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Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key Review for PlayStation 5

Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key Review for PlayStation 5

Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key, developed and published by KOEI TECMO GAMES, is the most recent installment of the Atelier series and the final chapter of the Ryza storyline. This was my first Atelier game, and I was immediately drawn to the game’s bright and light-heated aesthetic. The story, engaging gameplay, and an intricate crafting system is sure to keep players hooked for hours. 

Story

The game follows the adventures of Atelier Ryza (according to Google, atelier means workshop or studio, but I think the game is using it as more synonymous with craftsman, specifically alchemist) and her friends as they set out to investigate the mysterious Kark Isles that suddenly appeared near their home Kurken Island. Everyone in the game is surprisingly nonchalant about this, an attitude that perfectly matches the jelly gumdrop and sheep monsters that players will battle on their way to discover the mystery of the islands.

Since this is the third game in the trilogy, there were several references that I didn’t get from previous storylines. The game tries to support first-time players with flashback cut-scenes and explanatory dialogue, but there were several times I was confused about what was going on. 

For instance, at one point, I was asked to “Sleep in Ryza’s Bed,” which I thought meant her workshop in the forest where I spent much of my time crafting. Turns out, no, this actually meant to go to Ryza’s parent’s house and sleep in the upstairs room there. This was a small story detail that I wasted about thirty minutes trying to figure out.While there are references to past games in the series that might be lost on newcomers like myself, I also thought the game was enjoyable as a standalone, and the current plot doesn’t seem to depend too much on previous games.

Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key Review for PlayStation 5

Gameplay

Atelier Ryza 3’s gameplay combines crafting, combat, and exploration. The combat system happened in real time and was surprisingly engaging. I haven’t played any Final Fantasy games since FFX, so I hadn’t messed around with real-time turn-based combat before, but I really liked it. It required quick reflexes and a surprising amount of strategic thinking. The game’s abilities meter system fills up fast as you attack enemies, allowing you to unleash powerful special moves and use crafted items. You can switch between characters on the fly and make use of their unique abilities to try to unlock even more abilities,…but I still don’t know exactly how to achieve some of the skills while fighting and don’t ask me to explain the Combat Key system. I just know I’m hitting what I think are the right buttons, and it seems to be working. In other words, while the combat system is complex, it is possible to survive by button mashing, a fact that I think all newcomers will appreciate.

The game is fun enough that I can easily see a player getting deep into the gameplay mechanics, spending as much time watching how-to videos as playing. 

The expansive world has plenty of different environments to explore (though I understand some of the worlds are repeats from previous games, so other players might find them nostalgic or monotonous). Exploration is made even more enjoyable because players can choose to run by enemies without engaging them. I appreciated that as I adjusted to the game’s mechanics early on. In the early hours, I had not yet figured out how to craft (more on that in a moment) and was repeatedly dying in battle. Running around, exploring, and gathering crafting materials without worrying about getting KO’d made the game infinitely more enjoyable.

Alchemy and Crafting

A huge, I mean huge, part of the gameplay centers around alchemy, which involves gathering materials, crafting items, and using those items to improve your and your squad’s abilities. The game’s open world is full of resources to collect, from flowers and crystals to trees and rocks. 

Players can craft various gathering tools which will actually gather different materials from the same source. For example, using your Alchemist Staff on a log will gather one type of wood, whereas using the Woodcutter’s Ax on the same log will gather a different type of wood. I spent at least an hour playing around and hitting resources with different tools to see what I could gather.

Gathering materials is a breeze, developers allow players to grab materials while running, and there is little to no animation in the gathering process, making the whole system easy rather than tedious.

Don’t ask me how to synthesize, though, because I don’t know. The synthesis tutorial was overwhelming and the whole process seems incredibly complex. It made me think that Atelier Ryza is more of a crafting game with some combat than an actual RPG. Thankfully the game offers players the freedom to choose between manually controlling the crafting system or letting the game handle it. After one shoddy attempt to manually craft, I started to heavily rely on the R1 auto option. But, again, I can see that this system would provide hours and hours of deep-dive fun for the obsessive player interested in tackling the system.

I’m looking forward to YouTube getting flooded with “The Top Ten Things You Need To Know About Synthesizing” videos in the coming weeks.

Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key Review for PlayStation 5

Overall

8/10

Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is fast-paced and a little bit addictive. So far, I think the weakest part is the story, but that is mostly because I know I’m missing a lot of context from not playing the other games in the series. I also wish there was an English dubbed version of the game because reading the subtitles during battle can get distracting.

The combat and alchemy systems can be a bit overwhelming at first; players have the option of opting out of the more complex systems or diving headlong into the deep end of the pool.

And in case anyone thinks I missed something, yes, I am aware of Ryza’s outfit, and yes, I too am distracted by it.

Check out the Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key Story Trailer:

Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is available on Steam, PS4/PS5, and Nintendo Switch at the alarming price of $59.99. 

Related: Reviews by Michelle Jones

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I'm a completionist gamer who just needs to find that one last object and clear that final dungeon. I love all video games, from open world sandboxes on a console to a mindless match three on my phone. In addition to gaming and writing, I am a graduate student working on a thesis about the ancient Icelandic Sagas. Feel free to ask me anything about Vikings.