Title: Atelier Shallie -  Alchemists of the Dusk Sea
Platform: PS3

Reviewed on: PS3

Genre: JPRG

Players: Single player


Written by Dragoon 17th April 2015


















The Japanese developer Gusts Atelier series has always been a bit of an odd duck in the JRPG landscape. While most JRPGs focus on a giant sprawling adventure to defeat a central antagonist the Atelier games have always been a more reigned in and personal affair, focusing more on a small group of characters that face a relatively minor threat much closer to home. Alchemy, the art of mixing different components to make something new, is the main theme of the series and is the driving force behind the gameplay and the narrative.

Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is the third game in the Dusk storyline and the sixteenth game in the main series. It refines many of the mechanics of its predecessors while also being the first game to drop the series time limit feature, instead offering the “Life Task System” which offers different tasks depending on your playstyle and protagonist.

The game offers you the choice of two protagonists, Shallotte and Shallistera and the story revolves around the drying up of the world’s seas. Shallistera is the daughter of her clan’s chief and is sent as an ambassador, due to her being an alchemist, to the abundant oasis city of Stellard to seek help for her village which is being crippled by the drought. Shallotte is a resident of Stellard who is training to be an alchemist but yearns for fame and fortune.



























They both share the nickname of Shallie and are both alchemists but they are almost complete opposites. Shallotte is an energetic city girl who works as a street sweeper to support her and her mother and dreams of a more exciting life whereas Shallistera is more of a reserved, regal girl who has left her village for the first time in her life and wants nothing more than to save it. Their paths cross and they soon end up working together to stop the drought.

Which Shallie you choose has a profound effect on the way you experience the story. They both have their own goals and relationships which affect the way the game plays out. For example Shallotte has unique events with her mother and her route focuses more on her everyday life while Shallistera will have her own unique events with her aides and things relating to getting help for her village. Shallottes route contains more events based on characters from past games so if you haven’t played them you might feel a little lost but the writers did a good job of giving you enough knowledge to understand the returning characters backgrounds and relationships.

The game is very well written in general and the characters are fun to interact with but there isn’t much growth to them outside of the Shallies. The returning characters from past games weave in to the story well and are true to their previous characteristics for example the magician-in-training Wilbell, a fan favourite from Atelier Ayesha, who becomes a mentor to Shallotte and is a standout addition to the party.

The gameplay revolves around three different areas town life, field exploration and battle. When you are in town you can use materials gathered in the field to create various items using alchemy. The alchemy system is much more accessible this time around compared to past games, it revolves around getting recipes from reference books you can buy from stores in town and using these, along with the correct items, to create new items which can be used for attacking, healing, as accessories or as components for other recipes. As you create new items you level up which unlocks new alchemy options and allows you to use skills during the synthesis stage to unlock new properties and improve base materials.

The Shallies cannot create weapons and armor themselves but if they take the materials to Miruca, an alchemist who practices a more modern form of alchemy called imbuing and who is also a childhood friend of Shallottes, and pay her a small fee they can obtain much more powerful weapons and armor which can have different passive effects depending on the materials used, such as an increase to the attack stat or a poison effect on basic attacks.



























Various events happen while in town that give you a look into the characters and the relationships they have or form with each other. These events are often fun and light-hearted and are a nice distraction, they are also very varied in their content so they are definitely worth seeking out and, as previously mentioned, there are many unique events depending on which Shallie you are.

You can also complete simple requests while in town to earn some money and these range from killing a certain amount of monsters in the field to synthesising certain items. Sometimes requests will be put in by some of the main characters and completing these rewards you with unique events and discounts with local stores.

To advance to the next chapter the game requires you to complete a set number of life tasks which require you to defeat enemies or level up in alchemy which serves as a buffer for you to make sure you are properly levelled and equipped for the next chapter and it also allows you time to complete any outstanding requests or events.

Field exploration is another one of the main game elements. You go to a field in the world and collect materials for alchemy and battle enemies which also give valuable alchemical materials. As you collect materials a field exploration gauge fills up and once it is full you are given three options which are material collection which collects every material spot on the map automatically, relic collection which gives you a randomised rare material and special battle which lets you fight a large group of enemies for bonus materials and experience.

The game has an interesting turn based battle system as you can have six party members in battle at once, three in the front row and three in reserve which can be switched in and out at will. If you do a switch while a front line member is attacking the reserve member will do a follow up attack which can be done in succession with each consecutive attack getting stronger. You can also switch out a front line member who is being attacked with a reserve will take less damage and sometimes follow up with a counter attack.

Each party member has their own role in battle with their own unique ability. For example the Shallies can use the items they made in battle to attack, buff or heal whereas Wilbell has access to a wide range of area-of-effect magic and Miruca has skills that apply “time-cards” which are damage-over-time abilities that activate in between turns in the future. They also have access to Ultimate attacks that you gain through levelling up or story events.


























Another interesting battle mechanic is the burst meter, as you attack the enemy this meter fills up and once it gets full you go into burst mode. This lets you hit much harder and gives you access to new battle abilities once you have unlocked them such as the Mix ability for the Shallies which allows you to combine two items for a stronger effect. When you go into burst mode you can also activate “Field Burst” abilities which add effects like healing whenever you use MP or a longer time in burst mode, the abilities you can choose change depending on the members you have in reserve.

Graphically the game is very vibrant and colourful, it uses cel-shaded visuals which look great but the character models look very wooden, there is very little movement in them and there are no facial expressions. They also have a limited set of animations that are reused heavily. The designs themselves are quite varied, the contrast between Shallottes bright and busy design and Shallisteras reserved and simple one help to reinforce how different they are. The field designs are fantastic and I constantly found myself stopping to take them in, while they are mostly small they pack in a lot of character and each has its own thing that makes it unique. Unfortunately the game does have framerate drops when you are doing the field explorations but they are not too bad and only happen when a lot of enemies are on screen at one time.

From a technical standpoint the game has a good number of options. You can choose between the original Japanese dub or the English one, both are fantastic and the voice actors in the English version did a great job. There are three difficulty options at first with more unlocked after you complete the game once, on Easy the enemies have reduced HP and stats, there are no changes in normal and on Hard the enemies have more stats and health but you gain more money, experience and get a higher chance for rare materials in exchange. You can change difficulty and language at any time in the game.

In conclusion Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is a good example of a sequel that improves on its predecessors in every way. It’s easy to pick up and play and doesn’t restrict the player as much as the series past incarnations did. The characters are fantastic but they are let down by expressionless models and limited animation. The gameplay itself is fantastic and the battle system is fast, fluid and fun. It may not be the perfect concoction but it’s definitely worth dipping into the pot for a try.



Pros:

Great Characters,

Fun combat system,

Beautiful environments.


Cons:

Limited character animation,

Unsteady frame rate

Little character development.


Final Verdict,

Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea synthesises a 8/10.


Written by,

Dragoon


















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