The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Not every game drives its genre
in bold, new directions. However, some of the most fun I've had has been from
games that find a solid formula and simply refine it. Franchises like Harvest
Moon, Animal Crossing, and Pokémon have found success by slowly evolving while
staying true to what makes them enjoyable. The Atelier franchise shares a
similar story; alchemy is its hook, enticing players to find the best
ingredients to top their previous creations. The entries don't make drastic
changes, but I am drawn to them because they remain fun and continue
challenging my alchemy chops. Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk
Sky fits the same bill, but the small refinements go a long way toward making
it the best gameplay in the series.
The combat and alchemy don't
deviate from the usual Atelier set up: Accept quests to journey to various
lands where you take down baddies and search for ingredients. Once you obtain
new materials, you assess their strengths and see if you can use them in a new
recipe. Each ingredient helps create something new, and finding rare ones adds
satisfying perks to your creations. The extent of the alchemy is vast; you
craft weaponry, health items, bombs, and parts to fix various things around
town. Seeing the fruits of your labor - like crafting a powerful new weapon -
is what makes the experience fulfilling.
Reaping the rewards of your latest
creation is fun, but the experimentation is what keeps you hooked. After
learning the alchemy system, you gain access to a disassembly device, which
reveals what ingredients make up any item you find, unlocking even more
recipes. Additionally, the alchemy isn't simply "throw together the ingredients
and call it a day." Synthesis skills alter the basic properties of your
creation. For instance, say you want a weapon with a high fire power, you can
use the conversion skill to take an elemental value from elsewhere and add it
to your fire power. The synthesis skills are varied, also extending to perks
like shortening the time it takes to make an item, upping their effect or
power, or increasing the quantity. You're always assessing something for the
best odds, examining every ingredient to take advantage of everything you've
Besides designing your weaponry,
Escha & Logy also makes you think on the battlefield. The turn-based battle
system stays engaging because it forces you to examine your every move.
Positioning matters, as allies in front of an enemy are more likely to be
attacked, so you can move your characters around the field to avoid hits. The
party is also split into front and back lines; three characters must be in the
front, and three others can take supporting roles in the back. The back line
members can't be directly attacked, but can be used for support attacks or
guards, which are at the root of the entire battle system. Support guards allow
you to absorb the damage for another character, allowing you to designate a
tank to protect low-health allies. As far as attack supports go, if you fill up
the support bar with enough strikes, you can chain attacks together; not only
is this beneficial for more hits in a turn, but also the longer you keep the
chain going, the damage of each hit increases.
All the systems in Escha &
Logy work together well, enhancing the fun. You can select between two
different protagonists Escha or Logy, but each story follows a similar path
with a few different interactions along the way. No matter who you pick, you're
a new government official and must work with the other on assignments. Like
past Atelier games, Escha & Logy has an in-game clock, and you must
complete assignments by certain deadlines, though the allotted time is
exceedingly generous. You have months to complete the main assignments, though
they can be completed in a matter of days.
Moving from assignment to
assignment can get repetitive. The structure of collecting new ingredients and
clearing enemies from fields rarely changes or offers any surprises. To add
insult to injury, all the extra assignments are similar, like clearing out a
big boss, using alchemy to make a particular item, or delivering a package.
With run-of-the-mill side quests that are just a rehash of "kill X monsters in
the area," the extra content isn't engaging or attractive. Like any formulaic
game, Escha & Logy can get humdrum, especially as you try to burn off
calendar days by taking these second-rate quests to get to your next main
The tedium stings even more
because while the basic gameplay is easy to grasp and interesting, the story
and characters aren't exciting. These games are known for their charm, but I
didn't care for this cast. Expect plenty of anime tropes, like the girl who's
awful at cooking, and unexciting NPCs, such as the shopkeeper who can't stop
lying to move product at her store. This isn't outside the norm for Atelier,
but this entry is particularly weak. The best interactions come between Escha &
Logy, who must work together, despite Logy's seriousness and Escha's
contrasting lightheartedness. Still, I wasn't enamored with either one, and as
leading protagonists that's troublesome. As for the story, even the lands'
biggest "secrets" don't provide a stimulating tale. I found myself bored by
dialogue and not caring much about this world or its heroes.
Despite its shortcomings, I still enjoyed Escha
& Logy. The alchemy and battle systems continue to get more complex and
impressive, making it easy to get lost in them. The urge to make one more item
or explore more of the world for new materials or to best a boss rarely dims. Escha
& Logy may have some flaws, but it's good at providing a formulaic
experience that rewards you with seeing your progression play out before you.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.