By Steve Baltimore / February 13th, 2020
|Title||Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout|
|Release Date||October 28th, 2019|
|Platform||Steam, PS4, Switch|
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout is the latest entry in the long running Atelier franchise. Last year was a big year for the Atelier series as it saw the release of three major titles. Besides Atelier Ryza, there was Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World and a continuation of the Arland Saga with the release of Atelier Lulua. Let’s see if this latest entry can add yet another layer of greatness to this already wonderful series.
The story here follows a young woman named Reisalin Stout. Most folks here just call her Ryza. She hasn’t really found her direction in life just yet, but she wants to go on an adventure away from the small island she lives on. She soon recruits her two friends, Lent and Tao, to aid her in this endeavor. The crew soon discovers a secret dock near Ryza’s home and they make their way to the mainland. Ryza discovers a girl in the woods that is in serious danger from monsters. She is able to rescue the girl whose name is Klaudia, the daughter of a famous merchant. Their first adventure is far from over. They are once again attacked by monsters leaving the forest. A strange duo saves them, and the man uses Alchemy to defeat the monster. Ryza is quite taken by alchemy and decides to become a great alchemist. This will lead her on an adventure far greater then she could’ve ever imagined.
I really enjoyed the story of Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout overall. The characters have a ton of growth during the story and it’s interesting to see how each of their stories turn out. Empel and Lila are wonderful to watch on screen together, and I really loved their backstory. Watching Ryza and Klaudia’s friendship grow was a pure joy as well. I think we need more heartwarming stuff like this nowadays. There are a couple of plot twists and turns but nothing ground breaking. I wouldn’t say this is the best story in the series, but this is one of the top tier ones to be sure. You can buy some extra episodes via DLC that I thought were very entertaining as well, and there are some post game goodies to keep you playing this one after the story concludes as well.
Graphically the game looks fantastic. Ryza and Klaudia both look amazing. I know a big fuss was made about how THICC Ryza is, and while that is valid, she is a wonderful character as well. Klaudia has this shy cuteness about her, Lent is your typical bad ass dude. Lila has a very unique look, and personally I think it looks awesome. Empel and Tao both have that genius look about them, but Empel manages to pull off the cool professor look with it.
The music is what you would expect from any game that GUST creates, it’s simply amazing. The battle themes are awesome and get you excited for combat. The vocal tracks for the opening and ending are outstanding as well. Some free DLC will give you access to soundtracks from many classic GUST titles, and like other games in the franchise, you can make a completely custom OST. The game is only voiced in Japanese but the voice actors really bring these characters to life. Every character’s voice fits them to a tee and really brought out their personality.
Rather than the usual smaller maps the developers have opted to go with larger maps that connect together. This makes the world feel much larger and gives the game an open world feel. It’s not really open world since there are areas you cannot travel to until the story is progressed to a certain point. Each environment in fairly detailed from underground caverns to fiery volcanoes. The enemy models look fantastic as well with plenty of details, and I love the battle effects this time around. They really add some impact to combat and make everything feel alive.
Speaking of the combat, that has been completely revamped here. The game is still turn based, but the active combat system makes things flow much better than before. Players control one of the character’s actions while the others will attack automatically. You can’t set tactics for them directly, but you can switch between aggressive and negative modes. Aggressive mode will allow them to use attacks that consume AP, and in negative mode they will only use normal attacks. Characters can be switched on the fly with bumpers at the top of the controller. As your party attacks you will gain Action Points (AP). You can use these to activate skills or raise your tactics level. Raising your tactics level will make your attacks hit multiple times. This will make you gain AP even faster, and certain skills will become stronger as well.
During combat you will notice action orders in the top right of the screen. These are actions your comrades would like you to perform. If you do so they will unleash an order skill on your foes. These vary from damaging attacks to serious debuffs. If you’re in a pinch you can spend some AP and use a quick action to do whatever action is needed immediately. This got me out of a tight spot quite a few times. Quick actions can also be used to unleash powerful extra orders. These attacks can only be done if the enemy is stunned or has used their special attack. These attacks deal huge damage and will cancel out their special attack as well. Later in the game you will gain access to fatal drive attacks. These are the most powerful attacks in the game and can only be done when your tactics level is at 5. Using these will reduce your tactics level back to 1, so plan accordingly when using them.
What Atelier game is complete without gathering and synthesizing? There is plenty of that here in Atelier Ryza, but I feel they have done a good job streamlining this. First off, instead of having a bunch of gathering points on a map they have a reasonable amount that will give you different ingredients depending on which tool you harvest them with. Some rocks can be crushed with a hammer, for example, or blown up by the bomb rod. You will get different things depending on which one you decide to use.
Synthesizing has never been easier or more fun. This time you have what’s called material loops. Here you will place all the ingredients needed to create an item. These loops will have elements that will affect the quality and traits of the item. Some of these loops will lead to a new recipe that will make something completely different. I felt this was much better than simply finding books to create new items. There is a lot of detail on how quality and traits work when making items. I won’t go into that here, but it’s pretty easy to pick up. The game provides some great tutorials as well for new players.
I have to say I really had a blast with Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout. The combat is fast and fun. The gathering and alchemy work more seamlessly and the story and characters are all top notch. If I had a minor complaint, I just felt this story wasn’t quite as strong as some of the others in the franchise, but it’s still top notch. I spent about 35 hours with the game and with post game you could easily get another 6 hours or so. It’s well worth the $59.99 asking price. If they built off the great mechanics found here for the next game, this series will only get stronger and better for years to come. I personally think that’s a wonderful thing, and very much look forward to the next adventure.
Game was provided by the publisher for review.
Atelier RyzaAtelier seriesGustKoei Tecmo