When it comes to synthesis systems, the Atelier series always manages to outdo itself with each iteration. Each time the series advances the gameplay to provide a much more rich and entertaining experience along the way and it helps the Atelier franchise to consistently expand. With Atelier Escha & Logy, Gust experiments with quite a few new elements that can help push it even further, but possibly sacrifice some elements that could have made the game even better.
In this installment of the Atelier series the player follows either Escha or Logy as they work together to build a future for the developing town of Corseit. Escha is a local girl, having grown at her family run Apple farm in Corseit. She lives there with her father and Clone-a human like creation that has taken care of her since the passing of her mother. Logy on the otherhand moves to Corseit from Central in order to assist with the development project.
Never knowing each other before, Escha and Logy join the development team on the same day and work together to tackle tasks given to them in the ultimate goal to reach The Unexplored Ruins that hover in the skies above Corseit. As they work towards this goal, they uncover secrets in the ruins around them and discover knowledge of alchemy long lost.
As with previous titles in the Atelier series, the overall story is quite shallow and leans more towards building an experience in the world and characters. Unfortunately for Atelier Escha & Logy, the character interactions fall disappointingly short at times. The chemistry between characters is rather lacking which leads to interactions that creates little suspense or humor. This is surprising as the previous titles excelled in creating fun and entertaining characters.
That's not to say the characters are not likeable, far from it. It's just that instead of having overly silly or overly cutesy characters, this title goes for a more mature and smart cast of characters. Escha is a hardworking girl that still has a little kid inside her that springs out from time to time. The merchant Katla has a comical desire to swindle her customers for a quick buck. Then there's Wilbell putting on magic shows with real magic despite people believing it's fake. There's a lot to like, it's just harder to find with the great deal of lacklustre parts.
One of the ways that Gust has improved in the interactions is by creating much more detailed and lively characters. Similar to the previous title, long gone are the days of character still telling a story but rather using the character sprites themselves to act out a scene. While not overly realistic, they are colorful and well animated for real-time cutscenes. In this environment, each character has their own distinct characteristics which range from Escha's trinket tail reacting to her mood and Logy's rugged but cool look to Linca's mature and yet classy stature.
Unfortunately, while the character design is impressive the world itself remains limited in scope. Each area of the map is comprised of small zones that are entered one by one. While some are extravagant, others are small and can be cleared in minutes. Though the upside is that it matches the gameplay style of pick-and-choosing that the series is known for, a recipe that works. However I can't help but feel that the visual design for them could have been improved upon.
Expanding on gameplay we transition into what the Atelier series excels on. Similar to previous installments, the game centers around four key elements being synthesizing, combat, objectives, and exploration, all of which have been improved in more ways than one. More importantly the time aspect sees a considerable change for the better.
The story and role you partake in spans across four years, with each of the first three years has you tackling scheduled objective sheets. Towards the start of the game the lead in the development project will assign the player an objective sheet that contains a main goal with 24 optional objectives that must be completed in a four month span. Upon the end of that four months, the player is scored and then given another sheet for the next four months. Thankfully these objectives are easy to understand and tackle for the most part, barring a few cases where the description can be slightly hard to decipher.What makes this system so great is that it not only serves as a method to keep you busy as you plan out your goals, but it also slowly introduces you to each of the game's expansive features as well as teaching you valuable skills to get the most out of the game.
On top of completing these tasks, you'll be awarded higher monthly earnings and rank, but also the ability to unlock perks that improve your synthesizing skill, increase experience, increase bag size, improve combat techniques, and much more. This makes the game constantly evolve and keep your interest as well as create a very addictive experience. The tasks you take on will require you to kill certain enemies, gather items, synthesize certain items, assist people, explore locations, and ultimately push you to improve yourself in order to take on certain more difficult tasks. Though ultimately each task centers around one key element, synthesis and imbuing.
No matter which protagonist you choose as your main character, they work together with each of their own skillsets. Escha is uses an atelier to synthesize materials, healing items, explosives, foods, and other usable items. Assisting her, Logy uses a forge to craft weapons, armor, imbue stats to improve items, and even break down relics to create new recipes. It means they complement each other to produce a self-sufficient team.
Coupled with the objective sheets, the synthesizing and imbuing in this game represents a great improvement on previous titles, helping to create a very inviting game that has little barrier to entry. It slowly introduces each element to crafting items and slowly sprinkles in new abilities to enhance and tweak items to fit your needs. In simple terms, you choose an item to create and then select the ingredients you wish to use in order to craft it.
