After several rather “freeform” Atelier games in which the player is left mostly to their own devices — albeit with a strict time limit — it’s quite refreshing to enjoy Atelier Escha & Logy’s assignment-based format.
While on paper, the experience might sound quite similar to how Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland did things, there are a few key differences along the way. So after last time’s exploration of how Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky handles the series’ core concept of alchemy, today we’re going to explore exactly what the rest of our young alchemists’ day job entails.
There’s exploring, there’s building, there’s crafting… but there’s also paperwork and keeping the bosses sweet. We are living the corporate Atelier life now, after all. Let’s take a closer look!
The basic game structure of Atelier Escha & Logy sees the eponymous pair taking on regular assignments for their boss Marion, who runs the Research and Development department of the local branch of the government.
As the game opens, the R&D department is one of those parts of the organisation that gets looked down upon by everyone else; a lot of people clearly believe that its continued existence is a waste of time, money and human resources — and it’s fair to say that both Escha and Logy are seemingly looked upon with a certain amount of disdain by certain other parts of the office.
With that in mind, then, Escha and Logy’s job is as much about establishing a solid reputation for the department and proving its worth as it is about achieving relatively mundane tasks. Thankfully, as we know very well after our already extensive exploration of the Atelier series as a whole, alchemy lends itself extremely well to both the mundane and the extraordinary, so Escha and Logy are in an excellent position to achieve a great deal.
When presented with a new assignment, Escha and Logy are given a core objective that must be accomplished within the space of about four in-game months. Failure to achieve this is one of the few ways you can get a full-on Game Over, so it’s always best to prioritise this task first and get it out of the way.
The actual tasks vary quite a bit over the course of the game. Initially, for example, Escha and Logy are tasked with simply producing some new parts for a faulty windmill, but as they prove their capability — and the department’s reputation improves — they are given more and more ambitious tasks that see them doing a lot more in the way of the “research” side of things.
One of the ways the concept of research ties in with the game mechanics is through a meter that builds up as you explore the various regions and dungeons; with every harvesting point you gather from, every battle you engage in and every character you talk to, this gauge fills; when it’s full, you are given three randomly selected “field event” options to choose from, which can include the acquisition of “relics” from the past age (actually items that Escha and Logy will subsequently be able to craft), documents detailing some background information on the Dusk setting, and more challenging battles. You can even affect the quality and quantity of harvestable items and standard enemies in the field through this system.
At this point it’s worth remembering some core concepts of the Dusk setting. In each of the Dusk games in the Atelier series, we’re presented with a world that appears to slowly be dying out — and in which there was clearly once a prosperous age of alchemy long before the stories we engage directly with.
“Something” happened along the way — exactly what isn’t clear by this point in the series — that meant humanity went back to living a relatively simple way of life, but with humans being the curious sort, they’re naturally very interested in all these mysterious ruins that are all over the land — and the unusual technology that is often contained within.
With that in mind, an important part of Escha and Logy’s job involves them going out to various locations around their base town of Colseit, and simply exploring them: discovering the extent of the ruins, attempting to determine what they might have been used for — and in extreme circumstances, making them safe for larger research teams who will follow them.
Yes, in keeping with the whole “corporate” theme of Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky, neither Escha nor Logy can single-handedly achieve absolutely everything. Rather, many of their assignments lay the initial groundwork for teams with better equipment and bigger budgets to come along and finish the job a little later.
As we’ll explore in more detail when we look at the narrative of the game, this actually becomes a point of contention after a while. And if you play your cards right over the course of the main narrative, you’ll spend the last in-game year helping Escha and Logy take the lead on a significant project before the bureaucrats from Central City turn up and take all the credit for themselves. Petty? Absolutely. But sometimes you’ve got to show what you’re really made of — and your real value.
Up until this point, however, Escha and Logy work on their main assignments, plus a series of extras. These are presented in the form of a “grid”, with the main assignment in the middle, a ring of eight additional optional assignments for the period around it, and another ring of sixteen assignments outside that. The objectives for the outer ring are initially obscured, though you can still accomplish them early “by accident”; in order to reveal their conditions, you’ll need to complete the inner nine, including the main assignment.
