"Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is a real treat for fans, although newcomers to the series might have a hard time for the first few hours."
For someone who’s a big JRPG fan, I’m ashamed to admit I never played any of the previous Atelier titles. With Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky, Japanese developer Gust marks its fifteenth entry in the franchise and I finally got to experience a classic that’s been around since 1997. Admittedly, it took a while to get hooked, but a few hours in and I was enamored by the game’s charm and exciting crafting system. While genre fans will undoubtedly embrace the bubbly characters and colorful world, Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky does little to attract audiences unfamiliar with the series. However, once you get past the drawn out tutorials and start crafting, Atelier becomes a delightful adventure that any JRPG fan should add to their collection.
Unlike most JRPGs, the plot in Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is simple and straightforward. The game now offers a male playable protagonist, but regardless of who’s selected the story plays out identically with only minor differences between characters’ backgrounds. After arriving in the little town of Colseit, you’re hired as the town’s alchemist and are tasked with various jobs that involve venturing out and gathering supplies for crafting. Atelier has always been primarily about alchemy so you can expect extensive tutorials and heavy lines of text before things get going. But even then, it still takes time to become a proficient alchemist and learn proper item management.
"The narrative may be thin, but the combat and crafting are both addictive and challenging."
While the narrative doesn't change much based on character selection, the combat differs substantially. Where Escha can craft more powerful potions, Logy’s strength lies in armament creation. Since crafted items are key to victory each character provides a slightly different play style. Battles are fought with six characters, three in the front and three in the back. Characters in the back can be called in for additional support during both offensive and defensive maneuvers by executing timed button prompts, so good reflexes come in handy. Logy and Escha also have a special synergy that allows them to increase item properties with a special move called “Double Down.” This move becomes crucial in later battles, particularly with bosses, as I found myself losing repeatedly before even realizing what the command does.
There are ten main missions and fifteen side quests each carrying a time limit that determines both scoring as well as the amount of time given for your next assignment. This gives Atelier a welcoming sense of urgency, although it’s not as strict as the recent Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns. Since most assignments require venturing into the wild and gathering supplies, there’s plenty of time for exploration and it’s not until the last few chapters that time becomes a more threatening factor. With eleven possible endings, it’s easy to lose hundreds of hours if you’re trying to uncover everything, but even a single playthrough offers a substantial amount of playtime.
One my biggest gripes are the lack of interesting side characters and poor English voice acting. Switching to Japanese helps, but the never-ending lines of exhausting dialogue take away from the exciting action and exploration. While many of the townsfolk have a backstory, they feel like derivative Anime stereotypes and it’s hard to care for anyone. Escha and Logy are certainly more interesting, but Escha’s overly positive attitude towards everything tends to get annoying. Luckily, the game is visually beautiful. Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky has some of the prettiest Anime-style cel shaded graphics to date and runs at an impressively steady framerate. Atelier’s fairytale like aesthetics should be a new standard for all upcoming fantasy JRPGs and it’s exciting to imagine how the inevitable sequel will transition to new gen consoles.
I went into Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky not knowing what to expect, but I admit I was pleasantly surprised. Even though it takes a while to grasp Atelier’s crafting mechanics and the ticking clock, it was a refreshing and immersive adventure that’s only help back by uninteresting side characters and horrid writing. It’s a no brainer for fans, but even newcomers interested in JRPGs should give this little gem a look.