Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is the last in the Atelier Ryza series, one of the few entries in the series to not only get a sequel but even its own trilogy, with this release capping off more than 3 years of games and adventures.
Even without comparing Atelier Ryza 3 to previous entries, the game has a beautiful and vibrant world filled with opportunities around every corner, fun real-time RPG combat, and an incredibly engaging synthesis mechanic that’s easy to grasp, and it’s all further enhanced with the game’s new Secret Keys mechanic.
It caps off the series in emphatic fashion as you embark on one final journey with Ryza, her friends, and her thighs who we’ve grown to know over the few years. Whether you’ve been traveling for years with Ryza and her friends, or you’re just looking for an entry point into the series, Atelier Ryza 3 delivers on all fronts and justifies Ryza getting her own trilogy.
▍The Best Looking Atelier Game so Far
Atelier Ryza 3 picks up some time after the second game, with Ryza having grown in several aspects, mainly her capability as an Alchemist for the people of Kurken Island. There’s a real sense of pride that comes from seeing this girl mature over two games from her trying to just learn how to be an alchemist, to having her skills recognized by everyone she meets.
Even then she’s still the same goofy Ryza as ever, as when you first see her she’s ambushed by a bunch of monsters, and is saved by Tao and Bos who are practically unrecognizable from when we last saw them.
Rather than focus on personal character growth and the struggles of growing up and becoming an adult, Atelier Ryza 3 is more focused on once challenging the characters with their latest, and greatest adventure yet. In many ways, the game is a celebration of its characters and systems, as early on the game spends a lot of time and dialogue reminiscing about previous events and locations.
Ryza starts hearing a voice in her head instructing her on how to make keys, and while she’s trying to wrap her head around this voice and the power behind the keys, another earthquake hits the Kurken Islands and several small isles off the coast begin to appear, dubbed the Kark Isles. When investigating the islands, the first key she makes begins to glow, unearthing a great power that can seemingly unlock the hidden potential of everything in the world. What’s more, the key seems to be linked to mysterious gates holding the answers to the universe. With that in mind, the group sets out on an adventure to seal the islands, and unearth the mystery behind the keys.
Atelier Ryza 3 looks great. The characters have come a long way now being more expressive than ever, with a host of new colorful outfits and the environment has evolved to match. Virtually every area you walk into is brimming with something to look at, and the game’s orchestral tracks help set the tone for wherever you’re at, whether it’s in the middle of a tough fight or exploring a city.
Ryza 3 also manages to do this with practically no loading screens for most of your playthrough. Unless you’re fast-traveling, you’ll almost never see a loading screen or transitions in your playthrough, and when you do it only lasts a few seconds. It’s a rather impressive feat for a JRPG of this scale, and one with a rather modest file size of 29 gigabytes for the base game.
This does mean however that because the maps are so big, traversal through areas on foot takes quite a while, especially when you’re visiting new locations for the first time. You’ll find yourself often holding the sprint button and going for minutes at a time even with a mount as sometimes story quests are placed over a kilometer away from each other.
▼ One of the regions in Atelier Ryza 3, with all of its areas traversable on foot!
▼ But that can sometimes mean almost running for an entire kilometer.
Thankfully the Atelier Ryza 3 does have a huge amount of landmarks you can fast-travel to, so backtracking is at least not as much of an issue the more you progress, and the giant map offers a lot for you to encounter, and at times offers traversal options like dolphins, ziplines, and more to speed up the process, and certain tools can help out a ton as well in speeding things along if you invest into synthesis a little, but more on that later.
▍Ryza’s Stronger, Better, and Faster than Ever!
The core pillars of the series’ gameplay mechanics are combat, Exploration, and Synthesis. While we’ll go into Synthesis itself in more detail, Atelier Ryza 3 manages to successfully tie these three mechanics together even better, with even faster-paced combat, loads of exploration items, its real-time mechanics, and the inclusion of the Secret Keys, the Atelier Ryza 3’s most unique feature.
We touched briefly a little on exploration in the map’s size, but going deeper into each level you’ll find areas filled to the brim with enemies, alchemical materials, and treasure chests. While this might seem like it would take a whole lot of time to collect, the one thing tying it together is Ryza herself, because this time she’s the fastest she’s ever been in the series.
All of her animations from sprinting, using gathering tools, and picking up materials have been sped up, letting you swiftly clear out areas of resources, and get to your next enemy encounter in no time. It makes games like Red Dead Redemption 2 look incredibly slow in comparison and does a good job of respecting your time.
Item collection is also made easier thanks to some improvements in Ryza 3’s UI. You can now see if an item needs you to swing at it with a tool beforehand, and if a resource can be collected with multiple tools, you get a preview of all the possible items you can get from it before you even need to switch to it.
As you run around of course you’ll also encounter enemies with their own sets of materials, and combat is for the most part the same as it’s been in Ryza 2. The game runs in real-time while you control a single character’s actions, swapping between 3 party members currently on the field. You can perform a basic attack that builds AP, and then follow up with skills that consume said AP. If you meet certain conditions allies can also perform follow-up attacks, and you can perform a Shift skill to swap to a reserve party member to further extend the combo if you have leftover AP.
