Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key Review

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Atelier Ryza 3 is a very fun and light-hearted JRPG. It does require knowledge of the previous two Atelier Ryza games (you don’t need to play Atelier Sophie 2 released last year though) because there are numerous callbacks to old plot events and characters. Ryza 3 thematically plays like the ending of a trilogy and you really won’t enjoy the game as much as if you played the previous games. That said though, the open world design of the levels and the art direction are amazing even if the graphics aren’t the most cutting edge. Alchemy is amazing in this series, which is the item crafting system and where the bulk of the gameplay is, which is easy for newcomers but also can be mastered.

The Atelier Ryza games follow the story of Reisalin “Ryza” Stout, a young girl who lives in the rural town of Kurken Island. In the original games, she dreams of leaving her hometown and exploring the world beyond, but in this third title she finds herself returning to Kurken Island and finding a series of strange new islands have popped up, blocking the trade routes and causing conflict. She is joined by her friends to solve this conflict. Along the way, she masters the secrets of alchemy and learns how to use it to create powerful items and potions.

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There is a wide cast of playable characters in this title. (Image Credit: Koei Tecmo)

One of the most impressive aspects of Atelier Ryza 3 is its graphics. The game features beautiful, vibrant landscapes and stunning character designs. The world feels alive and immersive, with a rich, detailed environment that is a joy to explore. The developers have paid close attention to detail, and it shows in the game’s environments and characters. Again, the graphics aren’t realistic or technically impressive, but they’re very relaxing to explore.

It’s not all just cheery environments either, there are often ancient ruins for old civilizations to explore as well which felt very spooky and mysterious. Sometimes I felt depressed because there were castles and rich cities from a previous civilization, but nobody at all, only items to collect. Some of these buildings felt like exploring “backrooms”, labyrinthine networks poorly lit, and seemingly endless rooms inhabited by strange, hostile creatures. I don’t mean it in a bad way though, the game certainly feels spooky when it wants you to.

I didn’t like the “blur” effect in the background and it gave me a headache during cutscenes. I was able to turn it off Depth of Field on the PC version to fix the issue of the game but I cannot comment on other versions of the game. I’m not sure why the developers did this because the backgrounds are not impressive looking, but they don’t look half bad.

Kurken Island was present in the original Atelier Ryza, but it has been modified to be open world, with many landmarks you can warp to once you’ve unlocked them. As well, the plot of this title involves new islands popping up, so there are new areas to explore and the developers didn’t just copy and paste the old maps from the previous games.

They tried to make modifications to old maps with different items to pick up, new treasure chests and they made the world interconnected as an open world. There are enemies and mini-bosses you can fight, but the main purpose of exploring is to find items to use for alchemy, which I’ll explain more later on, and also progress to story events.

The combat system is a strong point of the game. It’s a mixture between action and turn-based. You need to use regular attacks to get AP, and you spend AP to use skills which will generate CC. You then use CC to use items. You don’t really need to grind in Atelier games because levels provides minimal stats; rather, you stat increases will be the result of crafting powerful weapons, armor, and items to use as weapons.

Different characters have different specialties and you can choose to control one character or all of them, but for alchemist characters you’ll want to deal damage (or heal) by using items you made from alchemy. Alchemist characters can use powerful items, but non-alchemist characters such as knights may only be able to use weaker items if at all. This combat system is very different than most JRPGs, which usually have very weak consumable items to throw and would have you grind levels to increase stats.

Atelier Ryza 3 is probably the easiest game in the Atelier franchise. The difficulty can be changed at any time and it does have easier difficulty options for newcomers to these kinds of games.

My only criticism is that for the harder difficulty the balancing is odd, where the bosses are made more challenging normally, but the regular enemies somehow get exponentially more challenging and even turned into damage sponges (the final boss has <50k HP on normal difficulty, but regular enemies in the introductory area can have >50k HP on harder difficulties). I know I shouldn’t be complaining about setting a harder difficulty, but my argument is that the scaling is very wonky at certain points, so I’d have to turn down difficulty for normal enemies, and then turn it up before story events with a boss battle. But if you’re looking for a relaxing time you can generally just turn down the difficulty and not even have to bother with many of the game’s mechanics.

