As a whole, the Dusk Trilogy of the Atelier series concerns the world of Dusk and its inhabitants. The world itself seems to be dying in a number of ways- seas are drying up, lands are becoming barren, and there appear to be new dangers every day. If this sounds dismal- it kind of is. The world of Dusk is probably the darkest of the Atelier worlds. The art direction and stories of this trilogy feel grittier, despite still dealing in a lot of anime-flavored tropes and styles.
On a personal note, this trilogy is my favorite of the Atelier series that I have gotten to experience. As a horror and drama fan, this game appealed to my tastes in a strong way (despite nothing involved to actually be considered “horror”). While I have my qualms with how it was handled overall, each entry felt strong in this trilogy and the mechanics were sound. The art direction- now in the hands of an artist named Hidari- also veers toward the more ethereal feeling that the games have been sticking with since.
While the Dusk trilogy is not quite as lauded as the Arland trilogy or as current as the Mysterious trilogy, it weaves an intriguing tale that stands apart from the usual fare of the series while retaining most of the elements that make the Atelier games so unique and engaging.
Atelier Ayesha ~The Alchemist of Dusk~ (Playstation 3, 2012)
Living alone in a workshop, young Ayesha Altugle spends her days making medicine using botany to keep herself sustained. While she has endeared herself to some of the local merchants, she lives her days out in solitude as her one companion, her sister Nio, went missing in the nearby ruins and hasn’t been heard from since. Optimistic, Ayesha toils away with her herbalism.
One day, a practitioner of the obscure art of ‘alchemy’ by the name of Keithgriff stops at her workshop, aware of Ayesha’s plight regarding her sister. He offers to start her down the path to learning alchemy, as it is the only way to save Nio from whatever has taken her. Determined to rescue her kin, Ayesha starts off on a journey to master the art of alchemy by whatever means she must before her window of opportunity closes.
Throughout her journey, Ayesha will have characters join her cause, gather materials, and synthesize items to help her in her quest to save Nio. On occasion, she will take notes in her diary, seeking to use the memories she creates to push her further toward her objective. By expending Memory Points that are obtained throughout gameplay, certain memories can be unlocked in the diary to reveal new recipes or give her other boons. These can prove integral to gaining an edge in the race against time that Ayesha is facing.
Atelier Ayesha’s battle system shifts just slightly off of the beaten path by allowing characters to move around the battlefield. This adds an extra layer of strategy to combat as characters must be within a certain range to reach their target, depending on the skill or weapon being used. There are bonuses to thinking through character positioning and abilities, however. Attacking an enemy from behind, for instance, can deal extra damage. Positioning a character near enough to another character may result in some kind of supportive action being available, such as a stronger character defending a weaker one. This title may boast the most intensive battle system to date in the Atelier series.
As with many of the games that were localized, Ayesha has a fairly strict time limit in which the titular character can achieve her goal. If three years of in-game time pass (a limit that becomes a staple throughout many entries), Ayesha will no longer be able to achieve her goal. While the game promotes the idea of exploration, missing certain events in particular areas can lead to losing valuable time. In particular, Atelier Ayesha is not particularly forgiving at certain points and even avid fans of the series may find themselves having to play through a New Game Plus to see the best ending to the story. Thankfully, the Atelier games are not so long that this is an impossible task- but Ayesha may not be the best starting point for those new to the series and its trappings.
Given what has already been elaborated on about the Dusk Trilogy, Atelier Ayesha is the perfect introduction to the land of Dusk and its troubles as well as its inhabitants. The themes of the game revolve heavily on Ayesha’s hope to rescue her sister in a dismal world. In the age-old analogy of Pandora’s Box, she is one of the few bright lights of hope left, creating a compelling tale to tag along for. While this can make the likely conclusion to a first playthrough incredibly depressing. While it’s suitable for the game- and it’s still beautiful in the same way the rest of the game deals with isolation and loss of a loved one- it drives home the point that Ayesha is meant for either the experienced Atelier fan or for those who are not easily deterred.
Following off of the Arland Trilogy, Atelier Ayesha puts an effort into improving on the mechanics of the series outside of the actual alchemy. The tone feels more mature, combat has been altered to be a bit more intense, and the methods for progress have shifted to a more nebulous method than just relying on spending days in the workshop. There is a jarring transition between this title and the series up to this point, but the payoff feels grandiose in the end and opens up a world of possibilities for the next pieces of the trilogy.
Atelier Escha and Logy ~Alchemists of the Dusk Sky~ (Playstation 3, 2014)
Following up the oppressive feel from Atelier Ayesha, Atelier Escha & Logy provides the fulcrum of the Dusk Trilogy. Taking place just shortly after the end of Ayesha, the game already shirks the ‘solitary’ feel of its predecessor by offering up two protagonists right from the start. The developers explained in the days leading up to the game’s release that each protagonist would be aimed at a particular audience with Escha’s narrative feeling more familiar to longtime fans and Logy’s slanting to appeal toward general RPG fans looking for a more serious experience. Given how ‘niche’ the Atelier series has felt in general, the effort was worth a shot.
Since the events of Atelier Ayesha, the art of alchemy has come into bloom. The citizens of the land of Dusk have come to realize that by using alchemy, they may be able to save their dying world. Amidst the influx of practitioners of the craft, two alchemists’ paths cross in the bustling city of Colseit. Logix Fiscario- also known as Logy- has arrived in the city from a fairly prestigious part of the world called The Center, his motivations not entirely clear but his alchemical prowess unable to be denied. Meanwhile, Escha Mailer, a local from Colseit, approaches the same development team that Logy is en route for, desperate to help her fellow citizens however she can. As the two are assigned to the same development team, their journey begins to explore the ruins and lands around them and to unlock the secrets of alchemy that could lead to preventing the upcoming “End of Days”.