While Ryza 3’s combat will feel very familiar to fans, this is also where the game’s Secret Key system shines, as it manages to help make both combat and exploration more enjoyable.
While exploring and returning to certain landmarks, you can create Secret Keys using Hollow Keys, or alternatively, you can create them during combat. Secret keys can be created by a monster that has less than 50% HP, the lower their health the better your chances. Secret Keys have multiple effects, but if you have a Buff Key, you can consume one use of these during combat to grant them powerful effects while also changing how the current character’s weapon looks, at the cost of some T-Lv.
Atelier Ryza 3 also has some helpful adjustments to its UI, placing follow-up attack requirements easier, and enemy actions in the middle sections of the screen to make the action much easier to follow. Much like with Ryza’s speed though, the pace of combat seems to be sped up quite a bit, leading to many of the challenging fights coming from waves of multiple enemies spawning at a time, or enemies that deal insane amounts of damage, and neither are too common compared to normal encounter.
It’s nice to have a JRPG have combat encounters that don’t take all day to complete, but at the same time, this can seemingly trivialize combat encounters as they end so quickly that you end up not taking much damage between fights unless you forget to heal. Thankfully the Ryza 3 does let you change its difficulty at any time outside of combat, though I stuck to the game’s normal difficulty and found it to be fairly enjoyable.
▍Synthesis has Never Been Better
Alchemy’s always been a core part of the Atelier series, and this time Ryza 3 keeps that emphasis while making it significantly more potent, and customizable, while also being even more accessible than ever before.
In Atelier Ryza 3 the bulk of your weapons and items comes from being created through alchemy. You pick from a list of recipes and if you have the necessary ingredients for them, you can synthesize them yourself. Afterward, you fill in the necessary ingredients from your huge collection of materials, and depending on what you use, you can end up with new effects. If you’re missing an ingredient you can even add it to a list to track it down easier later.
Every item has slightly different properties, leading to stronger weapons or different effects. It allows for an insane level of customization when it comes to crafting even the most basic items, and at first, may seem daunting to new players. Investing a bit of time into Atelier Ryza 3’s synthesis mechanic will lead to great rewards though, such as a healing item that can also buff, and negate all manner of debuffs in a single use.
Thankfully Atelier Ryza 3 also lets you automatically create a high-quality, or low-quality version of that item, using whatever materials it thinks are appropriate. While it does save a lot of time and usually gives decent results, if you learn the ins and outs of the system, you’ll end up with much better gear and items, while minimizing item loss. It also helps tremendously that the Item Duplicator returns, rewarding you for making the best accessory or healing item, by letting you just duplicate it using scrap materials!
▼ Learning how to make Startium before you can auto-craft it is its own adventure!
Keys can also be used in crafting to boost the properties of synthesis, such as filling in the elemental requirements for crafting in place of using an item or boosting the effects of certain materials. I was stuck for quite some time trying to figure out how to make Startium, an upgrade of the base ingot that’s used for many weapons, and once I figured out I could use a Key I had to skip a material, I was able to move onto more powerful weapons without needing to spend SP to unlock the skill that would have made it much easier.
You can also create your own Ateliers out in the world. In certain sections of the story, you can build your own Research Base, Farm, or Lab, netting you more ways to collect SP to advance the skill tree or better item for synthesis. Since each of these are incredibly useful in its own way, it adds more leeway to how you want to progress at the stage of the game you’re in, and you can even expand them later on in the story to grant it new bonuses.
Outside of games like Monster Hunter, I usually spend a lot of time on crafting, but Atelier Ryza 3’s alchemy system is by far one of the most engaging, and deep systems that I’ve ever wanted to dive into, because of how easy it is to grasp after a few tries. It’s a system that respects your intelligence, time, and effort, and pays off in big ways as it opens up even more opportunities out in the world. I almost wish Ryza’s story didn’t end here just so I can synthesize more items with her.
▍Don’t Cry Because it’s Over, Be Happy it Happened
In a sea of long-winded JRPGs with slow combat, generic storylines, and needlessly complicated systems, Atelier Ryza 3 stands out among the rest while also being a worthy, and perfect conclusion to a series I once felt didn’t deserve a sequel.
It has so many elements that respect the player’s time, offering much-needed improvements to its exploration, combat, and synthesis mechanics, while still building upon them further with new ideas. Put all of that together with an engaging story with endearing characters and a world filled to the brim with opportunities and things to explore, and you have a recipe for one of 2023’s best RPGs.
The Atelier Ryza series is over, and while it’s sad to know we may never see them in their own title again, the sheer amount of fun and joy that’s been shared in Atelier Ryza 3 from beginning to end was well worth the effort, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for the Atelier series.
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Atelier Ryza 3 Game Review - A Thrilling Climax To a Great Trilogy
By the time Atelier Ryza 3's credits roll, you'll be sad, happy, and thankful to have experienced the end of Ryza's journey, in one of 2023's best RPGs.
Operating System: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PC
Application Category: Game