Tecmo Koei and Gust have finally brought the final chapter of the Dusk Sea trilogy to a close on Playstation 3. Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is unique to its predecessor if only for the multitude of alchemists at your disposal (namely, two). With new mechanics and items to craft, Shallie holds plenty to see and do for veterans of the series. Can Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea prove that its double the fun, or has this series seen the end of its craft?
Atelier Shallie opens with the choice between two alchemists, each using their craft for their own selfless purposes. Shallotte, the spunkier of the pair, looks to use her alchemy for small odd jobs and to make some extra cash. Shallistera on the other hand wishes to find a way to solve her village’s water problem, a growing issue in the world of dusk. Their paths intertwine throughout the story, so don’t feel as though you’ll be missing out on much of the story and characters by picking one side over the other. Trophy hunters and those that want to see a different side of the story should look forward to the new game plus mode that allows players to choose the other alchemist and get a different take on the events in the world of Dusk.
Crafting has always been the primary focus in the Atelier series and Shallie continues the tradition of making the alchemy more engrossing and engaging than the combat and other mechanics of the game. At its most basic form, it’s similar to other entries in the series. Take a given recipe that you’ve learning, pick items that match the type of the recipe (for example, making cookies may require a Grain, a Liquid, and Herb but you’re free to choose exactly which items to use), and craft away. Shallie has more control over the alchemy than ever before in the series. As she levels up, she’ll unlock more skills that take advantage of her strengths as a growing alchemist. Each component in her recipe has an elemental value and combining those elements along with skills to boosted numbers will typically take that element to a new threshold and unlock new latent abilities based upon the recipe. If you’re looking to craft something mundane like leather boots, it helps to focus on the Wind element and get a little extra agility out of the footwear. Shallie’s skills each take up a given number of slots and can change the output of a recipe dramatically. A basic rule to follow is to use higher-quality materials whenever possible, as these typically will not only have higher elemental values but also an increased number of slots for those skills that Shallie can put to use.
For the first time in the series, Atelier Shallie offers no time management mechanics to hold players back. Instead of having to abide by a calendar and have the time constraints rule your experience, players will have free reign to do so as they wish. Shallie has to undergo various requests and tasks called requests and life goals, respectively. A small amount of grinding is required, as Shallie has to undergo so many tasks before she feels confident enough to tackle whatever the urgent goals are for that chapter, ranging from talking to particular NPC’s or fighting off a massive dragon for starters. While the removal of a strict schedule and calendar to follow seems great at first, it’s easy to lose focus and just tackle any little challenge that pops up. For a village princess that’s trying solve the emergency drought problem, Shallistera has no problem wasting a few weeks at her atelier, crafting bombs and sweets for Homura.
To help Shallie focus on growing as a character, she has a number of Life Goals set by herself as inspiration for self improvement. Breaking 10 barrels? That calls for some synthesis EXP. Crafting a bomb with High Price as another goal? Have 5,000 combat EXP. Unlocking and completing one life goal will automatically have Shallie devise new paths for self improvement, so it’s constantly a sort of achievement system she gives herself that you, the player, can take full advantage of. It’s not without its drawbacks, however. Whenever Shallie gets an urgent life goal on her mind, that’s all she can think about. Sure, you may unlock the criteria for finishing half a dozen life goals, but you won’t be able to cash them in or put them to use until she clears her head.
Another oddity is how taking advantage of the life goal system feels like it unbalances the game. Through diligent goal solving and grinding, I was able to boost my party up to nearly 30 by the time the second chapter was finished. Because of my over-leveling, I found myself waging combat with enemies that only gave one or two EXP per fight, trivializing combat until I could make it to the next chapter and unlock new enemies and areas. This cycle kept going, as I found frequently hit another life goal that would reward Shallie and friends another 10,000 EXP, boosting me up another level or two and once again overpowering the enemies. If you’re looking to enjoy the alchemy and crafting side of Atelier Shallie versus the combat, you can use the life goals to focus on those tasks and only really use combat for gathering up some extra slag materials or equipment.
One glowing issue with Shallie is one of the new mechanics that they bring into the game. Dubbed the Growth System, this new feature is unlocked after level 40 and gives each character skill points to allocate towards stat and skill upgrades. However, in the build that I reviewed (and have heard from other reviewers with a similar issue), simply opening this menu is a hindrance. Not only is this menu non-translated, but simply opening the menu hardlocked my PS3 100% of the time. I don’t recommend attempting this out of curiosity without having saved beforehand.
With the new streamlined changes to Atelier Shallie, it can be quite accessible for newcomers to get their feet wet in the dusk sea, even if this is the final entry in the series. Veterans may find the changes to be counterproductive, as the sense of urgency is gone from the experience. Instead, use that time to experiment with the alchemy systems and find new ways to make the alchemists more powerful than ever. With a little experimentation and crafting know-how, you may very well find a solution to stopping the Dusk and saving the world.
[Editor’s note: Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea was reviewed on the Playstation 3. Review code was provided to us by the publisher.]