Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End and the Secret Key is the latest entry in Gust’s long-running Atelier JRPG franchise, and the Ryza sub-series has become widely renowned and successful in its own right. Atelier Ryza 3 is a fascinating entry that feels brisk and seamless while building off of Atelier Ryza and Atelier Ryza 2‘s refined presentation and expansive area design. While the game is a definitive step forward for the Atelier franchise, it can be slightly daunting initially for newcomers.
Atelier Ryza 3 takes place a year after the previous game, and watching the short recap movie is highly recommended. This movie showcases an abbreviated version of the first two game events. As the characters frequently reference how they have matured throughout their adventures, players will be able to understand the game’s touching interactions more easily.
Unlike its predecessors, the game immediately throws players into perilous situations. Ryza then hears a cryptic voice that tells her how to craft a mysterious Secret Key. This takes her onto a path of discovery and mystery as she strives to save her home. She travels alongside returning companions from the first two games while meeting new friends in brand-new regions.
Like every Atelier game, players traverse maps to reach objectives like meeting NPCs, getting a landmark, or defeating an enemy. The party gathers ingredients on the field so that Ryza can craft items at the atelier, which fulfills NPCs’ requests and bolsters the party in battle. However, Atelier Ryza 3 takes this normal flow to the next level.
Field exploration is quite thrilling as each area is expansive with corresponding sections. These areas feel connected in an open-world way, which almost makes prior Atelier games feel constrained in comparison. Quests often require a fair amount of travel, and more importantly, players have plenty of freedom to explore off the beaten path. Scene transitions are seamless whether the party exits a building or takes a boat to another region. The game’s snappy transitions from field navigation to dialogue cutscenes are also fantastic.
Atelier Ryza 3’s presentation has also been bolstered breathtakingly. Each area is filled with plenty of details that stretch out into the horizon, and the lighting is particularly striking. The characters are bold and expressive, with more details than ever before. This game genuinely feels like the first Atelier title to leverage the PlayStation 5’s capabilities as it runs smoothly at 4K 60 FPS.
Other aspects help the game feel smooth and briskly paced. Optional Random Quests frequently spawn nearby as the party traverses towns and fields. These allow the party to earn rewards without digging into town requests. Any essential item for fulfilling a quest will always show up at the top of the crafting list, which is incredibly convenient. The game provides unobtrusive on-screen hints, and most importantly, Ryza gathers ingredients exceptionally quickly and can even do so while moving. With plenty of checkpoints, players can also easily warp to the atelier and back onto the field. A handful of user interface elements from previous Atelier titles, such as depositing ingredients from the basket into the container,, are also streamlined.
However, certain specific features feel a bit off. Navigating the World and Area Maps does not feel as seamless as possible. Players have to alternate between these two map modes rather than being able to zoom in and out, which can feel a bit rigid. The mini-map size can also feel awkward as it is either small or overlaps a sizable portion of the middle of the screen. While the party can see the surrounding area on the mini-map, it needs to reach landmarks to uncover sections of the Area Map, which can feel a bit disconnected. Although waypoints point in the right direction, the areas are fairly intricate, with plenty of pathways and turns. Players must regularly check the map to avoid hitting a dead end or an impassable wall.
Atelier Ryza 3 can also make a daunting first impression as it introduces returning and new mechanics rather quickly. While the game does explain everything well and provides an extensive help section, those who have played the first two Ryza games will undoubtedly have an easier time. The real-time battles can feel chaotic with many flashy effects on the screen. It can also take a while for players to learn to manage their resources to deploy skills, item chains, and tag out with other party members. Furthermore, even normal battles can feel fairly involved as enemies can soak up many attacks, and some fights involve back-to-back encounters.
On top of everything is the brand new titular Secret Key mechanic, which acts as a universal temporary buff. This helps players fine-tune their playstyle, but it can be easily inundated by keys with all sorts of field and battle buffs. For those jumping right into the game without having played prior Ryza titles, there can be a bit of a learning curve. However, exploration, battles, and alchemy are still rewarding, and thoroughly exploring every aspect is generally unnecessary to enjoy the overall experience.
Overall, Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End and the Secret Key feels more expansive and grand than any prior Atelier game. Even though the game introduces mechanics slightly overwhelmingly, the overall journey feels brisk and beautifully constructed. It juxtaposes lively well-lit natural landscapes, multiple towns, and fantastical worlds. Of course, the music is also similarly captivating and enthralling with its layered harmonies and upbeat tracks. Ryza 3 truly feels like it takes advantage of the PS5, and it is a wonderful way to experience Atelier’s unique brand of alchemy-driven adventuring, whimsical characters, and excellent craftsmanship.