Title: Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Over the years, the Atelier series has seen many changes to its core systems and story delivery. However, some of the recent entries have become too comfortable with the formula and only delivered what’s expected. Well, that all seems to be changing with developer Gust’s newest entry Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout, which appears to be a complete evolution of the series.
Atelier Ryza begins by introducing a group of friends, Ryza, Lent, and Tao. Each of these characters grew up together in their secluded town with a thirst for discovery and adventure. Their village has fallen on hard times as the water needed for the crops is running dry, and the one person who controls the water is drowning in power. The village used to be an inviting place and full of life, but many villagers have left, and its history goes unspoken about due to taboos put in place. So, the rebellious group of teenagers sets out to prove themselves and find their way through the world.
Each character has a different goal that’s in line with the rest of the group, which solidifies their bond. They each face many hardships from pressure at home and the town. Even when they do something good, it seems that the outcome makes their mission more difficult. This is the first time that I have felt this attached to an Atelier story in a long time. Its thanks to the game’s scenarios that focus on the characters and expertly presents their complexities. It doesn’t stop at the main cast, though. Townspeople also have their storylines that are explored by completing missions for them, which makes this world feel worth it to be a part of and spend time learning more about it.
On an adventure, Ryza meets an Alchemist named Empel and a warrior named Lila. After seeing the power of alchemy in action, Ryza decides to be an alchemist and use that to prove herself to everyone, but mostly to prove to herself that she isn’t what people think of her. What also makes Atelier Ryza stand out is the clear understanding of an antagonist early on in the game. The game has a build-up that involves the village’s mysteries and portals to new worlds that make this game truly feel like an Atelier adventure that I never expected.
The synthesis systems focus on the item’s quality and element. While creating an item, players can flesh out a particular item as grand as they want while expanding on the individual skills they desire. As they craft the item, new recipes are discovered along with new effects and traits. Like previous Atelier games, this gets pretty complex in the later parts of the game, but there are some other systems in place that help fine-tune items. Players can now reconstruct their crafted items using new items and Gems, which are received from breaking down items. This allows players to re-craft items to make them stronger. Furthermore, players can enhance their weapons further by utilizing gems and attaching items to crafted materials for an increase in quality overall.
I ended up enjoying this synthesis system and thought it was approachable and fun to have this level of control over the items you create. As your Alchemy level grows, you can use more items. The steady increase of complexity makes it easy to master over time, and the missions line up very well with teaching you all the basics that you need to know, even if you don’t want to spend so much time crafting early on in the game.
Gathering materials is also unique with the use of gathering equipment, such as a hammer or ax. Depending on the item used to gather, the material acquired will be different. This makes assembling a little more interactive as you have to switch between these gathering items during exploration to collect the item that you’re looking for.
Battles in Atelier Ryza are more action-focused, with the player taking control of only one character. AI characters are fully capable of taking care of their own in battle, but I did find it challenging to get them to heal each other since they seemed to focus on Ryza first. Regardless, everything is fast and fluid here and revolves around AP. Throughout a fight, AP is acquired and can be used to do things like extending attacks or use a quick action. This battle system also makes the boss battles in the game pretty intense because of its dynamic nature, and I ended up liking it.
Other features in Atelier Ryza have players farming, fishing, and completing personal quests for the party member (which typically happens throughout the game). One exciting feature in the game is the ability to create worlds by using items. To quickly acquire a particular item, players can create a world from a different item using a Travel Bottle. Here, players will be able to fight monsters and collect the items that were listed. Also, a unique code is created that players can share if they want to obtain a specific item themselves.
Atelier Ryza is a beautiful game. The character models and environments are lovely to experience and explore. This is a big world that only seems to get more prominent throughout the entire game. Each area has a host of different things to see and do, along with unique items to collect. The main village itself seems to have been created to peak the player’s interests early on with everything there is to see from the beginning. This sense of discovery doesn’t stop throughout the entire game as now areas are discovered. A fast travel option is added in the later parts of the game that makes getting around extremely easy.
The music is Atelier Ryza is just incredible. Every track captures that mode and theme of the event that’s going on. It’s important too because there are some rather emotional moments of storytelling in this game, and the music complements each scene entirely.
Where the game seems to be lacking is in its scope. You see, there is so much to this game that after seven hours, you’ll still be discovering new systems and features. While the slow role of these features makes them less overwhelming, it just makes the late game features feel less critical and more of just something that’s there. Also, there isn’t an autoplay option for dialogue, which is just an inconvenience.
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout’s focus on character and world-building is unlike anything found in the previous entries. These characters face some real hardships, and it became my personal goal to see them through until the end. The later parts of the story only prove that this new cast is capable of bringing the Atelier series to a new era of gaming and creating the groundwork for future titles to come.
Even though there are many new features that players will need to wrap their heads around, Atelier Ryza offers so much in terms of a great RPG battle system to one of the most accessible yet, deep synthesis systems of the series. I had a wonderful time playing this game, and I would say that if you’ve never played the series before, this will be the perfect time to begin your Atelier adventure.
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