Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key Review – A Worthy Conclusion to a Memorable Trilogy
Title: Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
There’s something bittersweet about the end of an adventure. The Atelier franchise has consistently presented memorable characters within self-contained sub-series, but Ryza is the first Alchemist to receive her own trilogy, which makes saying goodbye even tougher. Whether you’re here for the adventure, her thighs, or both, this is one series you won’t soon forget, and this final entry shows the most significant evolution in systems and mechanics that this trilogy and series has seen.
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key opens up with Ryza becoming a more capable alchemist for the people of Kurken Island. Her dedication to the village’s people has her completing odd jobs and fighting off monsters, which even gains the respect of some of the nonbelievers around the island. However, her confidence shines in these early moments where you can see the years of experience come together. This acts as a base for her character traits that evolve throughout the story, which begins when a group of islands suddenly appear near her town.
The sense of discovery is once again instilled in her and her friends as they set out on one last adventure. Her friends have also seen some growth as the opening moments of the narrative focus on looking back at their time together. This may seem unneeded, but the cast grows quite large after the systems have been introduced, so it’s good they used that time for nostalgia rather than later with a bunch of newcomers.
I’d hate to really get into the new cast for those who want to meet them for themselves, but they each have a reason for joining the party, even if they didn’t mean to initially. They seek adventure just as much as the returning cast, which, in this case, revolves around Keys, though we’ll get into that later. Tao and Bos have received the most significant growth in terms of their places in the group. This time, they have a much more commanding presence and frequently assist the plot’s progression.
Ultimately, the cast usually puts significant plot points on the back burner, goes to do something else, and somehow, it all ties back to the Keys. In the opening moments, a mysterious voice speaks to Ryza, giving her the recipe to create a Key. This voice is the essential plot device that eventually brings the entire game’s narrative to a head, and the action ramps up from there.
This is an experience that does its best to put the emotions of the player on the line. The stakes for an Atelier game are insanely high, and Ryza will rely on her friends to get through it all. I was impressed with what they did with the second half of this story, as it takes chances on the cast’s maturity that goes beyond slice-of-life storytelling. We’re long past Ryza’s coming-of-age and setting off on her own, this adventure escalates into one that tests her abilities to overcome a significant hurdle with her friends, and the payoff is memorable.
As big as the narrative gets in this game, I feel like the world is even bigger. Atelier Ryza 3 gives players a few islands and regions to explore, each connected to subareas. In the opening moments, you’ll find yourself around Kurken Island again, but the locations can be run through to show no transitions or loading screens. Fast travel is open from the beginning, though navigating the map can be pretty confusing at times, as multiple views zoom in and out of the regions.
Exploring the expansive environments will typically provide materials, but some areas are riddled with enemies. Luckily, Ryza has never been faster. You rarely have to leave gameplay as you switch between tools and quickly pick up materials off the ground. Tools are available much earlier, though players should likely focus on upgrading them as soon as possible to get all the materials needed for late-game quests. However, this time around, Synthesis is much more accessible.
When out in the field and battling monsters, Ryza will pick out materials used to create items at her Atelier. The Synthesis screen will show whether or not you have the materials to create something and if you have the items needed to unlock a new recipe or upgrade them. This saves so much time alone, but it doesn’t stop there. If you’re creating an item and find out that it needs a different result that you can also make, the game will ask if you want to go to that recipe instead. It works so well in execution and considers the player’s time.
For newer Synthesis features, players can use Keys, which I promise we’ll get into soon, to access new power within the items. Alternatively, Super Traits add a layer of customization over the typical traits. The system is pretty straightforward, and if all else fails, you can use the auto-create feature, but be prepared for it to exhaust a high number of materials. Skills are tied to this as crafting grants SP, which can be used to access higher Qualities and learn new recipes. It’s a symbiotic system that consistently rewards players for the time they put into crafting and exploring.
And speaking of exploring, quests will also be found, allowing players to do small tasks like taking out a group of monsters or finding an item for some materials or SP. These are random and don’t need to be completed, though some are timed and offer higher-quality items. Thankfully, they are typically easy to do. World Quests are the more significant ones encountered. These are tied to some supporting cast members’ narratives and affect the sale of items and relationships between characters.
Most of these quests require you to use your Atelier, which can now be customized for bonuses. For example, you’ll earn a few different boons depending on which type of Atelier you build. From the map, players can also fast travel straight to the Atelier with a press of a button, which is nice because you’ll be going there a lot. Other Atelier customization comes in the way of various Skill upgrades you’ll acquire, allowing you to break down items, duplicate them, or reinforce them.
The Atelier will grow throughout most of the first half of the game, so you’ll likely get the most out of it in the second half once all the systems are available. This entry has also improved Battlesy, borrowing an ATB action system where players control one character at a time. There’s a normal attack that can then be comboed into skills. The two other active party members will act independently, but they can be customized in terms of their skill set and when they offer a chance for a special follow-up attack. Reserve characters can also be switched in, which makes it possible to extend combos depending on how much AP you have.
Fights are extremely fast, and I feel like the difficulty has been brought down because of it. While powerful enemies are hanging around, most battles are over rather quickly. If you’re a series veteran, I recommend playing on a higher difficulty because once you get a nice batch of bombs, you’ll clear out enemies quickly. The system is ideal for those simply wanting to progress with the plot, though the secret boss is quite challenging, so there’s that, at least.
Okay, we’re finally ready to talk about the Keys. During gameplay, Ryza will unlock the power to create them. Each fast travel point also provides a Key that players can add to their keyring to open doors and use in Synthesis. Further, during battles, you’ll have the chance to extract monster energy to turn it into a key and then summon the item to dish out massive damage. These keys vary in rarity, so it’s encouraged to experiment. Regarding secret doors around the map, players can match a key with a particular door color for rare materials and treasures.
It’s an interesting system woven into the narrative as Ryza learns more about the Keys’ powers throughout the adventure. Their use cases expand in the later parts. Still, it’s a natural progression that benefits the evolution of every mechanic. It becomes an element of gameplay that should always be on your mind, yet when it’s first introduced, you may have to actively remind yourself that it’s there. I will also add that the tutorials only scratch the surface of what the keys can do, so there’s still plenty of depth.
Atelier Ryza 3 is also the most graphically impressive entry in the series. There’s a real focus on character animation, which displays these characters’ many expressions. I understand the running joke in the series is pointing out Ryza’s thighs, but they’re no joke in this game. Moreover, the immense world is colorful and encourages exploration across its vast environments.
Musically, GUST blows it out of the water with this release. There are a few great battle tracks, and the world music will get stuck in your head in no time. I felt each song nailed the narrative’s tone and always fit the mood of whatever was happening. The entire experience took me around 36 hours to finish, yet there is plenty of stuff left for me to do that would add to that playtime.
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is the best entry in the series, hands down. Every system has been enhanced and perfected, with the additional Key feature melded expertly into the core narrative. Sometimes the world can feel a lot bigger than it is, causing some pacing issues within the story, and there are a few characters who could have received more of the spotlight, but I can’t stress enough how memorable this experience is. As sad as it is to say goodbye, GUST did right by Ryza with this finale.
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