Mad Max – Meets cute Japanese anime.
- 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
One of the most gratifying experiences in the entertainment industry is when the viewer is taken on a long journey, that has its emotional ups and downs, maybe told in three parts, but has a wholesome conclusion that ties up every loose end along the way. The last game in the Atelier Dusk Series Trilogy does just that.
It was so satisfying to complete the series from start to finish, and what a superb game the last one is. The reason this game excels over the previous games is that GUST have tweaked the gameplay for the better in each installment, to the point of Atelier Shallie being near perfect.
To start with though, the story of Shallie takes place six years after the last game, ‘Escha and Logy’, and moves away from the work-like theme to something completely different that is much more enjoyable and befitting of a fantasy adventure game.
With tones of the film Mad Max, we arrive on a floating ship over a sea of dust, as the water of the world is drying up, with no real explanation as to why. The title of the game is a little misleading as there are in fact two playable characters, both with the nickname, ‘Shallie’.
Shallistera is the princess of a town who is helping to search for supplies for them, while Shallotte is based in another town and is pretty much just wanting to prove herself in the world. It’s fascinating how these two characters’ plotlines intertwined into the story together, along with many old faces from previous games, for its grand conclusion, however, the two Shallie’s don’t cross paths until chapter three.
Once you have been introduced to both of the main characters you get to choose whose story you want to go through first. The character you don’t play as will have their own storyline and cut scenes, that you will only get to view in full if you replay the game for a second time as them. This is a huge incentive for replayability, even though one playthrough will take around 25 to 30 hours.
The characters themselves are delightful as they are so different, and even in the English voice overs, the voice acting is superb. The narrative and dialogue are, for the main part, interesting, but still suffers from the occasional overuse of brain dead repetitive exposition. It is possible to play this game first and totally enjoy what it has to offer, but without knowing the details of the previous games, or some of the returning characters, the impact in parts of the story wouldn’t be the same, so it is advisable to play the games in chronological order to enjoy them to the fullest.
Graphically, GUST have again excelled with stunning artwork and have added a noticeable addition of more interesting environments with more clutter, debris, life, and rendering. Environments can change from a desert plain to (mild spoiler) frozen tundras, so there is again more interest for the gamer.
The music, for me at least, has always been a bit of a sticking point of the series. Where other Japanese JRPG’s seem to get it right with either massive orchestral pieces flowing with grandeur, or hard-charging, energetic rock music, the Atelier series seem to be stuck in a genre of music that most just don’t relate to. Medieval, folk, soft rock music is par for the course, however, despite that, it fits the aesthetic of a not so deep or serious game perfectly.
One of the biggest changes is actually in one of the smallest details in the gameplay. In Atelier Shallie, GUST have finally moved away from the in-game time limit mechanic! Huzzah! Gamers no longer need to stress about how long they take to complete tasks, and they are instead able to bimble around doing side missions and other such events, just enjoying the world and all it has to offer before they move on to the next story event and chapter.
To progress to the next chapter, you have to hit a target of, for example, 100 points. Each event you do, be it a side mission, fighting a certain enemy, defeating a single hard enemy, making equipment, finding items for villagers or part of the story has a value of say 20, 30, 50 points, etc. Once you have obtained the necessary amount of points to progress, you can go to a specific location to unlock the next chapter, however, you don’t have to: There is now nothing stopping the gamer staying where they are without a care in the world if they are enjoying themselves at that location.
As part of the Deluxe Pack, it also feels like Atelier Shallie received most of the DLC add ons over the previous games, as each of the main characters had a wealth of customizable items to choose from. As well as that you also have the fast forward in battle and ‘run’ feature around the gameplay areas to speed things up, with the only other new feature being the right stick can now control the camera angle.
Combat, exploration for items and alchemy are all pretty much as they were in the previous games, just with a few minor font and presentation changes. The list of missions is located in something called Life Tasks, which are listed in a 2D blacked-out side view of one of the main characters heads.
Alchemy has had a slight tweak to it; you can add additional perks to an item during alchemy to experiment with different outcomes, in much the same way as adding perks to your character’s abilities, but here it’s for the item you are creating.
Apart from that, visually, and gameplay-wise, it’s all much the same. You have to explore the world to find items, but in doing so come across enemies to battle in a turn-based system. Then after harvesting items, go back to your Atelier to craft the items you need to fulfil a quest requirement and report it.
The basic Atelier formula has been going for many games now, but here in Atelier Shallie, they tweaked some of the gameplay features a little and nailed it for the better. Now, more than ever, gamers can sit back and relax in these beautifully crafted worlds, with no time constraints, and enjoy a delightfully satisfying story with interesting characters, along with the excellent core gameplay features and stunning artwork. Of the three Atelier games in the Dusk series DX collection, this is certainly the most accomplished of the three.