Good things often come in threes. In fact, some say it's the magic number. Recently we've had quite a few trilogies of remastered games bundled together. Our minds shoot to Spyro, Crash Bandicoot and Uncharted. Now it's time for the Atelier Dusk Trilogy to hit our consoles, and we've been playing on PlayStation 4. Now, if you've managed to miss the 21 main games in the Atelier series, then, in a nutshell, they go a little something like this:
The Atelier series is a collection of JRPGs in which you take control of a character searching for items to use in alchemy, normally taking part in turn-based combat as you explore. We use "normally" as there are one or two games in the series that deviate from that trend. In the case of the Atelier Dusk Trilogy Deluxe Pack, there are three games here - as you probably gathered from the fact that it says trilogy in the title - all of which were released between 2012 and 2014 on the PlayStation 3. One little bugbear we had here was the names, as they gave no indication of the order in which they came in the trilogy. Beyond those three games, the bundle here includes additional features and DLC that were added later.
First in the series is Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk. You take control of a young girl called Ayesha who has set up an apothecary. Her sister, Nio, has been missing and presumed dead, but upon visiting her grave she sees that the spirit of her sister is trapped. At the same time, during a chance encounter with a strange and rather grumpy alchemist, she is told that she needs to go on a quest to become an alchemist herself in order to save her sister. We did wonder why the man who was fully trained in alchemy didn't just help her at the start, but then we suppose that wouldn't have made for much of a story.
One thing we love about it is the combat system. It's turn-based, but it's pretty fast-paced. The character with the highest speed goes first, effectively making the combat much more dynamic. One thing we didn't like, though, was that the camera angles were fixed, which made the experience feel a bit clunkier than we'd have liked. It's also interesting to note that you can change the difficulty from normal to hard, which didn't seem to be a feature on the other two. You can also change the costumes of your characters, a feature available across all three titles.
The second outing is Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky. A unique feature here is that it gives you the option to choose between a male and female character. While the main story stays similar, there are certain side quests that only pop up for one of the specific characters. One of the new features here that we really liked was the ability to blend different things to make stronger/better items.
The story wasn't as captivating as the one in The Alchemist of Dusk, but it gave more insight into the so-called Dusk, an apocalyptic event that threatened that land before the events of the game. You search for the secrets of the past by exploring ruins that were last seen in the first game. While this entry does flesh out the world somewhat, we didn't get as much out of it.
The final outing is Atelier Shallie: Alchemist of the Dusk Sea, which once again gives you the opportunity to take control of two characters. This chapter sees you finally find out what this Dusk malarkey is all about. This entry seems somewhat larger than the other two, especially when you're out exploring the fields. While some of the core mechanics are quite different, there are once again some new features added too.
One of our favourite new features was the addition of a time-based task system, which added a sense of purpose and urgency to proceedings. We felt that the addition of two characters here with differing stories was a plus, giving you some replay value if you want to get even more out of the collection.
Now let's talk about the common elements. Graphically, all three games are stunning. It's a bit like you're playing Spirited Away in video game format. That visualisations of characters and the world-building look like they were pulled straight out of an anime film, and were blown away by the use of colour and the quality of the overall designs.
Then there was the enchanting music that set the magic and suspense of all three games perfectly. The auditory experience, combined with the lush graphics, made for a fully immersive experience that at times was easy to get lost in.
Finally, before we get to the slight down point, we want to say that we were glad to see that all three games have English VO and everything seems to be well-performed. Another point here is that some of the characters pop up time and time again across the three games, which was a really nice touch that helped to stitch things together and make it feel more cohesive.
We really enjoyed our time with the Dusk trilogy, but for all its magic and enchantment, we didn't fall in love with it. At times it felt a little slow and we struggled to stay engaged. Perhaps a bit more distance between playing each one would have helped, and we're certain that a lot of people will enjoy getting lost in this adventure.
All in all, if you're a fan of the series, you should definitely pick it up, especially if you've not played any of the games yet. It's stunning to behold and, at times, even enchanting. If you're looking for a long-term commitment, it's certainly a trilogy that offers a lot of game time, and it's great that all of these features have been pulled together into one package. That said, if you're not familiar with the series, the sheer amount of content here might be a little overwhelming, and a JRPG based on alchemy won't be everyone's cup of tea.