Atelier Ayesha: Initial Impressions

Yesterday the Dusk trilogy of the Atelier series came out. While I’m not the type that generally gets games day 1, especially if I have any question about the quality, or how much I’d like a game, I figured by this point I know what I’m getting into. Plus, they’d have a discount, being new (but not really new – they’re PS3 games), and Koei games, especially those by Gust, don’t often go on sale, let alone get deep discounts. And, the whole Atelier series was on sale, so I picked up the Arland series (at over 50% off, which is about as good as it gets), and Nelke as well, because at this point why not? So now I have all the Atelier games that are on PC, on PC.

And I’ve been in a bit of a gaming funk recently. The mobage I play I’ve all but burned out on from all the free rolls at Christmas/New Year. I’ve finished Elsewyr and Dragonguard for ESO (right in time for the announcement tomorrow). I don’t want to get into Crusader Kings II without more of the DLC. And Cities Skylines is fun and all, but it really doesn’t provide a narrative I want. I started Blue Reflection a few weeks ago, and got to the first boss; I liked what I played, but I’m not really in the mood for that sort of story right now.

Good thing Atelier Ayesha came out. I got to play it a bit last night, and have…a few impressions. Only a few, though, since even the 90 minutes or so I was playing barely got me out of the tutorial. I guess that’s not so bad – a lot of jrpgs have longer tutorials than that. But regardless of how long said tutorial/intro was…it wasn’t quite thorough enough. If I wasn’t quite familiar with the conventions of the series, I’d probably be lost. You get the barest tutorial of the systems, while going through the intro (most of the time is actually just story intro), and then you’re on your own. I do appreciate not being babied, but it does seem a bit lacking, if I didn’t already know what was going on.

As far as that story goes, I think it does all right. There’s clearly something going wrong in the world, at least locally. Water is drying up, the ground is getting increasingly infertile, and resources are becoming scarce. Even the simple, not-that-great medicine that our protagonist makes (before even learning what alchemy is) is a money-maker for the merchants she sells to. There are ruins all over the place of a past, more advanced, civilization, that modern people don’t even understand. Monsters run rampant in the less civilized areas. Oh, and sometimes people just randomly disappear.

Which is what happened to Ayesha’s younger sister. But, at the beginning of the game, Ayesha sees her sister, who seems like a ghost or something. Luckily, an actual alchemist just happened to be around, and seems to know what’s going on. But he’s a huge jerk, and won’t tell Ayesha anything – his philosophy is that knowledge given is knowledge unearned. But, he tells Ayesha that she has about three years to get her sister back (this is your ultimate time limit, obviously).

And that’s the call to adventure. Unfortunately, Ayesha is a complete airhead, so just goes off with no idea where she’s going. Fortunately, she has a friend who’s willing to take care of her. Off they both go, to the big city (which I presume is the main hub), and from there you actually start the game.

So far so good. But it’s not really enough to know if I’ll like it much. It has the main time limit, but I’m not sure if any incremental ones will show up, like they do in the other pre-Shalie games that I’ve played. I don’t really like the time limits, but I think it’ll be fine. The main thing I don’t like (which is just part of the series at this point) is that various actions take such a long time, in relation to the time limit. Even the most basic crafting takes at least a day (and remember, there are only three years’ worth of days), and gathering ingredients from even a single node takes a significant portion of a day. (And I’m sure battles do, too.) That, in addition to the travel times (which seem excessive), makes things not quite as fun, for me. But, as I said, so far, so good.