Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout has been a really enjoyable surprise to me. I have dabbled in a few of the previous games only briefly. With Atelier Ryza being my first real in-depth experience in the games the story and crafting system just shocked me as I wasn’t expecting it to be as robust as it was. Warning before we continue this review will go into some minor spoilers. Now with that out the way, this is our Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout review.
More than the Story
In Atelier Ryza, the story focuses around well obviously Ryza and her journey into alchemy. She drags her childhood friends Tao and Lent around with her. The game is more than just her story though. Each character has great substance and their own story happening alongside hers. In the village, each of them is treated a bit differently. Tao is shy but eccentric in his thirst for knowledge on ancient texts and deciphering them. Lent is a muscular dude, who is treated poorly because his father is an alcoholic. Lent’s story is the one that surprised me. I did not expect Atelier to tackle such topics as alcoholism and child abuse even more so the possibility of spousal abuse.
Lent’s mother left him and the father because of the alcohol problem. At a certain point in the story, Lent is found being patched up by Lila because his father was drunk and I assumed he and his father got into an altercation. That is a pretty deep background story of his character overcoming that situation. Of course, even Ryza has the circumstances of her parents, in particular, the mom, thinking that her doing alchemy is strange and a waste of time. If one pays attention to everything happening there are great story elements in there that really just fill out the village and the sort of situation the kids are in.
As with any Atelier game, crafting is the main focus and, as usual, a new game means we get a new iteration on the crafting system. Crafting in Atelier Ryza involves leveling up “Material Loops” with the material required for that particular loop. The more loops that level up the more variety of effects the item can have. What’s even better is that some recipes can be morphed into new recipes my leveling up the special material loop in the recipe. Being that it is alchemy I should’ve expected that, but I didn’t and it thrilled me.
To first start synthesizing you need the main ingredient to start. In order to get those materials, I had to get out there and fight monsters and collect it using tools. What threw me off was at a certain point was getting crafting recipes for tools and not being able to get the materials for those tools because I wasn’t far enough in the story to get them. All I wanted to do was fish but I just could not find the right material to start crafting the one item I needed to craft the fishing rod.
As I got further in I realized I would need to stock up on materials in order to craft some really high-quality goods. The best thing is the casual playstyle of the game really lends itself to just playing as you see fit. There is no time crunch to rush the story even with a day and night cycle. There is even a little tip pop-up in the beginning that states exploring is more important than sleeping. It was great to not have to worry about needing to do things by a certain date and to be able to take my time preparing for new chapters in the story.
As in any RPG, there are main quests that advance the story than in Atelier Ryza you also have NPC Request and Party quests. I found the Party quests to be very versatile. I liked that I could complete them as I played through the story or was out gathering. They are usually a goal one of the characters wants to accomplish and the reward for completing them is learning a skill. The skills are what make completing these important as some of them are skills that improve your passive skills that increase stats.
NPC requests are the second type of side quest that is the more traditional side quest. In most cases, these quests involved putting your alchemy skills to use and making them something they need. It is a good way to level your alchemy as well as acquire money and materials you may not have. The NPC quests even rewarded equips, mainly accessory equips which I was in real need of. My main problem though is finding the NPCs in need.
The easiest and the only real way is to spot the “?” on the mini-map. That is a bit of a hassle as you have to run around the whole town every time in every nook and cranny. It would be better if we had an area map to look at so we are not spending as much time running around. It doesn’t take a lot away from the game but it does bother me not being able to expand the map, see the “?”, and run straight there.
The combat in the Atelier Ryza is very different from how it was in the other Atelier games. Atelier Ryza is sporting a new real-time tactical battle system, not turn-based like some of the other Atelier games. This type of combat adds complexity and preparing for them. Now there is more strategy with battle. I really had to manage when to use items and when not to use them. I really dig the tactical element of the combat.
The characters use this contraption called a Core Crystal that allows them to use their created items in battle. The Core Crystal itself adds another layer of complexity to combat especially on a harder difficulty. The Core Crystal can only hold as many items as the weapon it’s attached to. Once out exploring I found I could only change items back in the village. This mechanic also plays a part when it comes to the amount of charge your Core Crystal has in battle.
Items in combat costs core charges to use. To replenish those charges you either have to convert an item you have with you or return to the village. On harder difficulties, I had to decide which items were important for the journey if I wanted to continue exploring. Also, it’s great that converting items did not destroy the item. It’s only temporarily unusable until you return back to the village. If it had completely destroyed the items material-gathering would’ve taken first priority over everything.
I’ve really enjoyed my time in Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout. The story and individual ordeals the characters had to deal with captured my attention right away. The game was graphically beautiful and the casual style of play made it really relaxing to play. The combat at the more difficult setting added some nice complexity to the battles. Even on normal difficulty the battles still required some prep which the casual playstyle more than allowed for. If you have given the game I hope your experience was as enjoyable as mine.
Our copy of Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout was provided by PR for the purpose of review on the PS4.