Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is the 15th game in the popular Atelier series, a direct sequel to last year’s mildly diverting Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk, and the first time that developer Gust has attempted to take a risk by moderately altering the established formula. Fans are finally allowed the option of selecting between two central protagonists, each with their own specific ways of tackling the game’s adventures. Happy-go-lucky youngster Escha Mailer is essentially the typical Atelier leading lady, a bubbly yet somewhat shy personality who uses her treacly charms and alchemical skills to progress from point A to B. Those who played through Atelier Ayesha or the slightly more memorable Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland will find numerous similarities here, but the casual RPG fan might be turned off by the excess of kawaii and often overwhelming dependence on item crafting. With the unexpected introduction of a manly hero in the form of the levelheaded Logix “Logy” Fiscario, Gust courteously extends a helping hand to needy JRPG traditionalists, laying out a classic-feeling role-playing affair that lightly shifts the focus away from magic and loot synthesis to combat and armor/weapon concoction.
Taking place four years after the events of Atelier Ayesha, Escha & Logy’s narrative involves the two budding alchemists’ efforts to investigate a massive midair island that floats above their makeshift developmental project, centered in a remote town called Corseit, part of the much larger region known as Dusk. Their joint organization seeks to explore the mysterious ruins contained on the hovering landmass while concurrently advancing Corseit to a self-sustainable status. The core campaign consists of 10 lengthy assignments coupled with several secondary tasks that must be completed before the expiration of four in-game months. In comparison to Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, another recent rubric-reforming RPG with an emphasis on time-sensitive tasks, Atelier Escha & Logy’s limits are rather charitable. While it’s not a grand idea to dillydally with NPCs or admire the colorful scenery, keeping the ticking clock in the back of your mind should never be much of an issue. Urgency only truly creeps in during the game’s final chapters, where enemy difficulty is ramped up and grinding becomes a necessity for those who’ve avoided it until then. Overall, though, the game is a significantly easier endeavor than past Atelier installments, with the only instance of true complexity being the synthesizing routines, which take some time to fully master. Even for veterans of the series, comprehending proper potion creation (Escha) and armament construction (Logy) requires wading through a mucky, convoluted probationary section.
Battles, on the other hand, are generally devoid of circumstantial aggravation from the start. A team of six can participate in each encounter, with three upfront and the remainder at the ready to switch in. Items play the biggest role in accruing victories, especially the combination Double Down technique that involves Escha and Logy uniting to increase the potency of a particular amalgamated property. There’s a fair amount of borrowing from the standard JRPG when it comes to regular attack maneuvers, but the accompanying flashy visuals, akin to the thick-lined watercolor-styled sheen of previous PS3 Atelier games are on full display here, now and again hinting at the forthcoming stage of the series’s aesthetic evolution that will hopefully occur on Sony’s next-gen devices.
Atelier has suffered from a lack of interesting supporting characters, and while Escha and Logy hold their own as the stars of the show, they don’t quite totally make up for the bland batch of dawdling satellite personalities. Similarly, the voice acting approaches high levels of annoyance in times of absolute joy or peril, and the pronunciations of certain anachronistic words can be jarring. Nonetheless, Gust has done enough here to make Atelier Escha & Logy a marked improvement over Atelier Ayesha, and a suitable primer for the uninitiated. The game’s peculiar magnetism stems from its unhurried, two-pronged approach to regularly rushed RPG checklists, and its inauguration of a male lead to balance out the considerable effeminate quirk that has been Atelier’s chronic calling card.