By Steve Baltimore / December 1st, 2020
I was given an opportunity to check out one of my most anticipated titles of the coming year, Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy. I was very excited to get my hands on this since the previous title, Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout, was one of my favorite games of last year. Let’s see if this new title is shaping up to be a worthy successor.
Three years have passed since Ryza and her friends completed their grand adventure. They have all went their separate ways, but she remains on Kurken Island. She is living a peaceful life on the island, but is yearning to learn more about Alchemy. She decides to take Tao up on his invitation to come to the royal capital. He wants her to help him explore some ancient ruins in the area, but before she leaves Moritz Brunnen, Boz’s father, gives her a very mysterious stone. During their first expedition, Ryza discovers the stone has some connection to these ruins. The duo also find an ancient compass that is key to unlocking the history of these ruins. This sets events in motion that will lead Ryza and her friends on yet another amazing adventure.
So far, I have to say the story here is everything a sequel should be. It jumps right into the action, the returning characters show a great amount of growth and the new characters add a great new dynamic to the mix. Patricia Abelheim, a.k.a. Patty, is the daughter of a very affluent family in the royal capital. Tao is a tutor for her school studies, so the two have developed a close relationship. Don’t let her cuteness fool you though. Her father was once a knight, and she has learned to handle a blade with no issues. Clifford Dizwell is a treasure hunter Ryza encounters on her way to the capital. He seems a bit shady most of the time, but he’s a guy that likely has a heart of gold as well. Lastly, we have Serri Glaus. She is of the Oren race just like Lila. A very soft spoken girl that doesn’t show much excitement about anything. She joins Ryza to explore the ruins, looking for a flower that can rid her land of the poison that infects it. She is much more distant to Ryza than her other companions. Likely because she cannot forget what the alchemists of old have done to her lands, so her trust for them is lacking to say the least.
The real-time combat system from Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout is back, and has seen some improvements. Just like last time characters will attack automatically, and you will gain access to more powerful attacks as your tactics level increases. This time around, you can manually block attacks with the party member you are controlling. This will not only reduce damage, but also help gain AP faster for special attacks. Speaking of special attacks, those can now be chained together in combos. You can do as many attacks as your accumulated AP will allow. The Core Crystal item system is back as well, but it has seen a few changes. Items in combat will still consume CC instead of being depleted, but the CC is earned by performing attacks during battle. This is a bit different than the set amount you had in the previous game. Each character will have a maximum amount of CC they can stock during battle, and this can be upgraded later in the game. I felt this was a good change, since they added a quick item command for 10 AP to get you out of a jam and the new item rush. This will let you spend all of your CC at once to use as many items as you want. Need healing and want to slam the enemy with a bomb at the same time? No problem, so long as you have the CC to do so.
Overall, Alchemy hasn’t seen a big number of changes beyond some QoL improvements, and a new strengthening system. I will dive into this more when my full review comes down the line, but one big change is the Alchemy Skills tree. Ryza will still earn points for everything you cook up, but instead of gaining levels to increase her skills, you can pick and choose which ones you wish to upgrade on the skills tree. Some skills will be locked until you explore certain ruins, but this gives you a lot of flexibility when upgrading. Want to gather better quality ingredients or do you want more quantity first? Take the tree any way you wish to gain access to what you think will help you the most at the time. You can get to what you want pretty quickly since you earn a good amount of points per item you make, and taking quests in the café will earn you some extra points to spend as well.
Exploration in Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy has seen big changes. The first thing I want to mention may seem like a small detail, but it’s a huge one in this man’s humble opinion. You can now see what type of ingredient you’re going to gather before you pick it up. This saves you a ton of time if you don’t remember which tool harvests what ingredient for point X. I wouldn’t say the areas are bigger than last time, but the maps are certainly more dynamic. The ability to climb, swim and crawl to reach areas gives each field a great sense of depth. Later in the game you will again access to an ancient beast as a mount for Ryza. Not only does it move around the map quickly and is very cute, it can dig at certain spots to find ingredients you may not be able to get in that area with other methods.
While the field exploration is fantastic, when you start exploring the ruins is where the real fun begins. At the start of each one you will be given a list of research tasks. These have been pretty simple so far, defeat X enemy or find X location. Once those are complete, your compass will begin to work and lead you to all of the memory fragments and vestiges. You will have to explore to find these, and once you get close enough you will get a ping at the top of the screen showing the direction they are in. As you collect these, you can fill out the Exploration Diary. Each entry will give you clues to which memory fragment or vestige will fill in the blanks. When each section is completed, Ryza will be rewarded with special recipes and skill points. This will also unlock a new area of the Alchemy Skills tree.
All in all, I really love the changes to exploration here. I felt in the last few games I was just running through areas collecting items I needed, and that was it. I never really felt the need to explore an area fully. This changes that and makes it a blast to do as well. I also love how the Exploration Diary helps flesh out the story and lore of the world. I’ve been playing these games a long time, and I’m more invested in these characters and setting than I have been in a long time.
So far, I am blown away by Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy. Gust has done something a lot of folks fail at. They took a very well received title and made a sequel that is even better. The combat flows better and the exploration is the best I’ve seen in this franchise to this day. If you were a fan of Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout, based on what I’ve seen so far, you should probably pre-order this one. You’ll get some great costume bonuses and you’ll find more of what you love here. If you haven’t played the first game in the Atelier Secret series, there is still time to snag it up and get ready for this wonderful sequel. I think you will be glad you did.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy will release on PC via Steam, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch on January 26th, 2021.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret FairyAtelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret HideoutAtelier seriesGust Co. Ltd.Koei Tecmopreview