With the launch of Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key, Gust closes out yet another series of Atelier games. Those who have followed Reisalin Stout over the last half decade will feel a sweeping sense of contentment. After all, Gust has elevated the long-running series and streamlined several systems to broaden the series’ attractiveness to newcomers. And for the most part, this approach to developing this last trilogy of games has successfully worked out.
Set about one year after the events of Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy, we convene with Ryza who has further pursued her career as an alchemist within the Kurken Island community. One day, a set of mysterious islands appear which threaten the safety within Kurken. Atelier Ryza sets out to investigate the Kark Islands, the sudden appearance of these islands instigates tremors ravaging the island which threaten the very existence of the island and its inhabitants. Thankfully as it turns out, Gust has elevated how they approach the stakes with the third entry, making this story feel a lot more personal while keeping a lot of the charm the last two games exuded.
Atelier Ryza 3 is a satisfying bookend to the trilogy
Atelier Ryza 3 then takes big and bold steps in what I’d consider the further departure for the series so far. This time, we’re exploring a vast map that feels about as close to an open world as we’ve ever seen, all whilst a voice in Ryza’s heart tasks her with searching for the Code of the Universe, which may or may not be a key to gates that have appeared within the Kark Isles.
And it is from there that the journey begins to unfold, leading Ryza to explore again not only Kurken but also two new regions, having by her side both old friends and new ones. The most surprising thing is that Atelier Ryza 3 goes out of its way to solve unfinished plot threads from previous games. Normally, I don’t expect this from developers, but I’m left surprised when seeing Empel return after embarking on their journey in Atelier Ryza. The one plot that stuck with me is Lent and his relationship with his family, namely how his father treated him and how Lent finally gets to move on from his trauma. Furthermore, Atelier Ryza 3 also boats 11 main party members each one adding something unique to the experience. This all makes it so that, despite sticking to the series’ traditional length of around 40 hours, Atelier Ryza 3 is the biggest game in the franchise in terms of scope, with really big maps to explore and a rather ambitious premise.
As you explore each region, you’ll come across bonfires scattered throughout the field where you and your party can rest and cook for your team. The new cooking system allows you to obtain recipes by completing quests, each recipe helping to enhance the party, even allowing a new level of strategy when facing strong enemies. Ryza’s also gained the ability to use a key that essentially pulls the essence out of monsters that in turn help her create keys of varying use.
The keys play an integral part in the story, the battle system, and exploration and it fits comfortably into the lore of this world. Some keys provide battle buffs to the party while other keys are generated from landmarks that allow you access to new areas. In general, I liked the mechanic and how it was implemented in Atelier Ryza 3.
Each new area is also ripe for exploration and often the landmarks themselves are reminiscent of exploring the open world of Xenoblade Chronicles. The feeling I had while moving through these areas felt nearly as similar and that’s likely because of how much there is to look at and ways to get around that make it less of a drag when exploring an empty open world. Instead, there are several ways to get around the hubs that include climbing and ziplining and while I was concerned there wouldn’t be much to pick up, synthesis items and treasure littered the landscape.
Still, it’s somewhat impressive what Gust has managed to do with the game’s maps and, thankfully, the return of some tools to help you explore is very welcome. As in previous games, landmarks scattered throughout the regions serve as quick travel points to aid movement between objectives by the player. But when walking is required, items such as the Emerald Band, Wind Shoes, and the return of the Spirit Beasts make traversal more plateable.
Out of all the things Gust has improved on over the last 5 years, combat in each Atelier Ryza game has consistently gotten better in the battle system. The combat is essentially refined and familiar to those who have played the series before. It still retains the turn-based system mixed with real-time action, with the player directly controlling only one character at a time.
As seen in Atelier Ryza 2, the player can attack, and your character builds a meter that refills over time which can then be used to take action. Attacking enemies build your AP gauge, a gauge used to activate skills and special attacks by holding the corresponding button down to initiate an attack. With the new system in place, you’re free to tell your party members what needs to be done in battle. Using Support Mode means your party generates AP while switching to Aggressive Mode will use up any AP your party has saved. If you’re worried you can’t control your party members fret not, you can swap to them in a pinch whenever and wherever necessary.
Attacking using skills of the same element as your character’s Core Crystal will give you more CC points which can then be used to use items. With this, you can use as many items as you want, being limited only by one use of each item at a time and how many CC your character has available. Similarly, Action Orders and Shift Skills also return, with the player activating them when performing certain types of attacks and when switching characters.
The two major new features of Atelier Ryza 3 address the ability to create keys and use them in combat, something that is performed from the item menu, and Order Drives. These powerful moves are essential when in a pinch and can easily turn misfortune into fortune when up against a wall. As mentioned before, you can easily extract enemy essence to create a key that then can be used to benefit your party. From buffs in the battle to buffs on the overworld, there’s always something exciting to be found when you’re extracting keys.
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is a testament to how far the series has come. While the series is gaining popularity in the West, it’s still an unrated RPG series that so many people are sleeping on. The cast is charming and filled with likable party members that help shape the trilogy’s closing chapter. Bigger and better than its predecessors, the callbacks to previous games come unexpectedly and deliver the payoffs series fans deserve and much more. Don’t skip out on Gust’s latest title.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5