How far would you go to save a family member if they were in trouble? Would you believe that it’s hopeless and mourn their disappearance, or would you give up your job and your daily lifestyle to set out on an adventure to figure out how to rescue them?
Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk returns to the Nintendo Switch in its DX version with its siblings of the Dusk trilogy series sporting new run and fast-forward features, previous downloadable content merged into the core of the game, and elements from the Plus version.
After Ayesha learns it may be possible to save her little sister, she sets out on a journey to figure out how to do so, exploring different places and meeting new people.
One of the game’s main focuses is the conversations between characters. During the journey, Ayesha will meet various characters, both non-playable and recruitable, whom she can interact with. Each character has their own personality and the series of dialogues are interesting. Together with some of their actions, it pumps the life of comedy into the game.
Voice acting is also supported in English and Japanese. The English voice acting is great, although it’s up to personal preference on which you like to listen to more. Text can still be read in English if the voice acting was switched to Japanese, therefore what’s said can be comprehended regardless of the chosen language.
Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX plays similar to other Atelier games in the series. Explore new locations, gather materials, fight monsters, complete quests, take advantage of alchemy, and engage in a lot of dialogue. An unfortunate circumstance leads to a 3-year in-game time limit. Failure to achieve the main goal during this time will result in a bad ending, forcing the player to start over.
There are a lot of events occurring at once, which can feel overwhelming at first, but the game tests how well you can complete them while managing your time.
Every decision made matters. From each movement made on the map, to gathering materials, to synthesizing to fighting enemies, they all consume time. Players will often have to think about the actions they make to save as much time as they can for a little peace of mind.
The game offers sufficient time to both enjoy it and complete as many objectives as possible, although it can be unforgiving to those who waste time from getting sidetracked or from not taking advantage of the available methods to reduce time spent on certain actions.
The built-in calendar can be confusing if not observed properly, which most players might fall victim to, as the gameplay steals their focus.
Besides the protagonist, two recruitable characters out of the several can be customized from an easy-access menu. These are purely aesthetic changes and the clothing choices range from fully clothed designs to A+ fanservice content. A limited amount of clothing options is available when starting the game, and as time goes by, players can complete a set of tasks to unlock more and increase their wardrobe.
Unfortunately, the experience to change clothing isn’t smooth. The Dressing Room lags a lot when switching between costumes and can be very annoying to an impatient individual.
Exploration, Gathering and Synthesis
Explorable areas are in the quantity. Each area is small and does not take too much time to clear. Unlocking new areas normally require monster hunting and gathering completion to move forward with the gameplay. The game has a great system in place to keep players informed of what they must do next or how far they are until the completion of a goal.
Towns are some of the larger areas in the game consisting of buildings and a majority of the non-playable characters. Newcomers might find it difficult to navigate at first, but it quickly becomes easy. The shortcut menu was a wonderful addition to make certain areas discoverable and for an easier traveling experience.
There are some noticeable framerate drops from time to time when running in towns. Minor character glitches can be seen as well, although it’s possible to play through the entire game without encountering any. Adjusting the camera angle while moving would have been a pleasant addition to the game, however, it isn’t a major concern because a majority of the areas are small.
As an alchemist, gathering materials throughout the world to use for synthesis is a must. In Atelier Ayesha, it feels forced because of the map clearing goal and the 3-year deadline. The amazing soundtrack helps make it feel like a relaxing experience when first starting the game, however, that changes after realizing how punishing it really is. The developers took into consideration that there is a deadline to complete the primary objective, making it easier for players to know the materials in each location after gathering them from the field. This makes it easier to backtrack where materials are to collect them again, if it was ever needed, without wasting unnecessary time.
Some aspects of synthesizing in the workshop can be confusing to newcomers, but the tutorials in this game are solid and cover the basics well. The synthesis menu is simple; it could be the reason why it’s so user-friendly. It is easy to ignore something that could have been extremely helpful later in the game.
Character Party and Battles
Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX isn’t just about gathering materials, interacting with characters and making new items through alchemy. Players can form a three-character party to fight against monsters who threaten their progress.
Similar to the normal RPG, it’s possible to equip characters with gear and swap out the old for the new, the further you reach in the game. Each character has their own unique fighting style, skills and special. New skills are learned as the characters grow. Unused characters do not become under level thanks to shared EXP, making it viable to swap between them without having to grind for higher levels.
Combat is turn-based with prompts to use quick-actions. The fights can sometimes feel repetitive when fighting groups of the same enemies from the area and because of the skill’s action scene. Characters execute their skills in a fashionable manner that’s pleasing to the eye, but it can get tiresome seeing them use the same (effective) skill each turn. The battles can also feel slow and boring near the beginning of the game, but it improves later on when more skills are learned and characters are recruited. When everything comes together, battles are more fast-paced for turn-based combat and more enjoyable.
The variety of enemies isn’t the largest. The number of species is depressingly small with recolored versions to represent a higher level of strength/power. It is noticeable, but not enough to turn people away from the game as it is still enjoyable.
The game offers a Normal and a Hard mode.
The Hard mode, as its name suggests, makes the game more difficult. Enemies are stronger and items are more expensive compared to the Normal mode. Additionally, clear data cannot be transferred over. The higher difficulty isn’t as bad as it sounds. It makes battles more challenging and may force you to delay a low number of specific quests until characters grow stronger. It’s perfect for players who do not want to breeze through the story and want to be more careful with their purchases.
Graphics and Soundtrack
The graphics aren’t anything spectacular but they certainly aren’t terrible either. It’s good enough to work well with the music and gameplay. The motionless photographic-like artwork is no less than amazing and the character models fit in well with the environment. Lag is noticeable in some parts of the game, but nothing bad enough to make it unplayable or unresponsive.
There is no doubt about the soundtrack being excellent. The tunes give off a relaxing atmosphere and fit in perfectly with the gameplay. The final boss battle music might not meet the expectations of most, however, music can be adjusted from the large selection in the journal options, giving the player more control of what they want to listen to while playing.
Music can be accessed through the Extras menu when not playing. It’s a great addition to have because it’s a certainty that a lot of players will take advantage of it by revisiting music they previously listened to during the gameplay.
New content will be accessible after completing the primary objective of the game. It adds on to the 25-35 hours of gameplay you would have gotten. Clearing all of the post-game content depends on how quickly the main story was finished, as the 3-year deadline will trigger the true ending regardless, after clearing it. There’s a decent amount of content and a lot of formidable foes to face, with multiple true endings to get. New Game+ is present to carry over some of your previous accomplishments such as money and equipment before starting all over again.
Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX can be punishing but also rewarding. There’s always something to do, to the point where it might be troublesome deciding what to do next. Battles are fun but can sometimes feel a bit repetitive, gathering materials around the world isn’t as relaxing as it could have been, and there are many entertaining character events to witness.
The excellent soundtrack makes for a relaxing experience while playing, although casual gamers might feel discouraged or stressed by the time limit. The game also suffers from framerate drops, however, it’s more noticeable in the less important areas of the game. With a little optimization and some other improvements, Atelier Ayesha DX would have been a serious force to reckon with.
Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX gets a 7/10.