The only objective you have to complete is the one in the very middle, but it’s in your interest to do as many as possible — particularly the inner ring of eight. Not only does completing more assignments add points to the R&D Department’s rating — which, in turn, unlocks additional benefits and better pay for Escha and Logy — completing “lines” of assignments in the inner square is the only means of acquiring both some permanent stat bonuses, and some recipe books containing helpful items.
In some ways, the system is quite similar to the “bingo card” added to Atelier Rorona’s Plus and DX versions; here, however, rather than being an optional bonus, this structure is a core part of the overall game design. Notably, the assignments in both the inner and outer rings provide a good means of judging how “well” you’re doing in the game as a whole — and providing you with incentive to engage with all its systems.
The inner ring typically challenges you to fight a certain number of battles, craft a certain number of items and complete a particular number of requests during the assignment term, which encourages you to spend your time wisely across all the different possible activities in the game. The outer ring, meanwhile, tends to consist of things you have to go out of your way to accomplish — defeating powerful enemies, crafting tricky items or delivering substantial quantities of items to characters around the game world; to put it another way, while the inner ring encourages you to develop your skills, the outer ring tests your skills in various ways.
Along the way, there are also some interesting objectives that encourage you to experiment with the game systems in ways you might not have thought to do yourself. The most notable of these are two objectives that challenge you to go out into the field with a certain number of “adventure items” equipped — the first time this shows up, you’re expected to have 30 different items equipped, while for the second you need to have 50 items equipped in total, with duplicates allowed this time.
In order to understand why these are interesting objectives, we need to look at part of the game mechanics you make use of when taking Escha and Logy out into the field.
Besides equipping them with the usual RPG-style weapons, armour and accessories, both Escha and Logy have “adventure item” inventories that gradually expand as the game progresses and the R&D Department increases its reputation. These inventories are where you put consumables such as healing items and bombs, and they’re presented as up to five “shelves” of items, each with five “spaces”.
Each consumable item takes up a certain amount of space. The less powerful items early in the game take up just one, for example, while the more powerful bombs and healing items might take up two, three or four slots on a shelf. This actually ties in somewhat with the alchemy system; one of the alchemy skills Escha can use her elemental skill points on allows her to “compress” an item, which not only reduces the number of days it takes to produce, but also makes it take up less physical space.
There are also Properties you can attach to an item which further reduce the space it takes up, so with some canny use of the alchemy system, you can really make the maximum possible use of the available space and cram a huge number of useful items into both Escha and Logy’s respective inventories.
By the time the first “equip 30 items” objective comes up, you’ll have access to these abilities, but you might not have realised their importance, and will have likely just been squeezing your favourite items into the available space.
With the amount of available inventory space at that point in the story, you’ll struggle to equip 30 items between both Escha and Logy if you haven’t compressed some of the bulkier items down a bit. And when the “equip 50 items” objective shows up in the last main term of the game, you’ll need to fill both characters’ 25-slot inventories with single-slot items to meet the conditions. (Apple Tarts work a treat for this — particularly if you get the office Homunculi to keep making them while you’re out in the field doing other things.)
Of course, given that both of these objectives are optional, if all this sounds like a big faff, you don’t have to engage with it if you don’t want to. But there’s something fundamentally satisfying about completing the assignments in Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky; perhaps it’s the nice red rubber stamp Marion gives you on a completed objective, perhaps it’s the jangling noise you get when you complete a “line” on the assignment card, or perhaps it’s simply the satisfaction of a job well done. Whatever the reason, leaving an assignment hanging is likely to bug you until you get it done.
Thankfully, in the game’s final year-long term, you have the opportunity to go back to any of your previous assignments and complete them if you missed them during the initial time limit. Again, there’s no need to do this — you won’t miss out on any endings for not doing so, for example — but if you’re the sort of person who enjoys accomplishing every goal a game like this presents you with, you’re going to want to take advantage of this when the opportunity rolls around.
The upshot of the whole assignment system in Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is that you’ll always feel like there’s something you can be getting on with; while you’re likely to complete the main assignment for each term in a matter of days, the optional objectives will keep you busy for much longer.
And that’s how we know Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is pure fantasy. Because as we all know, in a real corporate job, having something worthwhile to do every minute of every day is a luxury most people don’t have. And you all know what that leads to: meetings. Conference calls. “Stand-ups”. “Touch-bases”.
As grim as the world of Dusk might be at times, I think I’ll take my chances there, thanks.
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