The first obvious difference between this title and previous ones is that you choose your protagonist at the beginning of the game. This doesn’t change the story and how it unfolds in general but it does give a different viewpoint and a peek into some particular character points that you would have to play through the game with each character to unveil. While Escha practices alchemy as we’ve come to know it, Logy’s focus is on armor and weapon crafting which offers a fresh take on some of the synthesizing done throughout the game. Whether you choose Escha or Logy, though, both of these systems are available in the game so your decision as to your lead won’t affect your options for item creation. Truly, it only affects which endings you may see and what kind of background information you may become privy to.
The game does revert back to some of the mechanics that were more prominent in the Arland Trilogy. Combat becomes a bit simpler, involving the ability to use three primary characters and three backup characters who can be switched in and out of battle or support their teammates in a way that is almost reminiscent of Final Fantasy X. While the game also still has a time limit, it plays out more like earlier Atelier games where the player is given an assignment and a certain amount of time to complete it. There are still plenty of mini-objectives to complete in your free time, as well.
Atelier Escha & Logy retains the dark feel of Ayesha but it feels less dismal, potentially because you don’t go very long without companionship. The leads of the game interact well with one another, if not a bit stereotypically with the world-weary Logy acting as a grounding force while Escha is optimistic but not so much so that she is unrealistic. The sense that you get is that there are many small pockets and organizations that mirror the group you gather as a party that are also trying to solve the world’s impending conclusion. Where Ayesha feels like a drop in the ocean, Escha & Logy makes you feel like part of the first light rain, despite how hopeless the situation still seems.
Atelier Shallie ~Alchemists of the Dusk Sea~ (Playstation 3, 2015)
Taking place a couple of years after Atelier Escha & Logy, Atelier Shallie takes a similar approach in certain aspects. It also takes a step or two away from what has been established in the playstyle of the Dusk Trilogy which makes it a bit more approachable for those who are new to the series; a strange choice in the grand scheme of a trilogy’s final act. Shallie is a bit of an outlier in comparison to those that came before it, and while it feels like it leaves some questions unanswered, it weaves an interesting end to the story of the world of Dusk without completely closing off the possibility of seeing more adventures there.
As with the previous title, Atelier Shallie presents the player with two protagonists to choose from. Shallistera Argo is the daughter of the chief of Lugion Village, a small settlement that has been suffering from a crippling drought. Having never left the village before, Shallistera makes her first journey out into the world to find a solution with her companions and crew on the village’s ship. Meanwhile, a young woman by the name of Shallotte Elminus toils away in the city of Stellard in an effort to make a better life for herself by striking it rich. She runs her late father’s atelier and performs odd jobs for the citizens of Stellard, mostly involving picking up trash until she can handle more impressive tasks. As fate would have it, these two girls will find their paths crossing when circumstances find a certain ship crash landing into the city.
Once again, the choice of character doesn’t affect how the game unfolds. It only affects the perspective that the game is played from, though the personalities of the Shallies are more dynamically different than Escha and Logy. Shallistera is a bit more reserved and earnest with forethought involved in her decisions whereas Shallotte is outgoing and direct, thriving on impulsive actions and ideas. They both have their own special abilities but given that both characters will be a part of the party, the player is free to choose the character they find more interesting.
Nearly all of the elements of Escha & Logy are present here- synthesis plays out the same way, combat is near identical, and aside from one method of equipment alteration (called “imbuing” which uses materials to strengthen already created weapons and armor), not much will feel unfamiliar. The only real change? Shallie gets rid of the time limit concept entirely. Instead, each chapter offers up a goal that must be met. Once it is, the game presents a ‘free time’ period that you can use to level up, synthesize, and generally do what you want until you decide to move on to the next chapter. This is nearly the opposite of what the rest of the trilogy exercises, and it makes Shallie feel more open but less challenging.
The tone of the game is a bit brighter than the other Dusk games, as well, making it feel more light-hearted. While this may seem like a strange step to some extent, given the fact that much of the world of Dusk has at least learned how to survive in the face of the world’s condition. It isn’t perfect, but it feels like the world has reached a turning point where humans may be able to flourish rather than merely “make it”. The story between the Shallies is interesting, if not a bit stale in spots, but the main focus feels like it is the world that we have been experiencing for three games. Many conflicts and questions remain unanswered as the credits roll. That’s not a bad thing, though. It makes the world of Dusk feel like it will continue to grow and become something better and less miserable than what we had seen back in the early stages.
The Dusk Trilogy Conclusion
As the 14th through 16th games of the Atelier series, the Dusk Trilogy is a strong set of games that dip into some darker themes and feel very cohesive, despite each game only having a handful of characters and events that tie one to another. If you’re a fan of darker tones in your JRPGs, these titles are beautiful offerings in a number of ways while still creating solid standalone tales to embark on.
The conclusion of the Dusk Trilogy may offer up more questions and loose ends than it answers. That is really where this trilogy feels like it follows the ‘slice-of-life’ format of the previous games in the Atelier lineage, though, and feels more like a return to the roots of the series where the opening games feel like experimental forays to see what will work in the proven formulae in the series. If you’re up for a challenge, though, the story that comes together over the course of the Dusk Trilogy is incredibly engaging and hits some of the bleakest notes that the localized Atelier series has to offer.
Thanks for joining me on the second overview of the Atelier series. Where will we go next? I’m honestly not entirely sure, but with over 15 more games to go over, anywhere is fair game. Stay tuned for the next breakdown!