Edited by: Jade Swann
Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea DX is the final installment of the Atelier Dusk trilogy. Despite it being the finale of a trilogy, it’s perfectly possible to enjoy this release without having played the previous two — not recommended, however, for you’ll be missing out on some story buildup and development of characters which return from the first two.
THE NEW AND THE OLD
I originally played this for the PS Vita and what stayed with me about this game, regardless of how many years passed by between then and its PC release, was the opening cinematic. Powerful, gripping, and haunting; it’s perhaps one of my favorite details about Atelier Shallie and it complements the narrative well. The story itself feels, at times, a tad rushed; you might go through a chapter (far quicker than one might anticipate) with the bulk of your activities being battling, gathering, and synthesizing and see only a handful of cutscenes. More story segments are available to watch the further you progress and add more characters to your party, plenty of which return from previous installments in the trilogy. Such activities are what set the Atelier games apart, but there feels a drastic change between Shallie and what’s released after it in terms of how the story is presented. Shallie does have good story moments, however, which are complemented with lighthearted humor thrown in for good measure, particularly those scenes of Katla trying to act all business savvy or Albert’s desire for automatons.
A few features that set Shallie apart from other Atelier releases include dual protagonists, permitting you to pick either Shallie (Shallotte) or Shallie (Shallistera)! Shallotte is airheaded, bubbly, and often pondering what exactly she wants to do with her life; Shallistera is more quiet by contrast, and exhibits an air of reserved regality and congenial diplomacy, often wanting to help others out as the chief’s daughter and because of her outsider status with regard to Stellard, the town home to Shallotte.
Leveling by defeating enemies alone can take time, especially if you’re fighting earlier foes for materials or an easy special encounter given that the experience you earn for easier enemies decreases as you progress. Completing life tasks can yield a hefty amount of experience, greatly expediting the leveling process. Particular life tasks grant synthesis experience, also useful for that can be a slow grind as well. As your alchemy level increases, you unlock perks that help create better items, utilize better ingredients, and transfer over better traits.
The synthesis system and how to acquire effects on items feels straightforward once you get the hang of it, although the purpose of certain gimmicks aren’t as intuitive. Additionally, if you’ve played an Ateliertitle since Shallie, there might be mechanics from the newer ones you’ll miss, for they feel more robust or engaging. Items you make to use out in the field or in battle you may equip in the search equipment section. When you first begin, there won’t be much room, but the capacity (likewise with the basket, permitting you to gather more with each trip) increases as you progress. After the first or second search equipment increase, playing on hardcore during extended exploration trips is far more manageable (plus, you can acquire rare combat loot and more experience and money on this difficulty, so the rewards outweigh the increased difficulty).
Over time, more locations open up for you to explore, but even previously visited ones are worth revisiting, whether to complete a life task or request or because a more powerful monster now inhabits the area. These monsters drop equipment with random properties, so farming them can be useful for having a surplus of ingredients for imbuing purposes. The overworld map, as well as certain areas, fit exceptionally well with the overarching theme of the narrative and the opening cinematic.
There are a few options in Shallie for those who enjoy character customization, a couple of which have aged fairly well: imbuing and growth points. The former you unlock via story progression; the latter through reaching a level milestone. Imbuing is just like standard synthesis, but for weapons and armor. It’s the wide selection of properties and effects you can add to items, especially gear, that permits a variety of builds. Growth points take time to accumulate, but the perks you may buy with them make them well worth the wait. A couple of primary uses for these points include stat ups or upgrading a skill; certain upgraded assist guards prove exceptionally handy in particular fights. Fortunately, characters accumulate growth points individually, allowing you to personalize the development of characters. For those who enjoy outfit customization, this version includes costume DLCs.
Another customization option of note permits changing the BGM and setting certain tracks to play in particular settings from a wide selection of sources (Hraesvelgr, Mana Khemia, Atelier Lise, to name a few). Want to relive a previous Atelier title as you synthesize new items? Shallie has you covered (as do a few other Atelier releases).
The Verdict: Great
Whenever a game re-releases for a newer console, there’s always the question of “Is it worth getting again?” I don’t think I’ve ever answered no to any Atelier re-release and Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea DX is no different. The series has too many nuances in the synthesizing and combat systems for me to ever say a title is not worth replaying. There might be mechanics you miss from releases after Shallie, but you certainly can’t go wrong with picking this up again. It’s polished, hosts an intriguing cast of characters (both new and returning), and has plenty of milestones to look forward to that you’d be missing out on if you didn’t try it.