While most of these ingredients are gained through gathering out in the world, you can also enlist the aid of homunculi which are cute creatures that work for treats and duplicate items. The only stipulation is that you must have at least one of the item for them to duplicate. Utilizing this factor can make life much easier simply because they can copy a really well designed item that took a great deal of effort to create. If you craft an amazing bomb that deals increased damage, they can copy it so you don't have to struggle to make it a second time. Though these tasks do take time, you are also able to offer them even more treats to cut the time down to the point of instant turn-around.
As skills progress, you'll be able to see exactly what values you should add in order to increase the effectiveness of the item and even gain skills to manipulate the attributes to create an even stronger item. At times it can feel overwhelming, but after trial and error you begin to understand how it functions and the game keeps track of your discoveries so in the future you can make more intelligent decisions.
Even with time constants, the game manages to give you a great deal of time to experiment. Contrary to previous Atelier titles the time management is a lot less strict. Being as that was one of the biggest drawbacks to the previous games, it's a welcome change to Atelier Escha & Logy. You even get plenty of time to explore, gather, and take down enemies with all of the items you'll craft.
This is all good news because Atelier Escha & Logy offers a very compelling take on the traditional turn-based style combat. While in battle, each combatant is placed on a timeline based on their speed and actions in order to define their turn. As each combatant's turn comes up, they can select to attack, use a skill, flee, or in Escha and Logy's case, they are able to use items.The items used by Escha and Logy during combat (and in some cases outside of combat) are assigned before leaving town. Both of them have their own pouch that is expanded over time and is filled by items ranging in size from one to five total slots. Thanks to the convenience of the homunculi employed by their department, any items used from the pouch while out in the world are replenished upon returning to town. This allows you to use whatever resources you have without fear of having to spend precious time to recuperate later.
Taking combat a step further, players are given a support meter that increases by performing actions. As it fills, you gain a numeric value that can then be used in order to trigger a character protect ally who is about to be damaged or you can use them to chain attacks. Chained attacks can also eventually lead to unleashing a devastating blow if your combo gets high enough.
One of the more interesting elements in the combat is the use of a front and back row of allies. While the front three characters are on the battlefield, you can assign a back row character for each of them. These back row combatants serve as support in more ways than one. They can be called forward to defend and even be tagged in to take the front row member's place. With the back row being able to gradually heal, this promotes the idea of cycling out characters to take damage and to experiment with different attacks for every situation. While a relatively simple combat design, it's also fun and complex during difficult encounters.
Out on the field you will be dealing with these encounters and exploring different locations from forests to lava ruins. As you gather materials and fight enemies you fill a field event meter. Once at 100%, you can trigger one of three generated events. These can be as simple as instantly gathering all resource nodes in the area, gaining a relic, changing item quality, or even trigger boss-like encounters.
The boss field events are a great feature as it helps break the mold of a typical gathering and hunting session. Once triggered, you're able to select the level difficulty of the encounter and given a randomly generated field effect. The field effect can increase your stats in the battle, prevent healing, inflict poison, and so on. The enemies can generally scale in difficulty for the most part depending on which field effect is in play. However, the benefit to fighting these bosses comes in the rewards you gain afterwards, which makes it a great method to gaining strong weapons and armor for the most part.
Blending this entire experience together is a good cast of English voice actors and rich musical scores. While still featuring some of the majestic flute style music that Atelier is known for, there is also a considerable effort to add more traditional guitar and vocal tracks that still hold a feel for the world while making it more broad in taste. I have to admit, I enjoyed listening to the opening song time and time again.
For the purists out there, Atelier Escha & Logy also features Japanese language option which for the most part is a more complete experience. While you may not understand the Japanese language, the entire game is fully voiced, which will at least provide you with entertaining emotion to go with your dialog reading. With the English option on the other hand, anything outside of main plot points are not voiced. Instead you're left with reading most all of the dialog with nothing more than music to entertain you.
Atelier Escha & Logy is a great addition to the Atelier series. While the chemistry between the characters is much more mature and lacking in silly humor, it manages to excel with great strides in its gameplay. Offering deep, easier to understand, and addictive synthesis and tasks that will have you plugging the hours away. While it does feature a time restriction, it never feels crippling or preventing you from exploring and experimenting. While not a game for everyone, it manages to offer a much more inviting and enjoyable experience that may broaden its rather niche audience.
|Addictive quest system|
|Deep and easy to understand synthesizing|
|Time limit doesnâ€™t feel restrictive|
|Some long winded dialog|
|Story is rather shallow|
|English voice acting is limited|