Late To The Party: Atelier Ryza 1

Ever since I’ve gotten a Playstation 4 in January of 2014 I’ve been a little dragon hoarding all sorts of games. Finally having a disposable income combined with a bad impulse spending habit led to me building up a backlog of almost 300 games in about 10 years time. Even though I do play some games “on time” most of the games I’ve gotten I barely touched, if at all, and are patiently sitting there waiting for me to play it. My goal starting in 2024 is to finally get to all the games that I have neglected over the past 10 years and even though I’m late to the party I still intend to enjoy myself moving through this backlog. I will be writing about the games I finish with full spoilers, so be warned!

My first late to the party game: Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout.

I picked up the first instalment of the Atelier Ryza series out of curiousity when it was on a Steam sale. There are a lot of JRPG series that I never touched and after reading the description I figured I wanted to give this game a try. This was in 2021. After playing it for about an hour and a half I shelved the game until last week where I dusted it off and started a brand new playthrough.

Atelier Ryza takes you to the world of Reisalin Stout, nickname Ryza, and her two best friends Tao and Lent and their home on Kurken Island where nothing ever happens and Ryza spends her days trying to go on grand adventures away from her parents farm. There are a lot of strict rules on the Island and one of the big ones is that you’re not allowed to go to the mainland for any old reason. However Ryza’s world will change forever when she meets Empel and Lydia who help her save Klaudia, a wealthy merchant’s daughter, from certain death on an illicit trip to the mainland.

After this meeting Ryza turns into an “Alchemist” and the grand adventure starts. A really big part of the game consists around gathering materials and turning said materials into other materials, useful items and armour through Alchemy. Story beats are locked behind certain Alchemy recipes and your ability to craft them to certain standards. Yes, next to being able to craft recipes in the first place all the things you can craft also have a quality level. If you are unable to meet said quality level you have no chance of continuing quests or storylines in the game. If you’re into that kind of gameplay loop it’s very satisfying to do the gather -> craft -> craft bigger loop over and over again. There is 184 recipes to be learned and very high quality items to be crafted. Personally I found the loop to become pretty boring after a while and as such didn’t pursue the Alchemy tied post-game grind after I was done with the mainstory.

Speaking of story. This game is a real coming of age tale with a young girl finding her path in life together with the friends she’s made along the way. It’s a real bog standard JRPG tale where a big bad is threatening the world as our protagonist knows it and that reality isn’t what it seems to be. Of course in the end our group of heroes vanquishes the big bad and after fixing their Island, which turns out to be artificially made, all is well in the world and everyone is able to pursue their dreams.
I think I personally would’ve loved this type of story a lot more when I was younger but now that I’m in my 30’s it kind of falls flat for me. Next to the mainstory there are also numerous side stories to do in the game, and even though I did them all because I’m a dirty completionist, I don’t think they are really worth your time. Apart from some nice recipes and some upgrade gear here and there, which you can also craft yourself if you want, the stories themselves aren’t very interesting or innovative and they are mostly craft/fetch and talk to people quests.

As far as combat goes, there is a combat system and it’s a bit of a weird mix between turn based gaming and real time ticking away. I didn’t really like it all that much because even though the game tries to encourage you to mix and match your party (you will have 6 characters total where 3 can be active in the party at any time) there is no real reason to ever swap characters out once you have found your comfortable playing combo. Just kit out your three main characters with the best gear, completely ignore the other three and you’re ready to tackle everything the game has to offer. The only good thing is that levels are gained group wise so if you ever do want to mix and match you can easily swap out and swap gear and you’re good to go. With alchemy you can make some really powerful items that completely cheese any type of combat in the story mode part of the game which is nice but also makes it kind of dull. I was able to craft an item with which I basically 4-shot the final boss of the game, the Queen of Darkness, just by using it on every turn I got on the character I had it equipped. Not particularly how you want get through a bossfight. It did came in handy when grinding levels though since it would straight up kill any non-boss creature in the area.
Unfortunately the combat turned me off enough that I didn’t want to take on the post-game super bosses which are apparently a lot harder than anything you face during the mainstory.

Finally I’m still kind of intrigued by how some JRPG’s use Europe in their games. This particular bit of the Atelier series draws heavily from the German language to name things and even though it’s not immersion breaking at all it sounds weird to hear German in a completely Japanese voiced game.

Final thoughts
All in all I thought the game was okay so if I had to grade it, it would be a 6/10. The story was standard. The combat wasn’t too interesting. Alchemy was fun but also became tedious after a while. The game didn’t pull me in enough to want to try the post-game bosses nor to want to buy into the DLC they added later. I know there’s two more parts to the Atelier Ryza series but I think I’ll let those pass me by for now. I got it off the backlog, it took me about 29 hours and I’m content I got it done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.