Atelier Ryza 3 Unlocks A New, Wider World (Preview)

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Koei Tecmo marks a milestone for the Atelier franchise with Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key, an expansive finale to Ryza’s trilogy.

Through its 25-year history, the Atelier series has focused on various heroines on their quests to become alchemists—gathering materials, synthesizing recipes, beating up monsters, and maybe saving the world along the way. Now its most successful protagonist to date, Reisalin “Ryza” Stout, is about to embark on her “final summer adventure” and close out a trilogy with Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key.

We were able to check out the opening hours of this exciting new title on PC, and the possibilities seem as bright as the sunny skies over Ryza’s home of Kurken Island.

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First of all, if the prospect of jumping into a long-running series with the third game in a trilogy seems daunting, don’t sweat it. There’s a succinct recap movie available from the main menu which will get you up to speed on the salient details. I personally only checked out the series with the previous game, Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy, and story-wise, the team at Koei Tecmo has done well in balancing installments to work well individually or as a trilogy.

Atelier Ryza 3 wastes little time in setting up its new conflict with an in medias res intro and battle tutorial. The opening hours establish that the core engine for combat remains familiar and wastes little time introducing key concepts. Waiting for your turn, using basic attacks, and working in tandem with party members remains the core mechanic, but it branches out further with tag attacks that swap in reserve party members and other combos if you pull off the sort of attack an ally requests.

Despite gaining a few levels through the demo, monsters remained a present threat, and random battles didn’t quite feel rote or mechanical. The clunkiness of in-battle healing hasn’t really been alleviated, in my opinion, but the heightened combo effects are a welcome addition. (The new battle music isn’t quite the absolute banger that Atelier Ryza 2 had, granted, but it still sets the scene with a refreshingly light melody.) With a final total of 11 playable characters, there should be a wealth of strategies to explore in mixing party members and their unique skills.

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Atelier Ryza 3 returns our alchemist heroine to her homeland, where she has settled back into her daily life after the previous game’s adventures in the big city. Those who have played the trilogy from its start should appreciate the callbacks to familiar locales and faces as Ryza’s friends show up to help in the new quest.

That quest sees Ryza and friends bringing their skills to bear to investigate a strange phenomenon where islands are rising up out of the sea near Kurken Island. Having solved the alchemical mysteries of their home island in the first game, they’re the clear candidates to assist. We know from Atelier Ryza 3’s official ynopses that mystical keys will be central to solving the mystery, but they, unfortunately, did not enter the scene immediately within the confines of the preview.

Similarly, Atelier Ryza 3 promises expansive new open environments and “vast open fields.” Again, for the purposes of this preview, the environments seemed very similar to those in previous games, especially those literally adapted from the first—however, they come with an admirable glow-up.

On PC, at least, the engine jumps from combat to exploration and back again in a relatively seamless fashion. While I didn’t get to experiment with the promised open-world-esque environments or the new ridable creatures, it looks like the engine has been greatly improved. Comparing familiar landmarks from the first game, like the Flower Circle near the gang’s Hideaway, it appears that Gust has been able to tap into some next-gen potential for this installment. (Time will tell how well these visual improvements translate down to the Switch version, however.)

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Likewise, the battle UI has received a subtle yet effective redesign in Atelier Ryza 3, feeling less cluttered overall. The alchemy menu went through some similar changes but still felt a little impenetrable to me at first glance until certain concepts from the previous game came back from my subconscious. Hopefully, the key mechanics help out in this department further in.

Speaking of which, naturally, alchemy is a core concept introduced early on in Atelier Ryza 3 as well. In this regard, the fundamentals have not changed much, but Ryza is starting from scratch again. She’ll need to reacquire recipes and buffs from the Skill Tree and has been reset to basic gear—so, of course, one of the earliest quests involves crafting one of the other Gathering Tools. Luckily the playable cast starts out at level 20 this time, thus preserving at least one aspect of their experience.

All told, while Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key does not exactly come out swinging with all of its shiniest new toys, it does get off to an excellent start. The table is set thematically and mechanically in a relatively succinct manner, showing off its shiny, updated presentation before opening the doors to its biggest changes. It’s certainly enough to pique my curiosity, and I’m excited to see what else lies in store for Ryza and friends next month.

Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key will arrive on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and Steam on March 24. Those with saved data on their system from previous Atelier Ryza games or Atelier Sophie 2 can unlock additional outfits based on those respective games.

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