Much like its many predecessors and in many ways not, Atelier Escha and Logy still manages to make the abiding franchise unique, charming, and fun with vast improvements hovering among the myriad of other recycled elements it is known for.
Much like any other established franchise I have grown accustomed to in the video game universe, the “Atelier” series is one that constantly builds upon a defined formula and never seems to deviate much from that path. This good thing for allowing players to have new experiences within a conformable and familiar design or attracting newcomers (if it’s not broke, don’t fix it ideology) but also quite disappointing, since it seems displays an air of complacency, if only to be marred with superficial things no one frankly cares about. Luckily, Project A15, Atelier Escha and Logy (hence forth Eschalogy or for more technical people “Eschatology”) is one that avoids many of the pitfalls some franchises wander into, yet it still has much to improve upon. Although, this is not a bad place to start or be in honestly.
The basic premise of the game follows the journey of two alchemist: Logix Ficsario, a skilled alchemist, fighter, and government official of Center, a development organization working to improve a remote village called Kolseit and the other, Escha Malier who is also an alchemist that lives in the village of Kolseit and recruited into the Center’s development team. Working together along with other members of Center, Logy and Escha use their skills in alchemy to aid Center in its development efforts and ultimately, unearth discoveries of the dying land of Dusk. Much like Mana Khemia 2, you can choose from either protagonist to play as and whom ever you do not, will join you. While the general storyline is the same for whoever you pick, the perspective and themes will change. As described by the creators, Logy story is more serious in mood and will appeal to RPG-centeric players and Escha will be more oriented toward item creation and will be more slice-of-life-equse in mood. So there is a little bit of influence from the Mana and previous Atelier series and something for everyone.
Much like Atelier Rorona, the storyline this time around is mission progressive, with the player tackling 10 assignments and 16 smaller ones that will be completed over a course of 4 months. These assignments usually range from crafting and delivering items, traveling to other areas on the map, gathering material, fighting enemies, and so on. If you complete the mission early, the rest of the time is free to do extra quest from the general affairs office or whatever you want. If you fail, your time is cut in half for the next assignment, so it something of an incentive to complete missions in a timely manner. After doing the main missions, the extra quest you can do are similar to the quest in Atelier Totori or Meruru, but will net you money, goal points (which are needed for story progression and offer nice bonuses), and sweets – items that you can give homunculus in exchange for making you items. One nice thing that I especially like about Eschalogy that if you are having trouble figuring out where to go in order to complete missions, the locations are usually always marked with an asterisks on the map and tells where you would need to search in order to progress. I find this feature very welcomed and probably will be most helpful to players new to the series, yet it would be better to start off with Ayesha due to reoccurring characters. The story is set on a 4 year time limit, with the first 3 years devoted to the main quest and last year giving players the chance to complete character specific endings depending on who you choose as the protagonist. And just like Ayesha, it is possible to collect all possible endings on one save for any given protagonist, so no need to run through someone’s route multiple times – unless you want.
The combat and alchemy systems have also been revamped with small tweaks and by design. Battles allow you to use six characters in your party with three fighting on the field and the other in reserves. Since both Escha and Logy are item users, they can also combine item usage with a skill called “Double Down” and often, execute the full power of their items potential. Everything else is widely familiar to Atelier Ayesha with characters able to guard each other or even gain extra attacks depending on the “Support gauge” amount. However, this time around you can also switch characters in your reserves with one in active combat, which allows for characters that have fought to slowly regain HP and MP. This also the same mechanic present in Mana Khemia 2 and will mostly be a core part of many players stratagems when it comes to dealing with trickier foes and more so, boss battles that are no push-overs. A new enhanced gathering system actually will allow players to fight stronger field enemies; sometimes above their level if you manage to fill up a gauge that often appears and met certain conditions. You can also opt into getting rare item gathers or useable ones through this system as well, so it every possible to come into contact with new recipes or level up quicker, which is a godsend for those looking for something new.
Item usage also plays a part in the Atelier series and thanks to the improved alchemy system, you can possibly make strong items and equipment earlier on in the game. Like Ayesha were items traits were set in stone and unlike Totori/Meruru were items had random traits, Eschalogy allows the player to take advantage of a system called the “Elemental Shift” that allow players to strengthen their creations and work around fixed item traits. So if you need bombs with fire based traits, you can easily add them in based on the items you synthesize with. This also allows players to choose the items: level, quality, elemental power, and other nuances based on the points used from synthesizes, so it is worth playing with the alchemy system to get the most out of it. Escha is in charge of making items you need and Logy is skilled with making weapons and armor, so each protagonist will have different alchemy skills associated with their proficiency and change how things work fundamentally to get the desired effect. While this does seem to make things too easy, you will still need to marshal and take advantage of both alchemy and combat systems to win fights that come with certain caveats. Unlike the previous titles were you could carry a bunch of bombs and healing items, Logy and Escha have to equip their creations to use them. This means you can only carry a set number of items between the two that are indicated by a black square telling you how space each item will take up. Gather items don’t count, since they are in a separate basket, but you will have choose carefully with your own made goods. You will be able to increase this limit has you progress deeper into the game, but this will force players to rely more on mechanics than just sheer usage of items.
Besides all the changes made to gameplay, it also revitalizes the graphics in more ways than one. This is usually marked with new character, monster, and environmental designs – accompanied by a ton of dozen recycle ones seen throughout the series, but also includes 3D scenes complete with voice acting and lip-syncing; a major deficiency that was in the Ayesha. Not sure how this will pan out for a U.S release, since Ayesha was partially missing its voices from the work that was done, but its a good thing for those pining for a dual audio release if it happens. In addition to the 3D implementation, it does also contain animated events and cut-scenes in a few areas, something that has been excluded from the previous series, expect for its opening. Music is another step-up from its former counterparts and even on par with the Mana Khemia series, but not quite. My favorite themes would have to the world map and regular battle themes. I also noticed that the style has departed from a eastern ensemble that might have more woodwinds to something more western; plenty of string based instruments. This might be because of the setting, but also might be that Daisuke Achiwa serves as the primary composer and fills Ken Nakagawa’s place.
However, no how much Atelier Eschalogy has changed, I still feel that is too complacent with its stock baggage that it has carried ever since Rorona. This not necessarily a bad thing and even minimizes how much work the team has to do, but as someone that has followed the series through 7 reincarnations of itself, it would be nice to see the series remove the mold that is has comfortably made. Extra features and cosmetic touches are nice, but also giving the series a new facelift all together would benefit it greatly. Despite minor grievances, Eschalogy is another nice addition to the Atelier family and fans that have played the previous titles will have no trouble fitting in here. With new system improvements and story to unravel, Eschalogy is more of the same of what fans know and love and thank alone is plenty to be thankful for.
Pros: Minor system improvements, great soundtrack, narrative of two characters, plenty of areas to explore, nice atmosphere.
Cons: A lot of recycled elements.