As always for the Atelier series, alchemy is at the core of almost everything you do in Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky.
This time around, there’s an interesting distinction made between female protagonist Escha’s “traditional” approach, taught to her by her mother, and male protagonist Logy’s “modern” approach that he learned in the mysterious Central City. Mechanically speaking, both are pretty much the same — though they are each used for different purposes in the game as a whole.
Today we’re going to take a closer look at that alchemy system, see how it differs from Atelier Ayesha’s approach — and give a firm thumbs-up to some quality of life features that longstanding Atelier fans will find very welcome, particularly if they haven’t played Atelier Lulua yet.
The roots of the alchemy system in Atelier Escha & Logy are, of course, the same as they always have been. Get recipe, gather ingredients, combine ingredients, get item.
This time around, recipes can be acquired in a few different ways: they can be given to you as part of your assignments; they can be found in treasure chests out in the field (which, in-world, represents Escha and Logy uncovering some forgotten knowledge from the past through their investigations; they can be given to you as rewards for completing various combinations of optional assignments besides your “main” one; or, a little later in the game, they can be acquired by disassembling and reverse-engineering relics you find out in the world. The latter option can also sometimes provide you with rare ingredients.
At the outset of the game, Escha does most of the alchemy work, since Logy doesn’t know how to do alchemy the traditional way — he needs specialist equipment to perform each of the tasks he knows how to do. Escha, meanwhile, kicks things old school by dumping things in a pot, waiting a few days and then retrieving a finished item from the mixture.
It’s not quite that straightforward, of course — at least, it doesn’t have to be. Yes, if you just need an item and you’re not particularly concerned about how it turns out, you can just stick any old ingredients that fit the recipe in there and take whatever comes out. But more often than not, you’ll want to make a specific effort to refine your creations a little bit and make them as effective as they possibly can be.
The basis of this side of things is similar to what Atelier Ayesha did. Each ingredient you add to the mix is associated with one or more of the four elements — fire, water, wind and earth — and has both a numerical “power” value and a CP cost. If Escha has enough CP remaining — her maximum increases as her level goes up, plus there are some other ways to increase it, too — then when the ingredient is added, its power value is added to the recipe’s elemental attributes that correspond to the ingredient’s elements. For example, throw in something with a power value of 20 that is associated with both Fire and Wind and the value 20 will be added to both the Fire and Wind attributes of the final item.
As in Atelier Ayesha, the main way you ensure items reach their full potential is by manipulating these attributes so that they meet or exceed various milestones. Early in the game, you’ll do this primarily through ingredient choice, but as Escha levels up and learns more alchemy skills, you have a lot more flexibility as to how you do things.
When you add an ingredient to the mix, not only does it add to the elemental attributes of the final product, it also adds one or more “points” to four stocks of elemental skill points. Despite also being elementally themed, these are completely separate from the attribute values. Most ingredients add just one point, but some have traits attached to them which cause them to add two or more.
To use her skills, Escha does not expend CP as Ayesha did; instead, she makes use of these stocked elemental skill points to make use of various abilities. Each ability can be used once per crafting session, and as such the order in which you do things becomes increasingly important as you take on more complex recipes.
Each of the four elements correspond to particular types of skill. Fire skills, for example, can either recover Escha’s CP — thereby allowing her to use more ingredients, or more complex ingredients — or increase the elemental power value of a specific ingredient. It’s important to note that in this latter case, the power increase isn’t retroactive; you need to increase the power before adding it to the mixture.
Water skills, meanwhile, are primarily utility skills. You can directly exchange water skill points for any other skill points, or you can use them to reduce the CP cost of ingredients. Again, in this latter case, this modification must be applied to an ingredient before adding it to the pot — in other words, you can’t add something to the mix in order to get a water skill point, then retroactively reduce its cost to get some CP back.
