Night is a lovely time. It’s great for resting, stargazing, hanging around in front of the campfire, mentally unwinding from the day, and of course packing in several hours of sleep. Night kind of loses its charm, however, when it’s an entire world resting on the edge of its metaphorical day, trying to avert a long dark rest for civilization with all the resources at its disposal. Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is the second game set in the world of dusk, where a loose but friendly collection of cities and villages use all the alchemy they can muster to preserve the cultural daylight while exploring the ruins of a more advanced world. That may sound like a desperate situation, but it’s actually set in a lovely and charming world that’s as inviting as any in the Atelier series.
Escha and Logy (short for Logix, which makes him sound like he should be punching out the Romans in ancient Gaul) are recent hires of the town of Corseit, making up the full staff of the new Research and Development department. It’s their job to complete the tasks the town gives them, which in practical terms tends to mean exploring monster-infested ruins while becoming stronger and more capable alchemists. Ruins are packed with resources, resources can be alchemized into endless new items, and performing lots of alchemy leads to new discoveries and abilities, which make for a much easier time exploring the ruins. It’s the atelier’s circle of life.
It’s also somewhat more complicated in practice, of course. The combat system is fun and zippy, but alchemy? That’s a bit trickier, and there’s a lot to take into account. Elemental effects, ingredient power and the points it will take to use the stronger ones, the effects of various skills you can apply during item creation, and a few other bells and whistles make creating even a simple healing pack an adventure in balance. Use a rare item with strong elemental properties in order to activate a bonus? Toss in an item with an elemental affinity that’s pointless for the end result but allows the usage of a skill that will enhance it in interesting ways? Or just toss whatever you’ve got plenty of into the pot and call it good, because sometimes you don’t need anything more complicated than some basic healing supplies? The results can be as simple or complicated as you want, if you feel like taking the time to invest in learning the alchemical details.
Once you’ve got a nice pile of items it’s off into the ruins to use them on whatever critters get between you and the current assignment. The battle system moves along at a good pace, with each action adding to a combo meter you can use to add extra attacks from the party or even have a member jump in harm’s way to take a hit for an ally. The front row of three members do the main fighting but the back row can be swapped in to help out, adding extra attacks to the combo or swapping places on defense. It’s a classic turn-based combat system that manages to avoid the tedium of repetition that so many RPGs fall victim to. Yes, you’ll do a whole lot of attacking, a bit of magic usage, and even toss the occasional bomb into the middle of the field. However, keeping track of the combo meter and the damage possibilities, and whether it’s worth letting a low-HP character take another hit instead of swapping in a healthier member so that the extra action can be used for attack does a great job of keeping you engaged with the fight. Handy as item usage can be, though, it’s probably best to keep it to a minimum.
Creating items takes time, as does traveling to different areas and scavenging for goodies. There’s a calendar that’s dropping days as you go about your duties, and you’ve only got three months to complete each chapter. For the main quest that tends to be plenty, but it does limit the amount of screwing around on the side you can do. There’s logical gameplay reason for this, because otherwise you could scavenge endless resources and build a few thousand bombs to decimate the monster hordes by the end of the first chapter, but it does add a feeling of unease to know that, generous as the temporal allocation may be, time is still a limited commodity. On the plus side, though, it helps keep you focused on the goals, and does a nice job of eliminating the mid-game doldrums where there’s so much to do you can spend hours trying to see everything without any plot advancement. Think “gentle prod” rather than “harsh taskmaster”.
Another good reason to artificially limit the play time is to help with the replayability. Atelier Escha & Logy isn’t just a single story about the duo, but rather each have their own storyline that, while identical in the broad strokes, have differences in the alchemy, perspective, story tone, and even events unique to which character you choose to play as. Add in multiple endings per character and there’s plenty of reason to start over once the ending credits roll, and that might be hard to justify if each play-through took 80+ hours.
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is an RPG doing double-duty. It serves as a new entry in the Atelier series for longtime fans with Escha’s story, while also tossing classic RPG players a bone with Logy’s somewhat more serious tone and focus on combat rather than item creation. Both systems have some good meat on their bones, making it worth the second play-through to get the full experience. The clever crafting and engaging combat shore up a story loaded with likeable characters in an intriguing world, and if most of the asset work is focused on character design rather than sparing a few polygons for world rendering that’s not such a bad tradeoff. Atelier Escha & Logy is a lovely RPG that should easily succeed in its goal of pleasing both series and standard RPG fans, with pleasantly deep systems and an inviting world to explore them in.