Atelier is a long-running series of JRPGs focused on alchemy, typically featuring a young alchemist looking to get their start in the world and hone their craft. Atelier Ryza 3, the twenty-fourth entry in the series to date, is no different. As the third entry of the Ryza subseries, it features its titular protagonist facing the call to adventure once more following the sudden appearance of a mysterious group of islands. As I found firsthand, Atelier Ryza 3‘s early hours show a game full of charm, a complex crafting system and an idyllic world to play around in.
The game wastes no time throwing you into the adventure. At the start of the game, we see Ryza out on the beach where she gets thrown into battle, prompting a tutorial on the game’s combat system. It’s a snappy introduction, which is great for anyone looking to start their new adventure right away, but had its problems for me as a newcomer. Characters often wandered in casually without introducing themselves, referring to past events without much context. Naturally, it will not be much of an issue for established fans of the series, but it worth noting that it is perhaps not the best entry to jump into for those coming in for the first time.
Starting with combat is a strange choice, however, as much of the gameplay loop that immediately follows doesn’t focus on it at all. Instead, it emphasizes the series’ main draw – alchemy. This means a bunch of fetch quests during which Ryza gathers materials and crafts items with them based on people’s needs.
What’s impressive is just how in-depth the crafting system is. This isn’t the standard “find these specific items, then press a button to combine them” one seen in other games. In Atelier Ryza 3, the materials each have their own attributes that affect the quality of the items you’re crafting. Rather than picking up four identical planks of wood, you’ve picked up two low quality planks, a high-quality plank, and a medium quality one which makes any axe made with it hit harder.
How you use these ingredients affects a lot in the end product, which means meticulous sifting through your inventory to find the best materials for your purposes. It was kind of overwhelming at first, but there’s a sense that the system allows a high level of customization once you get down into the intricacies of it.
This focus on crafting also makes Atelier Ryza 3 feel more like a life-sim like Animal Crossing than a standard JRPG. So much of my time with the game was spent foraging for items and crafting the perfect gardening equipment for people around me, and it ended up being a relaxing time.
This relaxed feeling was helped by how gorgeous the game is in these opening hours. The Kurken area I played through is full of idyllic villages and seaside views that are a real treat for the eyes. The game’s visuals are cozy and idyllic, the perfect place to lose yourself in imagining the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. Admittedly, this is just one area and future parts of the game could be less visually enticing, but it’s a strong start.
There were a few issues however. Combat felt a little repetitive, the atelier being in an out-of-the-way location made it frustrating to frequently return to, and the PC version’s quit option was not easy to find, as it’s exclusively next to the atelier. However, these are all things that could see improvements in the final game if we see additional combat mechanics and possibly additional hideouts brought in as the game progresses.
Atelier Ryza 3 is full of charm so far. Despite my confusion as a newcomer, I found a lot to enjoy with my time with it. With the cozy vibes, the intricate crafting system and gorgeous visuals, this should hopefully shape up to be a great new entry for long-time fans too.
Altelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End and the Secret Key releases on March 24th 2023 for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.