Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout is a major change from what I’ve played in the series. The alchemy and combat systems have been revamped. The world and story have more serious elements and are not as purely saccharine as in the past. With a sequel on the way, is this one worth your time?
Ryza is more than just a girl who can be appreciated for her thicc qualities, and there is a decent story here. She lives on a small island and wants to have an adventure. After meeting a mysterious visitor, she begins to unravel a huge mystery, build a secret hideout with her friends, and learn alchemy.
The alchemy system has seen a major overhaul, but it makes the process clearer. You can learn new recipes through books, but most of them will come from existing recipes. Creating something through alchemy consists of adding materials to little connected grids. Higher quality inputs result in a higher quality weapon, medicine, or raw material for another creation. Each grid has little nodes that can unlock new effects, and you will be able to add more items as you increase your alchemy level.
The new system incorporates everything you know from past games, but it also feels more straightforward and simplified compared to past systems, especially when I can look at the recipe and see what I need to unlock a new recipe by viewing the tree. There is still some mystery here, although it can become a little annoying to have to go three recipes down to finally find the material I needed. It’s still a solid system, and I liked the change.
The giant world is filled with ingredients for you to find and harvest. The tools system in Ryza is critical, and it’s a change I like and found frustrating at the same time. Ryza will be able to make tools like a scythe, bug net, fishing rod, and giant hammer. Depending on which tool you use to harvest, the same resource in the wild will give different items. A tall flower might give you bugs or plant material, and I would often struggle to remember which material I was able to collect from which source with which tool.
The world itself is varied and diverse. There are forests with golden light, ancient ruins that are crumbling, and a steamy volcano. Each area feels distinctly different, and there is a reason to return to open up new sub-areas. Navigating the world is made easy shortly into the game with a fast travel option available at any time. It makes this huge game much more manageable and enjoyable.
Those different areas aren’t just filled with raw materials for you to collect. Monsters will patrol and attack if you come too close. Ryza’s combat is more of an active turn-based system now. Your team of three characters will have to wait until it is your turn, but the action doesn’t stop. You will need to make a quick decision about whether to attack, use an item, or use a skill, and the enemy can hit you during this time. I like turn-based combat in previous entries, but this speeds up the action a lot.
You can choose your party of three, and you can take control of any of them at any time. Depending on your weapon’s slots, each character can carry items such as medicines or bombs to use. Other items have a different elemental effect, and enemies will have weaknesses. Each character can be assigned a role, has different skills, and later skills, such as your fatal drive, are impressive.
Fights start with you contacting the monster, even accidentally. If you smack an enemy with your selected gathering tool, you’ll start with an advantage and a higher tactics level. Increasing this allows you to hit more on each turn and requires a button press to activate once the meter is full. Action Orders come from your other team members. They ask you to perform a certain action such as causing lightning damage, and they will drop a powerful attack that interrupts the normal order. Between these, items, skills, and tactics levels, combat is not a passive activity in Atelier Ryza, and it’s a good change, even though I wish we had a little more variety in the monsters.
When you are not using alchemy and fighting, there are quests in town for you to complete. I waited until later in the game to do many of these, and, although they were not very deep at first, it was a way to get to know the people of Kurken island. One woman wants to find someone to love. Another wants to experience a taste of life in the capital. Another has lost his memories and worries about his past. Each new quest reveals a new chapter in these stories and adds more depth to the world.
I’ve talked about the combat and alchemy, but, between the two, this is a deceptively deep game. As you play, more systems are introduced such as the forge to buff your weapons and the ability to reduce items to create gems to fuel some of these upgrades. There is always something to do or see or improve with little story events popping up in between main story parts. If you’re looking for content, Atelier Ryza delivers.
It’s also a sweet game. I love having a chainsaw two feet deep into a demon’s chest, but Atelier games offer something else. Although the world and characters are more serious in Atelier Ryza with more mature ideas in some cases, it doesn’t lose that positive and happy story. Ryza and friends are plucky, likeable heroes, and the story does have a definite ending with the feeling of a deserved sequel.
I mentioned the environments earlier, but this is a lovely looking game. It’s not a AAA detail extravaganza, but the visuals have taken a big step up from previous games. There is a nice mix of lighting and design that just makes it a gorgeous world to explore.
The music is also a big win for me, and you can play tracks from the game’s menu. There are different themes for the areas and mood, and all of them sound great.
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness And The Secret Hideout is a departure from past Atelier games that refines the familiar systems while retaining the ideas that make it such a compelling franchise. The pillars of alchemy, combat, and world propel you through a massive and enjoyable adventure. Despite only recently finishing the game, I can’t wait to pick up the next game and take another journey in this beautiful world.
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout PS4 Review
- Overall - Fantastic - 8/108/10
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness And The Secret Hideout refines some of the series’ classic gameplay pillars without abandoning the core experience that fans love. Although a little more mature than past games, it’s a great adventure that manages to stay upbeat and challenging. It has earned a sequel, and I’m excited to play that one as well.
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro.