March 24, 2023
Atelier Ryza 2 was my first time jumping into the alchemy filled JRPG series since the PS2, so the game holds a very special place in my heart. The adventures of the bubbly and good natured Ryza and the gang in the big city was a highlight of 2021 for me, and got me excited to play every entry in Gust’s charming series. So far these games haven’t disappointed, and Atelier Ryza 3: The Alchemist of the End and the Secret Key is no exception.
After her big adventure in the capital city of Asra-am Baird, our lovable hero Ryza has been living life at home on Kurken island. The once inexperienced alchemist is now relied on by the entire community, and when an island appears out of nowhere in the ocean she’s more than happy to investigate this mysterious land mass. With a few old friends visiting for the summer, the gang’s back together and ready for another wild adventure.
As with all AtelierAtelier adventures, you’ll spend a lot of your time in this threequel gathering materials for your alchemy. The world of Ryza 3 is littered with things you can collect, be it a flower, crystal deposit or toppled tree, and with a selection of tools at your disposal you can get all sorts of bits and bobs in your basket.
You start the game with Ryza’s signature rod that you can use to hit trees and rocks for ingredients, as well as being able to grab certain materials by hand. Before long (and with a bit of help from your alchemy) you’ll have axes, hammers and bug catching nets to get an even vaster variety of things to plop in your cauldron, and all these tools can be upgraded to improve the quality or types of ingredients they can gather. It always feels fantastic to unlock an upgrade that’ll help you collect something you need for that next big recipe, and the fact you’re doing all this collecting in a bright colourful world certainly doesn’t hurt.
Once you’ve got all the plants and rocks you need, it’s time to start the alchemy. Just like the last time we adventured with Ryza, alchemy is performed by putting specific ingredients on a selection of nodes that each pass on certain properties to the final product. Sometimes items need specific elemental values to unlock further nodes to create a better product, other times you might want to focus on items which add specific traits like bonus healing or status effect curing to a handy potion. It’s a very in-depth system, but one you’ll spend enough time with to understand in even the first couple of hours of the game.
Once you’ve figured out the basics of alchemy though, more and more options will start to become available to experiment with. As well as traits you’ll be expected to add super traits to items, and eventually can unlock new recipes by using very specific ingredients in an old one. You’ll end up performing so much alchemy in this game that these advanced mechanics will eventually come easy to you, but if you’re struggling (or just a little bored of this constant crafting) there’s also the option to autofill the recipe with options to use your best or worst ingredients depending on your preference.
The items you make in your atelier have all sorts of uses. You can make weapons and armour to help you deal with enemies, new gathering and exploration tools, and perhaps most importantly items to use in battle. The best thing about items in the Atelier Ryza 3 is that unleashing them during a fight with a tough foe doesn’t consume them, which means if you make a kickass healing bean or ice grenade it’ll help you indefinitely.
Battles in Atelier Ryza 3 happen in real time, with a ridiculously quick meter that fills up until you can swing in with your sword or rod. If you’ve gathered enough ability points from the parties’ regular attacks you can then chain together special moves, and will also slowly build up item points to use those crafted contraptions too. Once you add in character switching, tagging in backup characters and key abilities it walks the line of being a bit too confusing, but certainly means the combat is never boring.
Utilising the power of magical keys is a new set of mechanics for Atelier Ryza 3, and is one of the more complex ones to wrap your head around. At certain landmarks on the map you can create magical keys out of thin air, which can then be used in battle to unleash a specific powerful effect. You can also make keys out of enemies when their health is low, and sometimes need them to dispel barriers out in the world too. Get ready to fill up that keychain, because these things are essential.
What really makes Atelier Ryza 3 special is just how fast paced every aspect of the game is. Collecting materials can be done while running over objects instead of having to bend down to grab each one, and there’s a huge variety of ways to get around the massive open areas of the game. Zip lining up a mountain, only to use your magical shoes to slide down into a lake then jumping on the back of a dolphin for a ride simply never gets old, and makes every trip to fill up your basket all the more enjoyable.
Even the way quests work is respectful of your time. While wandering the world “Random Quest” will pop up on the screen and point you towards enemies that need battering or people who require items. There’s no menu faffing or chatter to worry about, you just go and do a thing. It’s a small detail, but one that really ensures this chunky game respects your time.
Although I started my journey with Ryza with the second game and had no issues keeping up, this time around it’s a little trickier to jump in with no prior knowledge. There are a lot of references to past adventures that long term fans will appreciate, but it’s certainly less ideal as a starting point for newcomers. The story and character interactions are as light hearted and charming as ever though, and encapsulate everything I love about the series.
The only significant issues I had while playing Atelier Ryza 3 come from the fact I played it on the Switch. As you might expect this colourful 3d game with vast open spaces struggles being played on the inferior hardware of the little handheld, and there’s some blurring issues and very noticeable frame drops throughout. It’s certainly still playable on this platform, but if you’re someone who struggles with technical limitations you should probably aim to play on PC or PS5.
Atelier Ryza 3: The Alchemist of the End and the Secret Key is a joyous sequel to one of my favourite games in the series. The loop of gathering materials, crafting items and beating stronger baddies is endlessly compelling, and the pace of the game is just fantastic. The Switch version of the game does struggle with some technical issues, but they can’t hold back the pure charm of Ryza and the gang.
The loop of collecting, fighting and creating is as fun as ever
Combat never gets full
The pacing is perfect
A lovely light-hearted narrative
The Switch version has significant technical issues
Some mechanics are a bit overly complex
Not suitable for newcomers
Atelier Ryza 3: The Alchemist of the End and the Secret Key is a wonderful sequel with great pacing, but the Switch version does have issues.