If you're a Japanese role-playing fan, you've always been able to count on Gust's Atelier franchise. While some entries have been better than others, they've consistently delivered that distinct Japanese flair and time-honored mechanics old-school RPG followers still appreciate. However, this isn't to say that Gust is totally averse to change, as evidenced by Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea , which boasts both familiar and new elements for the dedicated faithful. The uninviting atmosphere of the latest installment is one of the significant differences to expect.
That land has started to fall to the Dusk, a mysterious, oppressive power that's snuffing out life everywhere. Monsters are everywhere, water is scarce, and the alchemists of old must be on hand to end the threat. Players can choose one of two protagonists; they can go with Shallistera or Shallotte and both will be known as "Shallie" during the quest. They're quite different from one another: Shallistera is dark, quiet and reserved, while Shallotte is a brash, impulsive, green-haired vixen. Once you've made your decision, the other character will still be part of the story, but only in a secondary capacity.
But perhaps the biggest change involves the lack of time management systems. Fans are familiar with deadlines and keeping to a calendar and all that, but these aren't common restrictions in Alchemists of the Dusk Sea . Both Shallies have checklists filled with Life Tasks, which the player is free to complete at his or her leisure. After finishing up the main plot events in any given chapter, Shallie can pursue those Life Tasks, which can include hunting down specific items for alchemical practices. You gain bonuses for each Task completed, including stat boosts and EXP bonuses. This is a part of the game you really can't ignore.
The reason is that if you want to build up experience, you've got no choice but to fulfill that checklist. It seems that combat doesn't offer a huge amount of EXP, so the standard grinding common to the genre won't necessarily involve constant fighting. As for the combat mechanic, most of the familiar aspects have remained although the developers have opted to streamline things. For instance, you aren't continuously shifting your positions on the battlefield, and it takes a while for the special assist attacks to show up in the plot. The system becomes more intricate as time goes on, though, so I'm not really sure what the full experience will be like…
As for narrative, it's clear that players will get the traditional "save the world" storyline with a few twists. There will be plenty of zany characters as well, in keeping with the tradition of the genre, and of course, the game should run you a good 40 or 50 hours. If you're a completionist, you'll get even more out of it. The new Life Tasks sound intriguing and eliminating much of the time management stuff might make for a faster, less tedious adventure. However, if you're the type that always enjoyed the time restraints, this might disappoint you. And lastly, I'll assume you have no trouble playing as teenage girls…if you did, you wouldn't have read this preview, right?
Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is scheduled to release for PlayStation 3 on March 10, 2015 in North America and three days later in Europe.