Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is the final summer adventure of Ryza and her friends. This game has a lot riding on it and a surprisingly strong legacy to carry on its shoulders. Does it succeed in what it is seeking to accomplish? Read our Atelier Ryza 3 Review to see if this Recipe is High Quality!
What makes up a good recipe? It depends! One thing that can help us determine this is to check the quality of each individual ingredient. I’d identify some of the ingredients that make up this game as: the Presentation, the Gathering, the Exploration, the Synthesis, the Combat, the Story, and a healthy dose of a Secret Ingredient. This seems simple at first but sometimes the answer is just that, simple.
An important thing to consider with Atelier Ryza 3 is how the themes of growing up and change are ingrained in its very DNA. All of the “ingredients” I mentioned contain this DNA. This game simultaneously looks back and moves forward. Everything makes sense with the brilliant progression on display.
Presentation: Ambition With Minor Growing Pains
Ryza 3 does largely resemble the 2 prior Ryza games in many ways. The base is there. Many of the graphics are carried over from prior games, and the new things closely resemble the rest of the trilogy. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you! It makes the entire Trilogy of Ryza games very cohesive in Visual Design. However, this is also a double-edged blade. This means that some of the Presentation shortcomings of previous games remain.
We’ll dive into the nitpicky side first, and yes, I do consider many of this game’s visual “shortcomings” nitpicks. There’s definitely a difference in the scale of this game and Gust as a studio when comparing Ryza 3 to older Atelier games and comparing it to other games in the genre.
While the game looks very similar to its predecessors there are updates to the lighting and the Character shaders. The new look for the characters is very pleasing to look at. I love how bright and colorful everyone is now. Character animation has been improved too I feel. I remember more expressions and emotes during cutscenes than I do in the prior 2 games. There are even a few more dynamic, real-time, choreographed cutscenes this go around. Not many more, but it’s a welcome addition. The game is still mostly standard dialogue scenes.
I really like the new UI as well. It doesn’t have the same distinct look as the other Ryza games, but the new UI is very smooth and functional. Maps, menus, and submenus seamlessly and quickly swap between one another. More subtitles are included too. You get much more field and battle dialogue subtitled for you than in prior games which is very nice because sadly there still isn’t a dub. The only quibbles about the UI that I have are that on some screens like the map screen, the Subtitled Dialogue is hard to see over the ‘Button Help’ section. I also wish that Field Dialogue was included in the Text Log.
While I do find the standard dialogue scenes flat compared to the more dynamic scenes, the actual transitions between battles, exploration, and cutscenes is soooo good. You just snap into battle and fade back out. It feels so natural. I was actually impressed that many Quest and Story battles actually cleanly fade out of battle into a cutscene with a quick Results screen over the start of the cutscene. It feels incredibly polished. No more distinct cuts to black!
Exploring the New World
An integral element of Atelier games is exploring the world while gathering ingredients necessary for your synthesis. This usually creates a synergy between two separate paths of progression. Ryza 3 continues this tradition of the harmonious dance between mechanics by making things as seamless and smooth as possible. Numerous smart Quality of Life decisions and Ambition fuel this evolution of Atelier.
In general, the world feels more alive. Each area is seamless with loading only between regions. The seamlessness is nice of course, but the world feels more alive than ever in this outing. There is foliage swaying to give you a sense of wind and the grass actually reacts when you step on it now! The use of Inverse Kinematics on Ryza also grounds her in this world much better as well. NPCs even react if you bump into them or if it starts raining. All of these things may sound small, but they really go a long way in making the world feel even better.
There are some things on the system side that added to my enjoyment as well. The minimap and area maps are great. They are bursting with information, are easy to access, and aren’t intrusive in any way. I also love how far you can zoom out the camera now. I like being able to see as much around me as possible and it makes the scale of the game feel even more impressive to boot!
