Adventures in Alchemy
I’ll admit one thing straight out of the gate here. I’ve never played any of the Atelier games before, so this was a completely new experience for me. Also one that worried me a bit, we all know what some of these series can be like if you try to join them at random points … but in I dove.
A little bit of story to begin with, Escha and Logy are a couple of civil servants trying to help the dying Dusklands. Logy is an alchemist who’s moved from Central City to the more remote town of Colesit, Escha is an apple picker’s daughter and the only one in the town capable of performing alchemy. These two are enlisted by the Research & Development Department and tasked with using their combined knowledge of alchemy to revive the dying Dusklands. And so the quest begins…
The combat system is one of my favourites, turn based. Say what you like about regular realtime combat but the opportunity to plan your next move carefully, thinking through the possibilities has always been a draw for me. From Fire Emblem to Valkyria Chronicles it’s my preferred combat system. However it needs to be well thought out and still allow you room to make a hash of things, after all where’s the fun in not being able to lose a fight. What’s on offer here is a fine example of the TBS genre, although very user friendly the system is complex enough to keep the veterans digging through. The battles themselves are particularly fast paced so attention is as crucial as the selections made, this is not like some TBS games which can be played whilst doing something else. Don’t pay attention and you’ll miss opportunities to ramp up your damage per turn, among other things. Keeping you engaged and focused in such a way certainly makes the combat more enjoyable.
The strategy element comes to fruition once you’ve acquired the full party of six, with a front and back row at your command. The usual group attacks are at your disposal so plan things correctly and there’s a chance your allies will join for extra damage (plan it really well and it could be all 6 characters). Guarding can be done by any of the other five characters when an enemy attacks. If however the character receives damage, a gauge is filled that will eventually allow a special attack to be performed which can make for a nice risk/reward mechanic if you play it carefully.
Swapping rows is possible and unlike other TBS systems doing so doesn’t cost you the characters turn during the process. Couple this with the fact that guarding will often cause the front and back rows to shuffle, you’ll find that this will be more of a help than a hindrance as those on the back row will recover both HP and MP when not being used.
As you’d expect from the story and the central characters, alchemy plays a big part in the games proceedings. Don’t groan, for once it’s not an overly complicated system, which is just as well as there’s plenty of it to be done. In the capacity of working for R&D every quarter a bingo card will be given to the players. This card is a five by five grid containing tasks to be completed in order to progress your rank within R&D, with one task in the centre that must be completed to make that transition to the next level. Plenty of crafting this and slaying that to be done here, but it’s well balanced and never feels lost or taking over from the rest of the game.
There are some stiff challenges contained within the game itself, but trial and error will be key along with a hefty slab of patience too. Thing is though, it’s rewarding, getting that combo correct and watching the onscreen devastation unfold.
To me as a newcomer I didn’t find myself being excluded from the game in any way due to me not playing any of the previous ones. With a balanced combat system and an interesting and deep crafting mechanic to keep you tied in, what was originally an hour or two can quickly double or triple if you don’t watch yourself.
From the title it might seem like a niche series and one that may well get overlooked, but I’d recommend any fan of turn based strategy to check this one out.