The game’s alchemy system is its most unique feature. It allows you to gather materials and use them to create a wide variety of items, including weapons, armor, and potions. The system is easy to use but deep enough to offer plenty of options for experimentation and customization and can be tricky to master. You learn recipes over the course of the game and from a skill tree that uses Skill Points (SP) which you get from just normally doing alchemy.

Each recipe may require unique items or certain categories of materials (like ores, plants, etc). If you use certain items in certain positions, you can morph the item into a more powerful one as well and unlock new recipes, which the game clearly tells you (you don’t have to randomly guess how to morph items).

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Alchemy is the bulk of the game, where you add materials to nodes to complete a recipe. (Image Credit: Koei Tecmo)

You pick up materials as you explore regions and the game has an amazing compendium built-in where you can check where you pick up certain items. In fact, this game has more quality of life improvements over older Atelier games because it actually lets you track the locations of materials you already found and add a marker to the map, though it should’ve been explained in the tutorial and you do have to go through a lot of menus to access it.

Here’s the thing, there are traits and effects. Most items you pick up have traits. When you make items from materials using alchemy you can choose to carry over traits. Traits can vary a lot, but some can include increasing the damage of an item, increasing the healing, or even increasing damage dealt to certain types of enemies just to name a few. There are probably over a hundred traits and effects which you can view in the game’s compendium.

You need to do alchemy in such a way to combine traits into stronger traits and you want to generally keep carrying around better traits and get rid of the useless ones. It’s an extremely fun game and it makes the whole game. Many JRPGs don’t have terrific item crafting systems anymore. Old Star Ocean games used to have very in-depth item crafting systems, but most games nowadays just don’t have good item crafting systems, most of the time it’s very basic “just get materials and craft the item”.

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After completing a recipe you’ll have effects, traits and super traits. (Image Credit: Koei Tecmo)

Effects are similar, but are unique to the item. You need to fill in the recipe with materials to gain these effects. So if you’re crafting a bomb you might get an effect for extra fire damage, but you’ll need to fill in that node with materials. If you want the bomb to have a burn effect, you’ll need to fill in that node. These are just quick examples.

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The combat is exciting and you can choose from alchemists to regular sword users. (Image Credit: Koei Tecmo)

It’s very addicting collecting materials and then making powerful equipment and no other game has a system like it. There are people who try to buy items and weapons/armor in Atelier games and that’s not how you play it, you need to collect items with good traits and use alchemy to make overpowered equipment and items. None of the shops in the game sell you good equipment, kind of like Monster Hunter where you need to upgrade everything yourself with materials you collect.

If you’re smart about it, you can make extremely powerful items that one-shot enemies and bosses for the whole game, but only if you understand the game’s mechanics. At the same time, if you just want to make normal bombs, that’s an option to and you can lower the difficulty as well. There are other parts to alchemy as well, such as rebuilding an item allowing you to fill it with more materials and duplicating items, allowing you to use gems from breaking down old equipment/items to duplicate it.

All materials and items have quality, a numeric value from 1 to 999, it determines how good the item will be but in recent titles usually effects and traits (and the item itself) are more important. If you want to break the game easily, increase Ryza’s gathering skill, it significantly increases the quality of all items picked up and also gives better traits on materials, which are so good they really break the game.

You also make tools used for gathering materials such as a net for catching insects or a pickaxe for mining rocks and if you get better effects on them you can gather higher level materials, resulting in you being able to use alchemy for advanced recipes.

There are new mechanics such as being able to craft keys at landmarks, which can be equipped for bonuses or used in combat. I didn’t like this mechanic too much, you can definitely take advantage of it to break the game. I didn’t like that synthesis recipes and some treasures and areas were locked behind the use of keys, which require you to get an Adventure Effect.

Keys randomly get an adventure effect (you can’t control it like regular alchemy effects), so I had to keep grinding at landmarks (which had time limits, you can only craft one key at a landmark for a certain period of time, meaning you had to warp to many areas to keep crafting keys for better effects).