The amount of freedom you get is also astounding. Early on you are partitioned some and railroaded onto the main story path, but after a couple of hours, you get free reign in the first area. You unlock more equally large and dense areas as well. This change of scenery every so often adds even more exploration opportunities. Some areas also remain inaccessible until you can get certain tools so there’s always something else you can come back to later. I got addicted to taking mental notes and trying to get to places as early as possible.
There are a few quirks and nitpicks I do have. They don’t particularly detract from my overall enjoyment but I do believe they are worth mentioning. There are EXTREMELY occasional hitches. I assume they are some sort of progression trackers or loading procs. I’m not certain, but they aren’t bad at all because I can count the number of times it happened on one hand. Going into building interiors is a little strange because you walk up to the door, hit the ‘open’ button, and then fade and transition into the building. There’s probably a technical reason or something behind it but it still struck me as odd. These are all just small little oddities that have understanding reasons to happen, so I can’t really complain especially since they aren’t intrusive to the overall game experience.
‘Hauling’ Your Ingredients – Exploration Part 2?!
Yes, I’m separating the Gathering aspect of Exploration. They go hand in hand but I believe the updates to Gathering needs its own, separate praise.
Gathering is so much faster and smoother (a common trait in this game). You quickly swap Gathering Tools like in Ryza 2, however, they swing much faster and items have much larger hitboxes. Ryza also “hauls it”. She moves so much faster and doesn’t have to stop to pick things up. She now quickly grabs materials without impeding her own movement. Meaning, you get the items you want much more quickly and efficiently. It’s so satisfying being able to swiftly move through environments and get what you need (and more!)
I will play Devil’s Advocate for a moment to say some may not like these changes. There is a quaint charm in previous Atelier games where you have to stop and do your thing. It has its own positive points and should be considered. Though, I very much like the new pace of things.
Combat Upgrades and Refinements
Atelier Ryza 1 was Atelier’s first foray into Real-Time, Action Adjacent Combat. It pushed for innovation and I respect it for doing so. Ryza 2 then revamped the new battle system by making it faster and easier to control. This innovation and ease of control sit at the center of Ryza 3’s even further refined combat system.
Imagine the fairly brisk battle system of the other 2 Ryza games. They involve time management, quick thinking, and preparation. Ryza 3 refines and polishes it to a near mirror sheen. The basic ideas and controls carry over, admittedly, but what Ryza 3 adds and refines makes it a fast and tactical battle system that feeds into the Exploration and Synthesis making an addictive gameplay loop. You explore the world for items and story progression, you battle to see what you can improve, and you use your knowledge to improve.
The battles are faster than the already quick affairs of Ryza 2. Character skills and battle actions being tied to shortcuts are kept from Ryza 2, which was already a vast improvement over the original Ryza game. Ryza 3 takes that and cranks the speed up to 11. Part of this speed has to do with the smoothness of everything. Multiple things happen at once, enemy movements and attacks, character movements and attacks, and it’s all fast with very little waiting. In short, Ryza 3’s combat takes what already worked in Ryza 2 and makes it smoother and faster. All the memorable combat mechanics like Core Crystals and Fatal Drives are here to stay too! All of that alone would be a wonderful, iterative improvement! However, Ryza 3 improves the old while adding ample chunks of ‘newness’.
Ryza 3 adds the new ‘Keys‘ into the battle system as well. You can make keys or use them as items. This makes this new addition both operate as an extension of your battle capabilities via the Key Modification and ties into the outside-of-battle mechanics via the Key Creation. The level of cohesion here is jaw-droppingly astounding.
The last new additions are the changes to Character Switching and Order Drives. The character switching was simple enough in Ryza 2: you press a button to swap your current character with your support member. Ryza 3 has two reserve members and allows you to use their skills upon swapping to improve your combo and damage output. Order Drives add more to the Order Skills system that’s been present in Ryza games. After successfully completing Order Skills you stock points to spend on abilities. This adds tactical depth and options to battle while expanding upon an established mechanic.
