Greetings from Neko’s Shiritori! With Spring coming near and the month of March underway, it’s also one of the biggest months for multiple game releases. Thanks to the great staff at Tecmo Koei Europe and Acttil, we had the wonderful opportunity of assessing the game before the general release date. For now, we will hold off on a complete game analysis and leave out strategy specifics as the game is rather vast in information.
What’s new in Atelier Escha:
1) Two protagonists. Never in the PS3 era of Atelier games has there been a contrast between two protagonists. A huge benefit to this is the ability to foster a team type relationship, which the game does plenty of.
2) 4 month segmentation. Rather than daunt players with a limited 3 year time scale, this game instead segments into 4 month brackets with a main story goal which advances the game, 8 supplemental goals which provide you with key bonuses such as improved stats, and 16 other goals which rounds out the rest of the bonuses. Since the base time is still 3 years, that means there are 9 total segments. The goals provide you with progressive things to do in all facets of the game, whether it is combat, alchemy, gathering, or exploring.
3) Alchemy using elemental attribute powers. Although there’s a longer list of alchemy skills you can use, the fundamentals are actually much easier to understand. Generally these skills aid in your alchemy production.
4) One shared support gauge. Just when we thought Ayesha’s support gauge made the game too easy, Escha takes the support gauge to another level, though the monster strength potential is much higher to scale appropriately.
This particular game is extremely streamlined. Any nuances found in past Atelier games were phased out since mechanics and navigation have been tuned to be much more user friendly.
Notable differences with Atelier Ayesha, and likewise similarities to Atelier Arland games:
1) Properties can be picked, rather than generated based on the order you put in ingredients.
2) Research and Development, which allows you to improve a fundamental in the game, such as combat, gathering items, or improving synthesis to name a few.
3) Big combos with bomb items leading to a big finishing attack.
4) Assignments are back. Like the Atelier Arland days you have a designated character to go to for basic assignments, such as slaying certain monsters, or turning in gathered/created items to gain points and items. Unlike Arland, there is no grade or range of items for rewards, and the amount you can turn in is always capped, making it easier to deal with.
Much of these mechanics which are not found in Atelier Ayesha can seem familiar to anyone who has played an older Atelier game.
A difference we particularly noticed was the elimination of the surplus system while doing alchemy. In Atelier Ayesha, players had the opportunity to expend more than one day producing the same item to possibly gain extra surplus of the same item. Although we personally avoided that, we’ve often seen streams or uploaded Ayesha videos where the player’s item inventory during combat has been loaded with an unnecessary quantity of healing and bomb items. Ayesha’s basket isn’t all that big, and it’s a quick way to eat up both days and ingredients. Most of the time, a high item quantity like this also stems from registering in shops, which consumes an item, and then you have to drain your limited cole money by purchasing copies of the item. It’s a vicious cycle that can lead some 3 year runs to be extremely underwhelming.
We found Atelier Escha extremely user friendly. For any player that had remote interest in the series, but did not want to deal with nuances of micromanagement of items and prefers combat over alchemy, this game definitely achieves that. As we’ve stated before, Atelier Escha currently has the biggest push for the Atelier series as it has an anime being aired starting April 2014 as well as being the only Atelier game fully under the Tecmo Koei and Gust brand.
Originally Atelier Ayesha was designed for this new player mentality by providing a different and potentially simpler system, but the nature of that game was to “figure it out yourself with no real direction of where to go”, which made navigation rather clunky. On the other hand, Atelier Escha is so straightforward that you’re pretty much told what to do and can use your own methods to achieve the goals. In fact, you cannot even progress the game until you finish the current 4 month bracket you are in.
Atelier Escha manages to extract the best components of Atelier Ayesha and mix it in with past mechanics that fans liked before. This leads to the game being more complete in the sense that not only is it easy to navigate, but you can bolster a grand amount of power that used to spawn from previous games such as Atelier Meruru or Mana Khemia 2, which had much stronger combat systems.
The general progression of the game allows the player to also be a platinum player, having 25 goals to finish every 4 months, as well as being able to move onto the next 4 month segment up to 15 days ahead of schedule. The game is also not very penalizing for any given failures. Although in-game scenes repeatedly tell you not to gather excessive items you do not need, they at least from time to time link a goal with a previously explored place. Also, if your entire party falls in battle, you only lose the 1 day you were on and you respawn outside the spot you just were.
If anything, if you’re too efficient, optimizing each and every day, synthesizing one of each different item you can make with alchemy at the time, you’ll actually run out of goals to do and will end up having to burn the remaining days anyway by either doing more alchemy, or slaughtering more foes for assignments that you don’t really need. This is a fantastic improvement, as it allows a great range of different play styles without really falling behind. If you don’t make the 4 month goals, there are penalties, but in reality it’s more like lower bonuses because the game still wants you to progress normally. Finishing goals sooner and earlier reporting simply allows ease in subsequent events that happen later by having more time to do it or by getting the reward bonuses earlier in the segment instead of later.
We would definitely recommend this game to anyone interested in the series but have not played any game of its type before. Atelier Escha isn’t the most grand of introductory points, but as a standalone game, it definitely captures a significant amount of positive components from past iterations without requiring any prior knowledge. Since my personal experience began with Atelier Ayesha, shifting over to Atelier Escha was like second nature, as it is the second game in the Dusk series and the game mostly played itself since the basics were very clear. For those still uncertain about playing previous games, we would still recommend the route of Atelier Totori then Atelier Meruru only if a PS3 is available. For those that possess a Playstation Vita, vie for the Plus versions instead for the full experience.