Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is a tale of two young women on a mission - one to save her village and another to 'make it big', mastering the ancient art of alchemy along the way. Essentially a role-playing game with an emphasis on crafting items through alchemy, players spend their time exploring the surrounding ruins, caves and forests, battling monsters in turn-based battles, and collecting ingredients to fuel their alchemical creations. Alchemy itself involves gathering the correct ingredients to make an object using a recipe, although many offer you a choice of constituent parts, each bringing a different property to the table. Mixing and matching these to make the best items, potions, armour and weapons possible is key, and experimentation is part of the fun.
As such, it's a game that's probably best suited for older children, requiring a pretty solid reading ability (as parts of it aren't fully voiced), with much of the more complex alchemy requiring a fair bit of trial and error, particularly playing around with which properties and skills you want to add and carry forward to the finished product. Your alchemy creations are also pretty essential to your success in battle, too, as you can create all manner of bombs, poisons and other such items to damage your enemies, as well as a huge array of medicines, potions and food to heal all ills. You can even soup up your team's weapons and armour to help give them the edge in combat through imbuing - which is essentially alchemy in all but name.
The battles themselves are pretty straightforward, with your team taking it in turns with the enemy to attack, requiring very little in the way of fast reactions and giving you plenty of time to figure out the best strategies. During scuffles, you can call in reserve party members to help out, either landing extra hits with Assist Attacks, or leaping in with an Assist Guard to take the damage in the current character's place. As you deal out damage, a Burst meter fills, and once it hits 100%, the damage you and your comrades deals drastically increases, helping you make light work of the more challenging enemies. However, there are a few random difficulty spikes here, as you may find yourself up against some rather overpowered opponents from time to time with little warning, who generally go on to wipe you out in a turn or two. While there's no consequences for losing in battle - something important in making this an accessible role playing game - some may get frustrated, confused or disheartened at the sudden bump in difficulty.
Sample sentences include:
- "Omigosh! Is that an ore pumpkin?! Oh, nope, just a bit of scrap metal..."
- "Shallie, you actually found me an automaton! I can't believe it!"
- "Have you happened to have heard of a Solle Grumman?"
Atelier Shallie is a fairly clean game, with no sexual content, bloody violence or anything else untoward to speak of. What violence there is is pretty minor, with characters battling fantastical monsters, such as dragons, giant ostriches and oversized insects, with swords, staffs and magic spells, and once defeated, monsters simply disappear. A single utterance of the word like 'pissed' appears in the dialogue, when describing an angry character.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 3