Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout (PlayStation 4)

A new saga begins in the long running Atelier series as Gust offers us a new adventure with Reisalin Stout and her friends in a quaint seaside village with potentially many more adventures to come. Does this latest Atelier release manage to drum up enough intrigue to kickstart a new saga in the series? Lets find out

The latest game in the Atelier series follows Reisalin, a farmers daughter with little interest in farming and hopeful of adventures on a daily basis. Heading out on a quick adventure with her two friends, a chance meeting in a nearby forest with an alchemist named Empel & his research assistant Lila leads our protagonist to take up Alchemy. Her two friends also seek to learn from the newcomers to the village, with the aimless trio now having a path laid out in front of them to follow for the days ahead.

One of the things I’ve usually enjoyed about the Atelier series is the low-key nature of the stories. Usually there’s no universe to save, no royalty to rescue, and this allows you to kick back and appreciate the character growth. With this one you primarily play as Reisalin, but there’s plenty of growth for her friends as Lent looks to become a strong adventurer & Toa seeks to learn as much as possible about the ancient books and buildings around the island. Occasionally another friend in Klaudia will join the mix, and this all helps to create a good dynamism between the characters as they look to fulfil their specific goals together.

Ryza takes on a bright & punchy outlook with its design, with the usual high standard on character models still present, and improvements across the board compared to previous games. Environments are much more lush than before, the boost to foliage density and shadowing in particular can create some striking areas. One of the most striking aspects for me was the weather. The way the mist rolls in during the rain or the early morning fog coupled with the changing lighting depending on the time creates some atmospheric scenes.

Judging from what I’ve seen, the game appears to have been developed with the Switch in mind. The Ps4 benefits from the usual upgrades over the Switch, such as resolution and draw distance, but it still looks similar enough due to the base texture and model detail. I guess the upside to that is performance as it hardly ever skips a beat on Sony’s machine, even when the game looks its best. The stylised nature of Ryza’s visuals means the game still has its moments though, and the upgrade over previous releases is there for all to see.

Having not really played Atelier much since the Arland trilogy, aside from a little Atelier Sophie on PSVita, Ryza turned out to be quite a large jump in gameplay from those titles. The gameplay loop is still the same, the game is effectively split into gathering/exploring and alchemy, with most improvements coming to how these play out. Alchemy is always the best part of the games for me and there’s been some tinkering. Most of this comes down to the new UI, which is a lot easier to keep track of how the mix is going with enough pointers on how to improve it. New recipes are also easier to discover, though you’ll usually need to level up to use them. Luckily levelling up your alchemy just means you gotta use it more, and with all manner of items including weapons being creatable, you’ll always be at your pot mixing ingredients.

When not in your Atelier you will likely be out adventuring & gathering materials for alchemy. The areas seem a little more open on this one, tools can also be used to gather different items and also come into play for initiating combat as they can provide a boost if the enemy is hit in time. Combat is a little more fast paced this time, offering a mix of turn based & real time elements, though still has the feel of previous games. AP during combat plays a big role in how skirmishes play out. A higher level increases your combo’s & can allow you to use some to jump in and attack before your time arrives. This can be increased by initiating combat for a full level boost or by attacking enemies during the fight. Its a decent system that offers something of a risk = reward during the many encounters on your journey.

Having been away from the series for a while it was always going to be interesting returning on the latest release. Thankfully the core of the games haven’t changed much so it was easy to drop back in and the alchemy in particular seems to work better than ever. Other refinements such as the turn-based/real-time hybrid combat make for an enjoyable RPG blast, with the new characters and world to explore offering something fresh to returning alchemists as well.

Personally I don’t have much to gripe about with regards to Atelier Ryza, maybe it could be better graphically?, as just like the previous games I’ve played it allows for one to kick back and have a relaxing Jrpg experience. Should be interesting to see where this new saga goes in future and if Gust will stick with the “True-to-life youths that develop together, even if just a little bit” concept.

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Geoffrey Wright

Rocking the world of gaming since the Atari 2600, has now settled down to bask in the warmth of moe. Moe is life for a moe connoisseur.

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