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The keys are a new mechanic introduced to this game. (Image Credit: Koei Tecmo)

The story of Atelier Ryza is engaging and well-written. The characters are likable, and their interactions with each other feel natural and genuine. Unlike previous games, you don’t get interjected with optional character stories while progressing the main story. Now, they are marked as red events on the map in very specific locations, so you can choose to pursue the main story separately if you want, a large improvement over the older Ryza games where if you wanted to progress the main story you would trigger 5 lengthy character events.

As well, I didn’t see any missables. I chose to progress the story first to avoid spoilers, and then I was able to go to do the optional character events and optional sidequests afterwards. This game adds random requests which are, admittedly, not good. You get bonus SP for doing randomly generated quests, such as defeating enemies or picking up items, but these were extremely generic and the pop-ups on the screen actually good annoying.

The normal unique side quests were good, they were unfortunately fetch or “defeat X enemies” quests but it was interesting you could do them for the major supporting characters and not just generic NPCs. The “World Quest” sidequests were my favorite, which were fully voiced sidequests with better rewards and stories that related to the overarching main story, I would recommend doing these over any other side content because it was the best and most unique.

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The open world has areas and you can build new atelier locations to do item synthesis. (Image Credit: Koei Tecmo)

The user interface of this game isn’t as good as the previous games. For some reason the text is very small, which is very bad because you’re likely to be an English player having to read all of the Japanese voice acting and often I experienced eye strain.

The voice acting is all in Japanese with English text. There is voice acting for the main plot events, World Quests and character events, which is the majority of the game. There isn’t voice acting for generic sidequests or when characters discover a landmark location.

My big criticism is that some of the scenes in the main story are very lengthy and sometimes the pacing can be slow, especially in the beginning which has a dispute between two different guild unions where you go back and forth in a boring way. But the game really picks up in later regions, and you actually do get to see a different area with a different race of people that were foreshadowed heavily in the previous games. The story really picks up in the endgame as well.

I do wish that the Atelier games had more human antagonists though, this game tends to be more of a conflict categorized as a “human against nature” or “human against monster”.

Another issue the game suffers from is the backtracking. There are four distinct regions that are each very large with many collectibles, story scenes and optional cutscenes, but once you hit the last area the game requires a lot of backtracking. There’s one building in the Kurken Isles that you visit 5+ times and it gets really repetitive. I enjoy the story cutscenes and character development, and I don’t mind having to talk to each character before leaving to new regions, but the backtracking did get annoying and I think I’d rather have more smaller regions.

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The cutscenes show off great character designs, but unfortunately the subtitle text is very small. (Image Credit: Koei Tecmo)

Overall, Atelier Ryza is an excellent JRPG game that is well worth playing. Its graphics, combat system, and alchemy mechanics are all impressive, and the story is engaging and well-written with very likeable characters. The open world design of the levels are very fun to explore with bright and colorful designs. The alchemy mechanics are one of a kind, with very intricate and in-depth item crafting mechanics. The story concludes Ryza’s trilogy, it’s a satisfying conclusion and the character development is definitely present, but the pacing of the game can be slow at times. There are a few missteps, such as the user interface having very small text which caused eyestrain and it felt like there were too many complex tutorials early on in the game, making it very frontloaded with information that can be overwhelming for newcomers to the franchise. While it may not be perfect, it still is certainly one of the best JRPGs of its kind, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, engaging adventure with amazing crafting mechanics.

Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key

Our Score: Great

Pros

  • Many colorful areas to explore as an open world environment.
  • Amazing item creation system, with dozens of items and hundreds of effects and traits.
  • Fun and large cast of likeable characters with many optional character events and character development.
Cons

  • The user interface suffers from small text.
  • No English voice acting dub.
  • Dialogue and main story pacing can be very slow at times.
  • Many tutorials in the beginning can leave newcomers feeling overwhelmed.
  • Key system is an interesting addition, but it’s not implemented in the best way. Some recipes are randomly obtained from these and are annoying to grind for.

Brandon Harris
Reviewed on Playstation 5

Brandon is a passionate gamer and reviewer who respects the artistic and technical prowess that goes into creating interactive experiences. He enjoys playing the guitar, volunteering, and traveling to experience different cultures.


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