Image via Koei Tecmo

Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is a cozy follow-up for this JRPG franchise – Preview

It feels good to step into Ryza's boots again.

The Atelier Ryza series may have started as an alternative franchise from the mainline Atelier games, but the upcoming new entry Atelier Ryza 3, fleshes out the series’ lore and fully establishes the world as if it had always been designed to stand on its own. I was given a chance to go hands-on with the game’s opening hour and was very pleased with what I saw.

Recommended Videos

Related: Atelier Ryza 3 delayed by a month for an extra round of polishing

The chunk of the game that I got hands-on time with covers the very start of the story and leads up to the beginning of the primary questline, covering the basics of the gameplay that are really solid such as crafting, exploration, resource gathering, and a slow sense of progression that keeps the momentum going just enough to maintain your interest, but never moves so fast that you can’t take in the small details. I also adored the cozy starting islands where the main character lives, which are utterly gorgeous and remind me of warm summer days on a Greek island, somewhere you can’t help but enjoy yourself and never want to leave.

A fast-paced start

Screenshot by Gamepur

Unlike other titles in the Atelier Ryza series, Atelier Ryza 3 kicks things off with a battle and gets you right into the core of what most JRPGs live or die on. Combat is simple yet effective, with a turn-based system that utilizes skills and additional attacks based on your timing and skill rather than auto-battling mechanics. This new method of combat took me a while to get to grips with, but once I did, I could see that this is going to be a game I could easily sink 100 hours into.

As you’d expect, Atelier Ryza 3 slowed down a bit after this initial confrontation. The core gameplay revolves around gathering resources, protecting yourself when necessary, and crafting items or synthesizing potions for the locals. Everyone wants a piece of Reisalin “Ryza” Stout, and she feels a new adventure brewing just as life was starting to settle down and get a little boring.

The game’s story picks up directly after Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream, so you may need to brush up on your lore if you want to follow along. Even in this opening-hour trial, there were references that only long-time fans could understand. However, you’ll be able to understand the sequence of events even if you don’t know everything about Atelier Ryza franchise because the story appears to be largely self-contained. But fans of the series will love the callbacks to past games, of which there were a few just in this opening hour.

A stunning world to explore

Screenshot by Gamepur

Related: The 10 best JRPGs on Nintendo Switch

Traversing the game world has never been easier in the series than in Atelier Ryza 3. You can fast-travel to significant points from the beginning, but nothing quite prepares you for how stunning the world is. It genuinely took my breath away at times, with gorgeous sunsets hanging over a town or the sun bursting in to light up a clearing in the wilds that makes you stop and take it all in.

The setting is an integral part of any JRPG, and after three games, the world of Atelier Ryza has not only been perfected and evolved over time, it’s brought to life by the plants you use to craft with and the monsters you battle. There are few game worlds that feel as lived in as this one, where everything fits together and feels like it would function and chug along even when you aren’t playing. I could have explored for far longer than an hour, but I had things to do.

More of what you know

Screnshot by Gamepur

Related: 7 Best JRPGs on PS4 and PS5, ranked

While Koei Tecmo has iterated on resource gathering, synthesizing, and exploration to be more intuitive through improved tutorials, Atelier Ryza gives you more of what you know and love from the series. As mentioned, you’ll be mostly gathering and crafting, but it’s the reasons for these activities that keep you interested. Even in this very early part of the game, the groundwork is clearly being laid for later drama with Reisalin’s parents and the broader world.

While I can’t explain what the new plot will entail, the opening does make reference to some new islands that have appeared out of nowhere. Reseilan is getting headaches, leading her to synthesize mysterious keys. An earthquake shakes the land, and only those close to Reseilan know that’s a sign of something much worse going on. The excitement quickly fades away when you get down to the game’s basic quest format. It evolves into something much more relaxing, and I expect the overarching story to be told through cutscenes while we continue to chop wood, gather resources, and spend our days over a cauldron in a cabin in the woods.

Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key looks like a grand new entry in the Atelier Ryza series. While they’re not for everyone, these games are great time-sinks for those with a JRPG itch that must be scratched at all times. The story will likely be big enough to sink your teeth into. With this first hour of gameplay, I didn’t come anywhere near what felt like truly getting into the main quest line — and I did quite a lot. What you want from an Atelier Ryza game is certainly here, but this title might not be the one to push the series into the mainstream.

Gamepur is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Jamie Moorcroft-Sharp
Jamie Moorcroft-Sharp
Jamie Moorcroft-Sharp is a Staff Writer at Gamepur. He's been writing about games for ten years and has been featured in Switch Player Magazine, Lock-On, and For Gamers Magazine. He's particularly keen on working out when he isn't playing games or writing or trying to be the best dad in the world.