Japanese developer Gust is back once again with its fourteenth entry in the long-running Atelier series. While this may well be the latest in a long series, Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk is the fourth Atelier game to arrive on the PlayStation 3. Taking the series always from Arland, Atelier Ayesha offers a fresh cast of characters, locations, alchemy crafting, combat, and more. But does this setting bode well for the Atelier series, or should this installment fade away into the dusk?
Like previous Atelier games, you play as yet another adolescent girl named Ayesha Altugle. Living with her grandfather in his herbalist workshop along with her young sister, Nio, Ayesha lives a herbalists life even after Nio disappears. It’s not until she visits an ancient ruin and has a chance encounter with a ghostly apparition of her sister that she is renewed with hope and sets out into the land of Dusk to seek Nio out.
Just like previous entries, The Alchemist of Dusk has a simple plot. This is largely excusable because along the way you meet interesting new characters and events – which is what sets most Atelier games apart. This time around there are a few unique characters, with each one being rather well developed with interesting backgrounds to boot. As for events, most range from hilarious encounters to downright questionable moments – all filled with quirky interactions. For what is the beginning of the dusk series, so far it offers a fresh new world that you want to explore.
Atelier Ayesha also follows similar gameplay mechanics to before, with little changes here and there for good measure. Gameplay revolves around three core elements: exploration, combat, and synthesizing. Exploration involves traversing the world map, scouring each individual town, field, or dungeon for items, combat, and gathering materials for synthesizing or battles. While exploring you’ll also come across random or key events in the field that help progress the story or serve as little more than entertainment value.
As for combat, little has changed in the grand scheme of things. Turn-based battles remain and each character has their own select abilities. Ayesha is the only one who can use items, while Wilbell can use magic attacks. You can now move to different positions on the battlefield getting around and behind enemies who are sat in the middle. This has tactical advantages too as attacking behind an enemy will causes bonus damage. The downside? Battles are a little bit easier than they’ve been before.
After you collect items from gathering in the field, shopping at the local town, or grinding in battle, you can use them for the trademark alchemy crafting in Atelier Ayesha. The Atelier series has always had a major focus on synthesizing and that’s no different this time around. Once again, nothing much has changed in this regard, but now you can craft new items and levelling up your alchemy level offers more synthezising options than before.
A new feature found in Atelier Ayesha is Ayesha writing down in her diary after certain events. These diary entries must be unlocked though obtaining memory points via finishing quests, events, and more. Once unlocked, they provide bonuses like increasing HP for Ayesha or recovery HP and MP via traveling.
Presentation wise, Ayesha is offers colorful and unique graphics, good voice acting, with an infectious soundtrack – although it’s not up there with Atelier Meruru’s. Graphically, the environment, characters, and monsters are detailed and colorful, but some will see the change in art style from the previous three rather jarring. While it looks great, the game itself runs poorly at times. Even with an install, Atelier Ayesha is sluggish from time to time. Voicing acting is good, but the English dub grates – thankfully there’s always the option to switch to Japanese instead.
As the first instalment in the Dusk series, Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk offers promise. The setting is a fresh, vibrant, and unique and it’s world is populated with interesting characters. Gameplay may well be largely the same affair, fans of the Atelier series will love what Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk offers. So, get ready to sink in some hours in the land of Twilight.
Visual/Audio – 3/5: Excellent art work, but the game itself runs a little sluggish from time to time and the music isn’t as good as it could be.
Gameplay – 4/5: Much of the same as before, but the changes are enjoyable and fresh.
Innovation – 3/5: Does little to innovate itself from other RPGs or past titles.
Value – 5/5: With multiple endings, hidden events, completing dungeons and more there’s quite a few hours to sink into.
-Chris C. Reviewed Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk on PlayStation 3-