Unexplored Ruins,” hang in the sky near Corseit surrounded by violent winds that cannot be navigated by current airships. Despite that, the ruins remain an alluring prospect for researchers and treasure hunters, attracting many colorful folks to the little village of Corseit and setting the stage for Escha and Logy’s adventure.

Right off the bat, you’re offered the choice of playing as either Escha or Logy. The choice doesn’t really change much, mostly just a few events during the game and a few of the possible endings. The main plot is the same regardless of the choice thanks to Escha and Logy being joined at the hip for pretty much all of it.

Not that the Atelier games usually care a whole lot about the overall plot. The main story meanders about for the first half of the game, as Escha and Logy use alchemy to solve smaller problems in and around Corseit, with the main plot really only kicking in for the last quarter of the game. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. It’s more a welcome change of pace from the typical JRPG “chosen one to save the world from an ancient evil” than anything else thanks to Atelier Escha & Logy instead spending the time to introduce the player to world and all the characters.

A few of the side characters can come off as a bit one-dimensional, and the characters that are carry overs from Atelier Ayesha haven’t moved past the issues we supposedly helped them solve in that game, but overall it’s hard not to come to enjoy the characters and world the game presents.

A15_SS17A15_SS19A15_SS08A15_03_SS27

On the gameplay front, Atelier Escha & Logy consists mostly of alchemy, exploring and fighting. Combat plays out in a fairly traditional turn based system. There’s a small system of positioning, as your characters can move to one of three locations around the group of enemies and attacking characters get a bit of bonus damage if they’re attacking the enemy from behind. However, moving takes up a character’s turn and your party starts the battle spread out so there really isn’t much need to move in most battles.

In addition to special attacks and support abilities seen in other Atelier games, one new system in Escha & Logy is the back line. Once you’ve got more than three characters, additional characters sit behind the active characters where they can use support attacks or be swapped with the active character during combat.

It’s a great addition to the series as it allows you to have access to the majority of the playable characters in each battle, rather than being forced to leave all but two other characters in town. The combat system may be traditional, but that doesn’t prevent it from being an overall solid system.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Atelier if there wasn’t also alchemy. Perhaps the biggest draw to the series is the depth of the alchemy systems and Escha & Logy is firing on all cylinders here. Fortunately for beginners, the alchemy starts off slow. Just add a couple of items together and “presto change-o”, you’ve got a new item.

However, by the end of the game, performing alchemy involves taking into account a wide variety of stats on each ingredient (native effects, elemental points, effect power) plus the order that you add the ingredients in and the timing of a plethora of alchemy skills.

It is a dizzying number of systems to juggle all at once, trying to fit everything together to get the result exactly how you want it like a puzzle. The payoff is pretty rewarding once you have a full grasp of the system. For example, late in the game I found a level 37 sword on a boss I defeated and it had weaker stats than the level 26 sword I had synthesized much earlier. Some of the optional content near the end of the game is difficult, if not impossible, without a strong grasp of the alchemy.

A15_SS26A15_SS03

The eventual goal of the combat and alchemy are to help develop the town of Corseit. To that end, Escha and Logy are given a set of tasks every four months. Performing alchemy, fighting, gathering ingredients, moving around on the over world map; all of these actions take up time. If the thought of everything being timed is distressing, rest assured that Atelier Escha & Logy is fairly lenient. I was able to complete the main task for each period within a few weeks at most.

Once the main task is complete for a period, Escha and Logy are given Free Time (they hit “being a government worker” pretty well, huh?) to do as they please or work on the other 24 optional tasks. Perhaps this is a veteran of Atelier games speaking but I found the limits perhaps even too lenient. Leading to a feeling of “hurry up and stop” as I rushed to finish the term’s tasks and then found myself with several months without any tasks at all.

There are still a few things to do, such as requests, the occasional optional boss, or spending time coming up with better synthesized items but on a couple of occasions I just slept until the new term to get things moving again.

While the combat is solid and the alchemy fun and engaging, Atelier Escha & Logy’s translation seems poor and rushed. First there were just a few typos, and I barely even registered them. No one’s perfect, I can forgive some small stuff. Then there were common occurrences of text extending outside of text boxes. I told myself, ‘well, it’s not unreadable so it’s probably not worth mentioning.’

Finally, I hit a task that told me to synthesize a bomb with the effect “Meteor.” Meteor being emphasized with blue text, as the game does to indicate an effect name. So I started synthesizing this item, trying several times in succession to get the Meteor effect. After a few failed attempts, I left the alchemy menu and the task marker popped up telling me I had completed it.

I pulled up my inventory to see if I had missed something and one of the bombs had the effect “Falling Star.” Sadly, I ran into several more examples of inconsistent translation throughout the game. Add it all together and it feels like the game skipped the final round of QA. It was not enough to completely sour my time with the game but it did dampen the experience.

A15_SS01A15_03_SS28A15_03_SS30A15_SS07

Visuals:
Atelier Escha & Logy is the first Atelier game to use Tecmo Koei’s Musou game engine, and it shows best in the characters. The playable characters are especially well detailed and look great. Enemies look good as well, but the game does frequently toss in re-skins of old enemies so there isn’t all that much variety.

NPCs look a bit blander and yet don’t manage to load fast enough to avoid some pop-in when going between areas in town. Character animations are still a bit stilted though, especially during some cutscenes and rarely consist of more than a few canned animations.

Perhaps this was to spend more time on battle animations, though, as the battle animations fare a lot better. Special attacks especially serve up a great level of flair whether it’s Logy bashing enemies around with her sword or Escha tossing bombs. Environments are more of a mixed bag but are still a marked improvement over past games in the series.

Overall, the visuals are decent enough. While it may not stand toe to toe with the best looking games on the platform, looking all the way back to Gust’s first foray on the PS3 with Atelier Rorona makes it clear that they have come a long way in the graphics department over the years.

Audio:
A big sticking point for Atelier fans on Atelier Ayesha was that it only featured an English dub, so I am happy to say that Atelier Escha & Logy contains both an English dub and the original Japanese voices. I made it a point to switch between the voice tracks and found the Japanese one to be the better of the two.

That said, most of the English voices are pretty good as well. Logy and Reyfer come to mind as some of the better voices but all of the playable characters are at least passable. What drags the game down are some of the NPCs that sound awkward and uncomfortable in their roles.

The biggest problem, however, with the English dub is that it is only partial; some scenes that are voiced in Japanese are not voiced in English. Somewhat unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected given the niche nature of the game.

A15_SS02A15_03_SS32

No matter the voice track, the soundtrack remains great. From the catchy theme in the Homunculus village to the great ‘explorer’ feeling evoked by the over world music, the game’s soundtrack provides wonderful ambiance.

The one sticking point for me was the music in the Atelier. While not a bad song on its own, it grew tiresome when on repeat for several hours as I was synthesizing items. Fortunately, the game has a couple dozen songs from older games and lets you substitute those songs for ones in the game. I eventually started rotating the song that played in the Atelier which kept me from getting too bored of any one song.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only.

Conclusion:
There’s a lot to love about Atelier Escha & Logy: be it the fun characters, the laid-back story, the deep alchemy system, or the solid combat systems. Sure, the game is a little too far on the easy side for the main story and the shoddy translation can occasionally hamper the experience.

But if the idea of spending twenty minutes doing a daisy-chain of synthesis to get the perfect effects on a bomb and then taking the bomb out into the field for a hands-on test excites you as much as it does me, your time with Atelier Escha & Logy will be well spent.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg
Flag_of_Canada.svg

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook