S&S Review: Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of Dusk Sky

Title: Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of Dusk Sky
Format: PS3
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Developer: Gust
Price: $49.99
ESRB Rating: E

I'll be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of the Atelier games.  So when Tecmo gave me the opportunity to review the latest Atelier title, I was a bit skeptical.  After many hours with the game, I left the experience pleasantly surprised.

Story and Presentation:
First things first, the game's narrative starts off very slow.  In fact, if you don't have the patience, the two main protagonists may turn you off pretty quick.  Featuring two main characters, which is a pretty big deviation from previous games, I would have liked to see a bit more chemistry between the two.  During the opening hours of the game, they're both so dull that I almost put the game down.  If you can get past the extensive opening and boring dialogue, then the game will develop a bit more personality.  Luckily, the game's gorgeous visuals will satisfy your sight senses while the dialogue numbs your hearing.  All of the character models are highly detailed, and look extremely well made.  The animations outside of the battle are clunky and a bit awkward, but during battle the animations clean up well.  Once you get outside of the city, the game's visuals open up quite a bit, and you'll quickly see the amount of work the devs put in to diversify the open world.  I enjoyed the soundtrack as a whole, although it did get a bit repetitive a little sooner than I had hoped.  In the end, I like the unique aesthetics and catchy tunes, even with though a few minor gripes hold it back.
Core Gameplay:
To begin the game, you will either choose to play as Escha or Logy.  Similar to Tales of Xillia, you'll only get to experience certain elements of the game depending on what character you choose.  Escha's side focuses more on the light hearted side with more attention to Alchemy, while Logy takes a more serious turn, similar to a typical JRPG with more battles and monsters.  Either way you choose, hardcore fans of the game will find enough content on both sides to warrant two playthroughs.  The game is already quite lengthy, and this is a sure way to get more than your moneys worth.  Like I said above, the game is slow, and it takes a while to get going.  You slowly get introduced to your workplace, colleagues, and the organization you work for.  Fortunately, the game only gets better with the more you play.  Progression follows a time restricted structure, since the game follows it's own calendar, you'll have to complete certain tasks before a specific deadline.  Tasks range from helping out a member of the townsfolk, or exploring a daunting dungeon.    With each task, there are secondary objectives that will grant you additional rewards.

Time continuously progresses while you're exploring the wilderness and completing tasks, so you'll always have to be mindful of managing your time to meet deadlines.  This mechanic is what keeps the game so engaging, and forces you to make decisions when you're out in the field.  The biggest key to any Atelier game is the preparation in your workshop before you go out exploring.  Crafting and synthesizing items will keep you prepared for any battle you take on.  Fights are turn based, and will require to take the strategic route more often than not, while also using the support system.  Every attack will build up your support gauge, which will allow your allies to step in for defensive purposes or go on the offensive.  As a whole, the latest Atelier offers you enough content to wrap your head around.
Final Thoughts:
If you can get past the first couple hours of dull gameplay and mind-numbing exposition, what you'll uncover is a deep experience with robust gameplay elements.  Any fan of the Atelier titles will find this to be one of the best in years.
S&S Rating: 8/10


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