Synthesis is touched up a bit from Ryza 2. There are additions to the system such as Super Traits, Link Morphs, and Secret Keys. These all add various ways to improve, alter, and customize the items you craft. Keys can alter elements and traits while also giving you immediate tangible results like being able to add more ingredients. Link Morphs let you customize the item’s effects themselves. and Super Traits are basically a fourth Trait you can add to items.
All of these improvements contribute to a really DENSE crafting system that gives the player a lot of freedom to create what they want. So many strategies and builds start right in your Alchemy Cauldron. Gust really ran the already great crafting system of Ryza through an Item Rebuild!
A Final Summer to Remember
The story of Ryza 3 continues and wraps up the tale that started in the prior Ryza games. Character arcs are continued and tied into beautiful bows, the tapestry of the lore is further woven, and the themes bundle it all together.
The returning characters get great arcs that look toward the future while acknowledging where they came from. There are many beautiful moments that this theming creates and I won’t spoil anything here.
The Character Quests keep their consistent quality up. They know exactly when to be funny, serious, and heartwarming. You learn so much about the quirks and troubles of these amazing characters outside of the main story.
The main story doesn’t slack either. It takes what I just described the characters and puts them in a plot that naturally brings the deep and emotional theming out. Not to mention how excellently the Lore of these games ties into it all. I know I sound vague, but you really need to play it to see what I mean.
I did encounter 2 visual bugs in my 50 hours of playtime. A super early cutscene in the game didn’t load animation for most of the characters. Later on, there was a scene where part of a character’s hair didn’t load. I did get 1 audio bug where the Final Boss Music track didn’t load. Luckily reloading the game solved this. Thank you, excellent autosave feature!
I encountered the odd typo or clunky translation. I’m not badmouthing the team! The Localization is actually quite excellent and I can only recall a handful of times I noticed these things. There is an absurd amount of text in this game so it’s actually 100% understandable Oh, pardon, these aren’t glitches. You know what is a glitch though? A Character Quest at point loaded a character’s line from a DIFFERENT Character Quest that had nothing to do with what was going on. This occurred once.
Another one-time thing; I was jumping around like a fool and got caught in some geometry. I couldn’t jump, open menus, nothing. I was scared for about 5 seconds. It felt like minutes. The game detected this and returned me to the nearest landmark. I had to actively try to do this. Having that failsafe is good though.
The Devil is in the Details!
The amount of care put into the little things is actually touching. The journey of going through every Ryza game culminates in this game and made me constantly smile. I applaud the dev team for how wonderful these little bits are.
A small detail that is neat is that all of the Kurken Island landmarks are already discovered as soon as you start. Ryza did grow up there and explored all of that in the previous games. It’s also super neat how all of the returning characters retain design elements from their first appearances. Tao has his jacket back, Lent’s gauntlet is closer to his first one, Klaudia seems to have the bracelet Ryza gave her in 2, and Ryza keeps up her normal sense of style. These examples feel obvious, but they really made me happy.
There are some small side character appearances that I enjoyed immensely as well. If you pay attention you can find a lot of returning characters or sly references to them. I saw Pamela in the background of a World Quest and there’s a character event with Bos and Lumbar that takes place right by their old hangout. I won’t spoil some of the other occurrences but definitely keep an eye out!
Concluding the Adventure: A New Recipe With Some Old Spice
Atelier Ryza 3 takes old ingredients, refines them, and makes them its own. It knows where it came from and where it’s going. It’s beautiful. Great aspects don’t need to be thrown away like ancient relics, they just need some TLC and hope for the future. Gust gingerly crafted this game while executing on exactly that, and it shows.
Disclaimer: Koei Tecmo provided Final Weapon with a copy of Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key for review purposes.
Atelier Ryza 3 Review Related Links
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is an amazing time that I highly recommend. So please consider checking out the Atelier series and the other Ryza games.