Less is more. One of the best Atelier games so far.
- Developer: GUST
- Publisher:KOEI Tecmo
- Release date:14th January 2020
- Genre:3rd Person Adventure, JRPG
- Platforms: PlayStation 4,Switch, Windows PC
- Reviewed on: PS4 Pro
- Game Supplied by: Developer
Let’s be honest, with the Atelier series now boasting over 30 titles in its series, it’s really hard for one of those games to stand out from the crowd, but Atelier Escha and Logy somehow does.
This is somewhat surprising, given that it’s nothing more than an HD remaster of a game released on the PS3 some seven years ago on 27th June 2013, the middle installment in the Dusk Trilogy. Players will not have to have played the previous game to enjoy this one, as the time setting is years after the end of the previous game in the series, Atelier Ayesha, and therefore is all but a stand-alone game. The only crossover is the reappearance of one particular character, and that the overarching storyline is going somewhere, but picking it up here in the middle game of three, won’t spoil the enjoyment.
Visually, GUST have yet again excelled themselves in the character designs, which are of the utmost exquisite beauty. Each character model looks fresh off the page of a watercolour artist’s pad, and are literally works of art. The characters’ clothes are interesting, if sometimes flamboyant, and add a visual treat to the experience.
What can pull you back out of that experience, however, is a world design much like that of the previous game, which is uninspired and, dare I say it, occasionally boring. Although it compares favourably with Atelier Ayesha in terms of detail, such as can be observed with a little more rendering of brickworks and weathering of environments, the artwork team has failed to make the environments interesting. A forest looks like a normal forest, with equivalent issues for towns and other settings. Nothing jumped from the screen to shout, ‘look at how interesting I am,’ apart from the aforementioned character models.
During combat and alchemy; however, the visuals ramp back up again. In combat, when players are about to unleash a spell, an attack or a move, the preliminary wind up is exciting, almost as though it’s cut straight from an action Anime.
The biggest improvements to the game are in the gameplay designs. The experience seems to have removed unnecessary clutter in favour of a much simpler and more refined visual and intellectual experience. For example, the combat is once again turn-based, but this time the time bar showing whose turn it is next is clean and clear at the top of the screen. Add to this, players can see precisely where on the time bar they will end up if they use an attack/spell/movement. This clarity improves the player’s decision making tenfold. By way of example, you can decide whether to unleash a powerful attack that may finish off an enemy, but leave you with no time to heal, and therefore vulnerable to attack from the others or to heal yourself now as a priority, and save your powerful attack for an opportune moment. Being put into those moments whilst being fully cognizant of the situation is exhilarating, especially as the game focuses on combat, with the toughness of the enemies having been ramped up from previous games.
Atelier games are not generally known for their combat, as it’s normally just part of the game to add a further layer to.the overall experience, but here it takes center stage next to the alchemy in a direct 50/50 split.
Alchemy too has undergone an overhaul in the spirit of simplification. Collecting items and taking them back to your base automatically puts them into a container, without needlessly choosing each individual item to save in your basket or move. They all go in automatically, without any fuss. Then when players want to create something from a recipe, the game automatically selects all the items of different grades for you, so that you can choose which are best. This allows for a much more focused, clearer thought process for the player in terms of which items to use. Less is definitely more.
Story-wise, at first, the game was as dull as a microwave meal. You can play as either of the two main protagonists, but you start working for the R&D department for the local government agency. Just like real life, you are shown around the office, escorted to the admin department, and show where you will get set-up and begin working from. You are then assigned tasks from your “Boss” to prove you are capable, and then the game and its quests expand from there.
Once you have completed the assigned task, be it part of the main story arc or a side mission, you then have to report back to your boss to then get graded on how well you performed, and of course, to get paid. Remind me again, isn’t one of the pleasures of video games supposed to be getting away from the real world?
Being dragged back to where your work/base is has a drawback of limiting the expanse of the world map. Although there are many areas to explore, you are always somewhat tethered to the middle of the map; your place of work.
However, as the story progresses the excitement soon accelerates, with players able to investigate and explore many different ruins, and try their luck at harder boss fights, all within a set timeframe. Each activity requires a different amount of in-game time to complete it, for example, getting from one side of the map to the other, can take a few days. You are also required to complete the main part of the story for that chapter within an allocated time limit, but it’s not at all restrictive, as players would really have to go some to miss the time allocated, however, it still felt like an unnecessary push to complete the game.
Finally, the game’s audio is a little hit and miss. The music can only be described as a blend of folksy light rock, pan pipes with drums, and medieval soft rock. It’s kinda weird but in a good way. The voice acting in both Japanese and English is excellent; however, most of the game has Japanese dialogue, much less having had an English makeover, as much of the game in English, will revert to narrative reading sequences. Combat and alchemy audio is excellent, with a lot of acoustic energy infused into each player action for a heightened sense of excitement.
At the end of the day, there hasn’t been much in the way of HD additions for a new audience over its previous-gen counterpart. Players can get access to a wide variety of clothes for each of the six playable characters, and the visuals look sharper than the PS3 version, but not much else in the way of extras have been added.
With very little visual, gameplay, or additional extras added to the game when compared with the PS3 version, apart from player skins, the game’s upgrades fall short of today’s expected HD remastered standards.
However; even though I have played both previous and subsequent Atelier games (including the latest, Atelier Ryza), the Escha and Logy entry in the Atelier series has had its core elements drilled down for a much more focussed, clean and effective experience. As the game design is like this, and the gameplay is much more rewarding, easy to understand, but, it still holds a fascinating depth for those that want a challenge. When that is added to the gorgeous artwork and great story, it all adds up to possibly the best Atelier experience of them all, and certainly a great starting point for any players new to the series.