The latest installment in the Atelier series and conclusion of the "Secret" Trilogy, Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key, reflects its main protagonist. It continues to develop the relationships of some of the trilogy's core characters and concludes their stories in a final, epic journey. It also finesses some mechanics in a way that makes the game feel like it has grown and matured alongside Ryza.
However, Atelier Ryza 3 can feel a bit too broad in scope at times. While the expansion of the world is brilliant, the addition of three new playable characters (making it the largest cast yet) feels a bit excessive. More new characters meant less time with the core crew I already knew and enjoyed.
Other than the upfront disclosure that I received a free copy of Atelier Ryza 3 in exchange for a review—there's one more key thing to note. This review is from the perspective of a recent fan of the Atelier Series, which has 24 main series entries over a 26 year history. I'm familiar with the Secrets Trilogy, and I've played Atelier Sophie 2, but I have not had the chance to play the older titles in the series, yet. I hope to play the Atelier Dusk Trilogy that has been sitting on my Switch's to-be-played list. Someday, Ayesha...someday.
Characters and Narrative
The main draw of each Atelier game is the light-hearted, slice-of-life, character-centered story that it tells. While I'm sure some will find the main narrative of Atelier Ryza 3 a bit disorganized or nonsensical, frankly, I've just learned to nod along. It is a bit nonsensical, but I play to enjoy the characters they put inside these crazy scenarios. Defeating the final boss took me about 75 hours of play time, and I still have plenty of character stories to view and enjoy. My recommendation is to take your time as you play.
Ryza's brash and cheeky style has been known to be off-putting for some fans. I've tended to enjoy her bolder personality, though. I, too, tend to speak my mind to a fault. Getting to spend more time with her core group of friends—Lent, Tao, and Klaudia—and seeing how their bonds have grown through the series was the highlight of the game for me.
However, after playing several Atelier titles, I've also come to understand that I have a preference for games that stay centered on a smaller cast, those that really dive into their lives and relationships. While I enjoyed the three new characters, particularly the mischievous Kala, each one felt like they could have just as well been an NPC, narratively speaking. They seem to only drive the story forward in their own particular regions. In this instance, bigger did not feel better to me.
Score: 3.5/5 Stars
The explorable areas in Atelier Ryza 3 are vast in comparison to prior titles, and they are full of fantastic, lush scenery. Some areas will be familiar to fans of the prior Atelier Ryza installments; others have been newly created for this game. Mixing the old with the new tended to make the freshly designed areas of the game seem more interesting and vibrant. Being able to explore these areas freely without loading screens dividing the game into so many segments was also a welcome improvement.
If anything, Atelier Ryza 3 suffers from what most other modern, open-world games suffer from; the immense scope of the world can make the game feel bloated and some tasks unnecessary, at times. Side quests have been slightly modified and expanded, but random and repeatable fetch quests are still present. It makes sense—I'm playing as an alchemist who makes things for a living, after all. But, it can get tiresome, at a certain point.
One notable improvement is that these repeatable tasks spawn randomly as you wander around the world rather than being tied to a central notice board. This helps the tasks blend in a bit more with exploration and feel less obtrusive overall.
Score: 4.5/5 Stars
I generally prefer traditional turn-based combat over Active Time Battle systems in JRPGs. Naturally, Atelier Sophie 2's combat system is my favorite out of the four Atelier titles that I've played. The "Secret" Trilogy's ATB system in Atelier Ryza 3 hasn't changed much. It continues to refine what was introduced in the original title.
If you've played the first two, which I highly recommend you do before starting Ryza 3, the flow of battle will come pretty naturally to you. The addition of Secret Keys added a unique layer of complexity that didn't feel too obstructive, either, and certainly not as much as having to manually raise tactics levels in Atelier Ryza, which I doubt any of us miss.
On my first playthrough, Atelier Ryza 3 could be set to four different combat difficulties. I played on normal, and, as long as I occasionally returned to my atelier to craft better items, I didn't have too much difficulty.
Score: 4/5 Stars
Atelier Ryza 3's crafting system remains a complex puzzle, one that I highly recommend you spend time with rather than automatically placing high-quality ingredients in. Automating crafting continues to frequently produce high quality but inferior items, or uses ingredients that shouldn't be used. There were some small quality-of-life changes implemented, which I appreciated, like the ability to skip directly to crafting a simpler component needed in a recipe, but the menus remain a beast to navigate.
Recipe Morph Chains were broken down a little bit in this installment. Weapons, in particular, could only be crafted after unlocking the recipe from the Skill Tree—no Morph Chains involved at all. Secret Keys added some boosts to my cauldron's output, and I recommend using them often. About mid-game, I was introduced to a novel way to modify crafting boards and an item's effects. I mostly used it to unlock the Morph Chains that I needed to.
Score: 4 / 5 Stars
Verdict – A somewhat satisfying conclusion
As this chapter of the Atelier series comes to a close, I feel hopeful that Gust and Koei Tecmo will be able to continue to honor the Atelier formula while building on what The "Secret" Trilogy did uniquely well. Atelier Ryza 3 gets it right when it finds a balance mixing the familiar with reasonable amounts of new systems and components. It's not perfect, but it's a decent recipe that can be replicated in the future.
We received this code from Koei Tecmo for reviewing purposes.
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Atelier Ryza 3 Review: Bigger and bolder