Wind skills are primarily used as a means of manipulating either the item’s Effect level — a rough analogue to the Quality level in other Atelier games — or the elemental attributes. On the one hand, you can absorb elemental attributes to increase the Effect level to varying degrees; on the other, you can “divide” an ingredient in order to use it a second or third time in order to effectively double or triple its value. This is, of course, dependent on you having enough CP to be able to use it again.
Finally, Earth skills can directly adjust the final Effect level of an item or adjust the quantity produced — which means how many items you produce in the case of individual products, or how many uses consumable items have. Later in the game, there are also some skills that require at least one elemental skill point from all of the elements; needless to say, these are quite powerful when used correctly.
As you can probably see from this, alchemy in Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is quite an involved process — and feels comfortably familiar while also distinguishing itself from Atelier Ayesha’s approach. There’s a little less of the “tabletop card game” feel than there was in Atelier Ayesha; instead, there’s actually some quite deep strategy involved if you want to make the absolute best items possible — or at the very least items with specific characteristics about them.
Logy’s contribution to the process functions pretty much the same as Escha’s, only he focuses on weapons and armour rather than materials and consumables. In narrative terms, Logy’s “imbuing” process involves taking an item and improving it with alchemical ingredients rather than consuming items to produce something completely different. As such, most of Logy’s recipes require an existing weapon or piece of armour as a base and then build on that; this means that it’s possible to directly and immediately upgrade a character’s weapon simply by letting Logy get his hands on it, assuming he has the appropriate ingredients available to finish the job.
You don’t even have to unequip the weapon to do this — a lovely little quality of life feature that really goes a long way to streamlining what could sometimes be a slightly cumbersome process in previous games.
In the case of both Escha and Logy’s alchemy, additional Properties can be added to an item in various ways. Firstly, certain Properties can be passed down from ingredient to final product, as in the Arland games’ Trait system. Secondly, the power value of the ingredients you add to the mixture also contributes to a Property meter, which can be raised through five levels during crafting. When the recipe is done, each level reached unlocks a possible Property which can be attached to the final item by expending PP (Property Points).
Up to three Properties can be attached to a final item if you have sufficient PP available — and much like how Traits could be combined in the Arland games, so too can Properties be combined to make considerably more effective and efficient variants. For example, in the case of armour, it’s usually more effective to develop a single, more powerful Property that increases several stats at once, because this then means you could use the other two Property slots for things like increasing elemental resistance and the like.
This might all sound tremendously complicated, even by the standards of the rest of the series. And in many respects, Atelier Escha & Logy’s alchemy system is one of the more mechanically complex, strategic examples we’ve seen so far. Somehow, though, it manages to make these potentially overwhelming mechanics accessible and easy to understand — primarily by introducing them to you a bit at a time, but also giving you a distinct sense that you’re being supported in everything you do — in both mechanical and narrative terms.
Until you finalise a synthesis, you can always undo each and every one of the steps you’ve taken if you want to try doing things in a different order. You can even cancel out completely if you want to try a different combination of ingredients. At the same time, both Escha and Logy are standing by to make supportive comments to one another while they work — and as the narrative proceeds, we see both of them recognising and understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses, becoming a formidable team in the process.
That’s not all, either; probably the most noteworthy quality-of-life feature is the fact that you don’t need to keep producing consumable items over and over again as you use them. Instead, both Escha and Logy have an “Adventure Inventory” where you can equip consumables, which can subsequently be used out in the field. And any time you return to hub town Colseit, these are replenished automatically.
In contrast to Atelier Lulua’s approach, where you had to pay for this service — and thus could not replenish yourself if you’d run out of money — in Atelier Escha & Logy, the cost of restocking is calculated as part of the pair’s monthly budget. Do good work and you can counterbalance all your expenses with your income and gradually make quite a tidy profit — in practice this isn’t at all difficult to do if you stay on top of what the game expects you to do, so money should rarely be an issue during your playthrough.
But what of all that work out in the field? And what are all those consumable items being used for? That’s what we’ll be looking at in the next part of this feature.
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