[Review] Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea DX – Nintendo Switch

Written by Thomas Haroldsen
  • Developer: Gust
  • Publisher: KOEI TECMO EUROPE
  • Release Date: 14/01/202
  • Price: $39.99 / £32.99
  • Review code provided by KOEI TECMO EUROPE

Don’t miss our other Atelier Dusk reviews
Atelier Ayesha
Atelier Escha and Logy

Intro

Atelier games seem to be migrating to the Nintendo Switch in droves and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a prominent series with a lot to offer and the growth from the earlier titles to the later ones is a positive sign of smart progression. When I first dabbled in the Atelier worlds, I erroneously assumed the next game would be the same as the last with a different coat of paint. Fortunately for me and other JRPG fans, the series has evolved with each title and peels back new layers to discover. In past years I’ve had the chance to play Atelier Escha & Logy and even the differences between it and the others within the same trilogy are notable. For a better comparison, be sure to check out former Nintendad reviews as I won’t get into them here.

No Time to Shine

Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea DX is a divided story of two girls who have more in common than just a shared nickname. Shallistera comes from a small clan and is next in line to become chief. With the weight of her people’s perils on her shoulders, she ventures across a barren ocean of sand to the city of Stellard. Here she hopes to grow her alchemical skills and solve the problem of Dusk and the evaporating water sources. With this world-ending plight at her feet, she can’t secure the future alone. In Stellard she meets Shallotte and a company of others who aide her in this quest. Shallotte has her own issues to deal with as she has yet to prove herself to the local guild. Despite her energetic nature and the fact she runs her own Atelier, she endeavors to make a name for herself and show she’s worth more than insignificant tasks.

The story in Atelier Shallie seems grim. Drought is nigh and threatens the very life of every living creature, plant and person around. In spite of the dire situation, Atelier Shallie is presented in an upbeat colorful manner which belies the dangers you’re to navigate. The story itself is well written and the world surrounding the protagonists capture the essence of the situation. Where the tale falls flat is in between the main quest line. With limitless side quests which pull the player to learn more about the varied companions, it’s easy to forget the reason they came together in the first place.

As with other Atelier games, there is a lot of dialogue and even more to explore. It’s easy to get distracted which does the main narrative an injustice. Atelier Shallie diverges from other entries in its trilogy in that it doesn’t have an in-game calendar with a clock adding pressure to an already tense situation with deadlines looming over the horizon. I would spend hours racking up money and items from quests over and over before moving to the next chapter. The dying world served as little penalty to my incursions to fatten my coin purse.

The main story failed to capture me and lacked any sense of urgency. It was still an enjoyable foray into the world of Dusk. Engaging with multiple characters and building strong bonds of friendship was still a welcome experience and there is a lot of content to indulge in the final entry of the Dusk Trilogy.

The Endless Journey

The key formula for an Atelier game is engaging turn-based combat with a comprehensive crafting system. These gameplay features resonate more with the series than epic storylines. When I approach role-playing games I look for emotional tales that come to mind throughout my life or an engaging on-screen experience that is simply put, fun to play. Atelier Shallie has a more or less forgettable story but it was certainly a joy to play. Hours blended together and I never tired of the rinse and repeat of explore, battle, craft. Explore, battle, craft. 

Exploration takes place firstly on a world map with few surrounding markers to visit. Each marker, or waypoint grants you access to a small area filled with items and enemies. The initial areas are quite small to start but once you get to the end more locations open on the world map. In later parts of the game you’ll discover larger maps which branch out to new zones without having to go back to the overhead map. Even though the areas during the first half of the playthrough are visited often with little change in backdrop, I never felt bored of stepping into familiar lands. As the main quest unravels, you’ll eventually find the landscape changes. At times there will be more items to gather. Other times yield fewer enemies so you can quickly stock up on what’s needed before hightailing it to another area.

