Last month, Gust finally released the third installment of the Dusk series, Atelier Shallie. Unlike the first two games in the Dusk series, it feels like a departure from the usual gameplay since this game feels more like Mana Khemia 2 since they replaced the time limit with a Life Task system. While there are some mixed reactions from the fans, here are my first impressions of the game.
Compared to previous Atelier games, Atelier Shallie brings many new additions. While the graphics has improved since Escha and Logy, the camera is no longer fixed in Shallie. Therefore, you can explore the whole environment looking for new items in places you couldn’t before. In addition, each protagonist has unique abilities to collect items. While I decided to play as Shallotte, her character can get items from cleaning, mining and fishing. In other words, the gameplay experience is different between the two protagonist compared to Escha and Logy where the experiences is the same with a few changes.
As for the Battle system, it resembles Mana Khemia 2 with a lot of additions tacked on. While you can no longer move around the field like in the first two Dusk games, there is now a Burst meter. Every time you attack a monster, the meter will raise. Once it hits over 100%, Burst Mode will activate. This mode not only gives you an attack boost, but also an ability to use multiple assist attacks. If you use three consecutively, you can perform a Variable Strike for additional damage before a special assist from a party member you chose last. Like previous games, assists allow you to raise the “Finishing Blow” meter. The only difference is that the meter is now shared for all characters. Regardless, switching and using assist abilities (protect and attack) now require recharging before another can be performed.
The biggest change to the franchise is the Life Task system, which replaces the time limit from previous games. Now, tasks will be given depending on the player’s actions from the four categories (Heart, Skill, Body and People (心・技・体・人)) after finishing the main task. For example, if you make your character battle a lot, you will be given tasks to defeat certain monsters. On the other hand, if you spend most of your time making items, you might receive tasks to find a new property, make certain items or use them. The whole idea of the Life Task system is to give you tasks depending on your play style. Once the Life Task meter on the top-left hand corner is filled, you can advance to the next chapter.
Since there is no time limit, you can theoretically play at your own pace. This means that you can spend time making overpowered equipment and items. However, there is a caveat. If you don’t complete any Life Tasks for a certain period of time, the motivation meter (やる気) meter will begin to drop for each action you take such as traveling, collecting, synthesizing and battling. In short, it’s like the Popularity Meter in Meruru/Rorona. If the meter drops too low, it will reduce the number of collection spots and availability of items. In addition, letting it drop too low may lock you out of the true ending, so you should keep it high as possible.
Lastly, the synthesizing system has been tweaked. In Shallie, you no longer have to choose the order of the item or worry about costs. They will be determined automatically. When you start making the items, you just need to pick what skills to use in order to change the outcome of the resulting item. Each ingredient will have a certain number of slots where you can apply skills from the four properties. In addition to these changes, chain skills have been added, which makes it easier to get certain effects for an item. When you use a skill, it will add to the chain. If you apply a skill on the item, which has the same attribute of the previous item, you will get a chain bonus. In addition to chain skills, you can visually see how many times the item can be used along with how much space it will take.
While Atelier Shallie is a departure from the usual gameplay elements (especially the time limit) in the franchise, I still find these changes an improvement even though there are a few aspects I have mixed feelings about. Despite this, I am enjoying the characters in this game thus far, especially Miruca and Wilbell. Aside from that, this wraps up my first impressions. I will write a final review when I finished my first play through probably during winter of next year (I expect to finish up to Chapter 7 before Fall semester begins).
As for future games I plan on covering for the rest of this year, they are Ciel No Surge Offline and Pocket Monsters Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire. I’m planning to get Hanayamata Yosakoi Live and Madoka Magica Battle Pentagram later on, but if I get those, they won’t be covered until next year.