Everyone’s favourite alchemist is back for one final adventure – and it’s just as good as ever.
The third instalment of the Atelier Ryza series feels like the biggest yet: there are existing locations to explore, but there’s a whole new world to get to grips with, too. That means new bosses to fight against and new characters to meet – although for much of your adventure you’ll be accompanied by familiar faces. If you’ve played and loved the last two games, stepping into Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key will feel a lot like reuniting with old friends. There’s a comfortable familiarity about it, with just a few (mostly positive) changes to wrap your head around.
The story begins as a series of islands – known as the Kark Isles – appear just off the coast of Ryza’s home island of Kurken. What these islands are, or what’s caused them to suddenly appear, is unknown. But of course, it falls to Ryza and her friends to investigate. Adventure awaits; doesn’t it always?
As you’d expect from an Atelier game, there’s a healthy mixture of exploration and story exposition. Cutscenes are plentiful but they never feel like they outstay their welcome. As always, dialogue is well-written and the localisation is excellent. There’s no English dub: like all the Ryza games, it’s Japanese only. The same voice cast returns, and does yet another outstanding job at bringing a colourful cast of characters to life. Our only complaint about the Japanese-only language is there are still some exclamations and flavour text that aren’t subtitled – when you’re looking at the map, or performing alchemy, for example.
It’s also a little distracting to keep up with conversations that happen between the cast as you’re exploring the world. You may be focusing on collecting materials, but your crew might be having a funny little chat between themselves. Keeping an eye on the subtitles takes your attention away from the action on-screen, which can get a little annoying. Thankfully, these conversations are rarely key to the story and are typically character-building chit-chat. They’re also repeated time and again, so if you choose to ignore them, you’re unlikely to miss much.
Thankfully, the actual story is worth paying attention to. You’ll have a great time following Ryza and co. as they delve into the latest mysterious event to befall Kurken and the surrounding areas. It’s as endearing as ever, although it’s heavily geared towards returning players. You can jump straight into Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key if you want: after all, you’ll be given all necessary tutorials to get you up to speed. But we’d highly recommend you play the previous two games first. It’s chock-full with references to previous events, and there’s so much more to get out of the game for those already invested in the characters.
It’s very easy to hit the ground running if you are already familiar, but there are a few changes that you’ll encounter along the way. The first is a hugely welcome quality-of-life tweak: you can gather some items while running without needing to stop. It makes gathering resources so much quicker and easier: as long as it’s an item Ryza can grab with her hands, simply tap X as you move past it, and it’ll be added to your basket. Other items that require an item interaction – like flowers that need to be gathered with your rod, or logs that need to be axed – naturally still require you to stop, however.
Gathering can still be tedious and, like in previous Atelier games, you can end up spending a big chunk of time simply looking for one ingredient. Even some very common ingredients proved to be elusive for us, and the further you progress, the more time you’ll spend look for certain materials. It’s part and parcel of the experience, though: if you can find joy in exploring and gathering, you’ll have a much better time with Atelier Ryza 3 than if you find it something of a chore. It helps that the world is as delightful as ever to explore, filled with varied and beautiful landscapes. We are, however, a little disappointed the resolution has taken a hit on PS5 compared to Atelier Ryza 2. It seems Gust has favoured framerate this time, which is welcome, but we miss the glorious 4K textures. That’s not to say that Atelier Ryza 3 is ugly in comparison – far from it – but it’s not quite as impressive to gaze upon.
You’ll of course encounter plenty of enemies as you explore, and combat is another area where Atelier Ryza 3 has had a bit of a shake-up. It’s not hugely different but feels a little more hectic – if it wasn’t already. We can’t help but feel like there isn’t a great deal of room for strategy, and most fights simply had us flinging as many attacks as we could muster without any thought. It keeps you on your toes at least; it certainly avoids feeling as slow as some turn-based RPG combat can be. You can simply attack as Ryza and leave the rest of your party to act automatically, or you can switch between then. Each character has a basic attack and a handful of magic attacks, and you can also make use of items.
Many of the regular enemies you’ll have met before, which is a bit of a shame. Even when you’re in new areas, you’ll come across the same enemies you’ve fought dozens of times already. More variety would be nice, but there’s a handful of new encounters to look forward to, and bosses remain a highlight. Like everything in the world of Atelier Ryza, they’re excellently designed and a delight to be up against.
We suppose we should mention the act of alchemy and item crafting: after all, it does form the backbone of Atelier Ryza 3. Once again, it’ll be very familiar to those who have played previous Atelier Ryza games, with a small amount of tweaking. It’s easier than ever to get to grips with, without feeling dumbed down. Creating basic items can be as simple as automatically adding the required ingredients. But to get the most out of crafting, you’ll want to experiment, optimise and do your best to create the best-quality items that you can. You’ll spend a lot of time in your atelier, and creating the best items possible can be hugely rewarding.
The biggest new addition to Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is the titular key system. Introduced early on, keys can be used in almost every element of the game including exploration, combat and crafting. You can gain keys during combat and by visiting landmarks, and those keys can be used to do a variety of actions. While exploring, you can use them to unlock special caches or access locked-off areas. In combat, they can provide you with various power-ups and boosts. And in crafting, they can enhance your items in useful ways. Not all keys are created equally, though: they have rarity ratings of their own, and only certain keys can be used in certain situations.
Truthfully, we’re not entirely convinced that the key system adds much to Atelier Ryza 3. It’s a new mechanic to spice things up, sure, but it doesn’t feel entirely necessary outside of the game’s narrative. We at least enjoy using keys while exploring: unlocking secret areas feels rewarding, but we feel like we’ve underutilised them in combat and crafting. They’re also poorly explained with a rather brief tutorial: you’ll largely have to experiment and figure them out as you go.
Still, it’s hard not to be enamoured with Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key as a whole. Being back in the fold of Ryza and her friends feels like sinking back into a warm, cosy blanket – and anyone already acquainted with the series will instantly hit the ground running. There’s a new, engaging story to become engrossed in, and alongside familiar areas, there’s a whole new world to explore – which feels larger and more varied than ever. Sure, some changes don’t quite land – we’re not the biggest fans of the key mechanic – but it’s not enough to sour us from the experience. What a trilogy this has been, and this final serving might be the best part yet.