Worth Fighting For

Which brings me to the combat. Shallie starts with simplified turn-based combat. Shallie herself opts to use her alchemical items in place of combat skills. Her team uses the traditional MP system to meter how many skills can be used. Shallie’s items serve as healing aids or bombs and the complexity of what they dish out improves over time. As time goes on and more people join the cause, you can have a second row for a total of six combatants. It’s a unique system which works well once you get the hang of it. You can swap out party members during battle to inflict extra attacks or take a hit if someone in the front row is ready to fall. If you time your battles right, you can obtain a burst mode where attacks are amplified. During such time you can have all three back-row members attack in unison if you haven’t squandered their turn. Mastering this system is key to conquering tough bosses and it’s extremely satisfying to watch the moves play out.

A secondary aspect to the fighting is actually not fighting at all. As Shallie and her allies level up, you can swing your weapon at fiends on the field. If you’re significantly stronger they’ll simply vanish with the potential of leaving you with the spoils of war. Be that experience or items. One part of Atelier Shallie I couldn’t quite grasp was the allowance of experience points. Over half of my battles, regardless of how difficult the enemy or great the throng, would only net one experience point. It seemed an attempt to curb any grinding to prevent godlike power mid game but there never seemed to be a clear indication on which battles would give experience over others. Though they are related to other tasks completed I fought one battle for nothing and directly after fought a weaker enemy for a few thousand experience points. I mention this as more of an annoyance but despite the detraction the game stays fairly balanced throughout even if it is on the easier side of RPGs.

Following excursions into the wasteland and bouts with enemy behemoths, it’s time for Shallie to head back to base and make use of the newly acquired items. The crafting system is at the heart of Atelier games and this one is no different. Strengthening your alchemy skills and stirring the cauldron are necessary to move forward. Having played newer Atelier games recently, it was clear that Atelier Shallie has a dated crafting system. The basic elements of mixing ingredients to create an improved item are present but it came off as a simplified version with fewer options. I still enjoyed my time in the atelier over the hot cauldron but am certainly spoiled by the newer mechanics. To compare, I spent eighty percent of my time in Atelier Ryza crafting whereas Atelier Shallie would be closer to twenty percent. I only crafted when I had to and if it were for a quest item, I didn’t bother trying to tweak the outcome for the best possible version. In the new Atelier games, your reward can increase for a high quality item but with Shallie it made no difference.

Beauty Abounds

When it comes to graphics, Atelier Shallie is a beautiful rendition of a fantastical world. The characters are pleasing and the animations are crisp. The included DLC offer limited customization for most of the team. With beautiful vistas, gorgeous cutscenes and impressive combat animations, my memory card filled up with screenshots and video clips. The music is likewise impressive. The option to delve into songs from past entries is ever present and the intro is magical if left on the main menu for a moment.

Don’t Bug Me

From a technical aspect, Atelier Shallie suffered from occasional characters popping into scenes late. This was more noticeable following cutscenes or areas with multiple people meandering about. Loading times seemed nonexistent so I felt it was a fair trade off. I didn’t run into any crashes or freezing and it played smoothly in docked or handheld mode. Regardless of preferred play style, it’s a gorgeous game on a big or little screen.

Final Wrap

Atelier Shallie certainly shows its roots from a ported PS3/Vita game. The story isn’t the crowned jewel and crafting is dated. Exploration and combat are rewarding affairs and ultimately the game is fun to play with a lot of replayability. Atelier Shallie is a great jumping point for new comers as it simplifies a lot of the experience. Returning fans can ratchet up the difficulty as it is an easier role-playing game. 

Pros

  • Entertaining Cast
  • Tons of Content plus DLC
  • Engaging Combat

Cons

  • Derailed Story
  • Confusing Leveling System
  • Basic Crafting

Verdict
The cute cast and vibrant interactions outshine the catastrophic backdrop and diminish the story but don’t fully blind the journey.
3.5/5

2 thoughts on “[Review] Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea DX – Nintendo Switch

  1. Diaper Dave says:

    Great review! I look forward to checking it out.

    • Thomas Haroldsen says:

      Thanks for checking it out!

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