(PS3 / PlayStation 3)

Game Review

Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Nicola Hayden

Back to basics

This author has been lucky enough to see the Atelier franchise slowly evolve over the past five years. With each PlayStation 3 title, new mechanics have been introduced, scrapping those that didn't previously work and improving on those that did. Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is the biggest improvement yet, though, as it finally sets you free, by abolishing many of the restraints that have held the series back.

After the events of Ayesha and Escha & Logy, the world's seas are beginning to dry up, taking all forms of life with it. It's the fate of two young alchemists from different walks of life to try and uncover the mystery of the dusk with the power of alchemy. The game is split into two storylines following each of the protagonists. Shallistera, as her clan's next chief, goes on a journey to help fix their drying water supply before it's too late, while city-girl Shallotte is still trying to find her place in the world and what she wants to do with her life.

Which Shallie you pick to play as will make more of a difference to your game experience than just seeing a few unique interactions. They each have their own lifestyles, priorities, and friends, which alters the game heavily at certain parts of the story. While certain events will be shared, others will be independent to a particular hero's plot. These vary from personal issues such as those surrounding Lotte's mother, right down to childhood friends being closer. But while this adds to the replay value, it also results in a largely different game: Lotte's storyline is vaguer, relying heavily on knowledge of the previous titles, and her combat encounters are much harder than Stera's – even though the game doesn't tell you anywhere.

The more sweeping changes reside under the hood, however, as this entry abolishes the timed system that the Atelier games are known for. Replaced with a life tasks mechanic, you are given goals to achieve dependent on if you are working towards furthering the plot or simply spending "free time". The former objectives are very specific and progress the storyline, requiring you to visit new regions or defeat certain monsters – but you can take as long as you want to complete them. The story comes in small, bitesized chunks, never tying down you too long or making you play for hours without advancing.

Meanwhile, during free time, you can spend your time doing whatever you please, but can only advance to the next part of the story if you've earned enough merits from a variety of life skill quests. Once one task is completed, more will open up in a similar category, so if you want to just go out and kill a bunch of monsters, you can do that – although it would be faster to progress by doing a variety of tasks. These tasks are never particularly monumental, and usually involve small things such as making better equipment or levelling up. More than anything, they are a simple buffer put in place to make sure that you are appropriately kitted out and levelled for the next part of the story.

Combat has also done away with its rule-mongering, getting rid of endless extra bars and the requirements needed to do cool stuff. Characters each have a variety of different skills, ranking in at almost double that of previous titles, allowing them to have the most versatility yet. Add a party of six characters, three in the fray and three on standby in the back, and you have a quick and fluid combat system on your hands. While you can switch characters when their wait meter is full – simply shown by their portrait filling with colour – to add an extra attack or to take a blow for a fellow hero, it's the new burst system that gives combat its speed and x-factor.

By attacking in combat, a burst meter goes up at the top which is shared by all party members. During this mode, not only do characters deal more damage quicker, but this also adds some new options to your arsenal, which are introduced slowly as you progress. Field burst abilities can be activated during burst triggers, allowing you to gain numerous boosts based on which character you pick. You can, for example, extend the length of the burst, buff yourself further, or even revive yourself should you die.

Unfortunately, we didn't get chance to see the combat system at its fullest potential, as we encountered a pretty major bug as part of the growth system. This is supposed to help you specialise characters further, but, bizarrely, its menu has been left untranslated – and currently causes our console to crash. While we've been promised that a patch is on the way, until a fix is issued it will not only stunt your progress – but make it impossible to progress. This is, obviously, a pretty major flaw.

Fortunately, the alchemy system – which allows you to create new items and weapons – is much less intimidating this time around. Your early endeavours in this area will be tied to the plot, guiding you through the process, and from there new features will be sprinkled in slowly, helping you to learn its intricacies, without bombarding you with tutorials and tons of information at once. Couple this with the fact that there are fewer ingredients to mess around with in the first place, and it all becomes much more manageable – in a good way.

Conclusion

Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is the perfect end to an enchanting and mysterious trilogy, reaching the high point that the series has been leading up to. Newcomers will be pleased that some of the more intimidating features have been simplified, while options such as hard mode will still allow the hardcore to run free. It's just a shame that a critical launch bug has crept into the final release, meaning that this is hard to fully recommend until it's been properly patched.

Game Trailer

User Comments (11)

kupoid

#1

kupoid said:

Ack! I can't wait until it hits Vita and they've ironed out all the bugs. The improvements are all long overdue, but the one thing I've still always wanted is actual weather changes during seasons (snow in the winter, autumn foliage, etc). Nice review!

tabris95

#2

tabris95 said:

This reminds me of the PS2 NISA game Ar Tonelico 2 where spots were left untranslated as well as a game breaking glitch where a major plot boss at the very end of the game would crash your game if he performed a certain attack that he is guaranteed to do in about 5 turns or less, a glitch that was suspiciously nowhere to be found in the original Japanese game, even though NISA themselves said it wasn't from their end. Great job NISA! at least this bug can be patched unlike in the PS2 era. :/

tabris95

#3

tabris95 said:

Just realized that Tecmo Koei is the publisher now. Now I feel dumb lol

SteveButler2210

#5

SteveButler2210 said:

One thing @NicolaHayden, are there any ties between this trilogy and the first in terms of plot? Only, seeing the details come out, the second trilogy seems a bit more up my street than the first one, so I'm thinking I might skip them!

belmont

#6

belmont said:

@NicolaHayden I want something spoiled. Since Ayesha they were trying to say that the world somehow is about to end. Do they address it or they just address the sea problem? Also do we know if they is the final game of the Dusk series? Apart from Wilbell do we have more returning characters like Escha or Ayesha ?

NicolaHayden

#7

NicolaHayden said:

@SteveButler2210 The Dusk trilogy isn't related to the Arland trilogy in any way. Its part of the beauty of the franchise, that you don't miss anything by not playing a complete backlog of games.

NicolaHayden

#8

NicolaHayden said:

@belmont xD Well I obviously cannot reveal any spoilers, but the world starting to dry up is pretty grim. Things like water are near impossible to find, monsters barely drop anything because they are skin and bones and fresh resources -normally your bread and butter- are rare as hell. So yeah, if they don't address it, the world is pretty much screwed. You are correct that Shallie is the final release is the Dusk trilogy so this is the end for our beloved characters. ;_;
As for grand returns, many of the characters make a return, if not brought up in person, are mentioned a lot. Such characters returning/being mentioned include Wilbell, Linca, Reyfer, Escha, Solle, Harry, Katla, Heathcliff, Ordelia, Logy and Ayesha.

belmont

#9

belmont said:

@NicolaHayden Thanks for the replay!!

Sometimes I thought I was the only one that enjoys the Atelier series so much. I already have 8 platinum trophies on those games. I will buy the game today, some local retailers have it on stock already. This will most likely be my final game on PS3. The previous one I bought were Escha and Rorona plus.

As an unrelated side note the new bosses in Ayesha plus are still destroying me.

Ryumoau

#11

Ryumoau said:

its really unfortunate that the game had to have a bug that prevents you from using one of its major features. That sounds like such a huge oversight. I bought the game digitally so nothing i can do now but just try to play the game around that system.

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