Atelier games have always stood out in the RPG genre. Instead of being a legendary hero that overcomes some great evil or a deep narrative filled with dark twists, they’re relatively upbeat stories dealing with the struggles of finding your way in the world… and typically something magical with an intriguing twist. With the latest entry in the “secret” saga, Ryza is back with her friends to help those in need while trying to figure out what is happening to the island. Given the success of Ryza’s journey, is Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key a slam dunk, or does it fall short of expectations?
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key narrative is in an unusual place. As the name suggests, this is a continuation, and players are expected to know who these characters are and what happened in the past. Those without that experience or who need a refresher have an optional prologue that helps brings you up to speed. It’s not as expansive as other games, but it is strongly suggested because the narrative assumes you’re well-informed.
Charming Looks Help Bring the Adventure to Life
While this approach can be divisive, it makes the adventure a lot easier to get into. Similar to this being a third season of a show, things start off fast with Ryza and her friends experiencing an earthquake. They quickly check the reactor, which is acting weird. Ryza also experiences unusual feelings that suggest there is more going on. After one of these events she finds herself holding onto a key that starts the chain of events to uncover this mystery.
The destination is worth the investment, with Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key not losing sight of the important things like character interactions. This is a journey that isn’t quite about figuring out how all these events come together as much as helping others as you slowly build to that conclusion. It makes up some of the best elements of the franchise, without the setup a newer Atelier experience would typically have.
Gameplay is some of the best in the franchise. Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key retains the “wait time” combat system, a slightly different take on traditional turn-based elements. Instead of having a predetermined turn, characters move about their speed and performance in combat. Certain moves will generate AP, which can then be spent on more robust actions to overwhelm foes quickly. More advanced players can swap between multiple characters to ensure they’re achieving peak performance.
What is nice about this system is the more dynamic nature of combat. Blocking at the right time will reduce the damage you take, just like doing it too early will guarantee enemies punish you. Most enemies also have a variety of moves that can throw the timing off. This gives fights depth, even if most enemies can be overwhelmed with a good offense.
New Alchemy Look
As expected from the Atelier franchise, alchemy is also a massive progression component. Not only did it get a new coat of paint, making it one of the nicest-looking alchemy systems to date, but you also don’t need to deal with the finer points if you don’t want to. There is an auto-add system where you can choose either high or low quality, and the game will go through everything for you. It’s not suggested for things that matter, as you might waste valuable resources, but mundane tasks are a lot simpler.
There is also a friendly fast travel system that loads relatively fast on PlayStation 5. Utilizing this can make traveling a lot simpler than running everywhere. You still might want to, as you can give some well-deserved pets to several cats and dogs.
Graphics are also pretty good for the franchise. It has a modern feel, which isn’t always true for games like this, with a strong emphasis on making locations stand out. Exploring the vibrant and colorful world is an absolute delight, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself walking over and traveling everywhere.
Despite the positives, Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key falls short on some finer points. While I wouldn’t usually call out annoying controls, Photo Mode is especially egregious. Instead of binding this to a lesser-used button, it’s activated by pushing L3. The vast majority of games bind sprint to that command, causing me to accidentally start on more than one occasion when trying to run. Worse still, this command can not be changed to another button.
Certain aspects also seem unusually dated. While fast traveling via a world map is extremely useful, the map moves slowly, and you need to locate the objective on the map; having something ensures you know where it is if you choose to use it. In addition to that, certain things feel rather roundabout nowadays.
Even though using the actual Atelier makes sense, fast travel feels like an extra step. Instead of just being able to craft some grass beans, you need to fast-travel to your base, walk to the cauldron, select it, add the materials, accept it, collect the item, fast-travel back, and then finally give them the item. It’s one of those things where specific mechanics take away from this concept, so further simplification would go far.
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key Review Verdict
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key: Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key might not be perfect, but it's one of the best entries in the franchise. The story is good, the gameplay is better, with several quality-of-life features helping it shine. There are still some ways to go, along with some other elements people might not like, but fans of the franchise or newcomers looking for an upbeat RPG will likely have a great time. – Mark