Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key Review

A Stout finale.
Atelier Ryza 3 Header

Another Atelier trilogy is coming to an end this year, and this is easily the most meaningful finale the series has ever seen. Where most Atelier games have slotted into thematic trilogies with differing protagonists, we’ve seen Reisalin “Ryza” Stout grow up through multiple games, breaking out of the monotony of childhood while discovering alchemy, then uncovering mysteries as an experienced alchemist. Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key brings Ryza and her friends back for one last summer, and just as they’ve grown and matured, the game itself has come to be even more polished and refined than previous entries.

Atelier games are typically easy to jump into blind since almost every one is a standalone experience, but Atelier Ryza 3 relies on your connection to the characters and their experiences. A brief recap movie of the first two games might help jog your memory if you’re a returning player, but new players will likely struggle to engage with a story that’s so tightly structured around the ideas of reflection, growth, and change for our protagonists. The sudden appearance of artificial islands, strange self-materializing keys, and a mysterious voice in Ryza’s head lead to her gathering her companions from the last few years together to investigate these mysteries, and along the way they come to reflect on how far they’ve come and where they might go next.

Atelier Ryza 3 is kind of like Fast & Furious 9 – stay with me on this one. As the game progresses, seeing almost every key character return into action a little older and a little wiser hits hard, and the long-simmering growth and development for Ryza as a protagonist across multiple entries helps create one of the most emotionally impactful stories Atelier has ever delivered. No, there aren’t any car chases or shootouts, but there are plenty of adorable moments between Ryza and Klaudia, which is sort of the same?

Atelier Ryza 3 story

Atelier Ryza 3 isn’t just a nostalgic re-hash, though. There have been some impressive changes and updates to the overall experience, especially when it comes to exploration. Previously, you would explore various small zones to fight enemies or gather materials, connected purely by a flat map in your main menu. In Atelier Ryza 3, these environments are fully and seamlessly connected for the first time. Four different regions in the game contain a bunch of different zones, and while you still need to transition between the larger regions, each one can be fully explored without ever seeing a single loading screen or menu. For long-time fans, it feels incredibly familiar to what Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey did with its large zones, but these are on an even bigger scale. It really gives this game a sense of discovery and wonder that is leagues above what prior games have offered.

The feeling of existing in these spaces is better than ever, too. Gathering items in the environment is a key part of the Atelier experience, but it’s only now with Atelier Ryza 3 that you can seamlessly gather materials and flowers as you continue to run around – not unlike the seamless way you grab materials in games like Monster Hunter Rise or The Last of Us.

A lot of the fun traversal features from the previous game return or have evolve for Atelier Ryza 3. You can ride dolphins, set up zipline shortcuts, and more. The game world is explorable in almost every corner, though the lack of any kind of fluid climbing system prevents you from truly being able to scale buildings or rocky hills. Still, it’s wild how much of an improvement these wide open and seamless spaces are, and the fact that load times when you fast travel across landmarks or regions is almost instantaneous is icing on the cake.

Atelier Ryza 3 open world

Alchemy and combat remain largely unchanged in Atelier Ryza 3. When you want to craft items to equip your party or give to an NPC or sell for money, you return to your atelier hideout to pick a recipe, pick your ingredients, and get synthesizing. The grid-style synthesis sytem can be overwhelming, but the way it lets you finely tune your items with bonus effects and abilities is better than ever. I won’t front, though – I often relied on the way too convenient auto-synthesis function that lets you pick a recipe, choose from a “high quality” or “low quality” ingredient pool, and then sit back and watch as the game speeds through placing every possible item into the synthesis grid for you. Funnily enough, while previous games tightly tie your craft as an alchemist into the quest progression, a lot of your time spend synthesizing in Atelier Ryza 3 will be self-driven as you aim to improve your gear or polish off various low-key side quests.

Like prior games, combat in Atelier Ryza 3 is the ultimate combination of turn-based and real-time excellence for some of the best JRPG combat you can find. Battles see a party of three characters facing off against enemies, with friend and foe both waiting for a timer to fill-up that allows them to dish out their attacks. As your party lands hits, you build up AP that can be spent to use skill attacks, and CC that can be spent to use items. You’ve also got the ability to tag in any three members from your rear-party mid-combo, giving you a full set of six heroes to mix together on the fly during battle.

Atelier Ryza 3 combat

The major addition here are the Keys – which play just as much of a role in the story as they do in exploration and combat. Keys can be crafted or equipped mid-battle, giving you a variety of creative buffs or debuffs that smart players can strategize around to do things like dish out endless attacks or instantly recharge key skills.

One more area of Atelier Ryza 3 that has seen some welcome improvement is with the overall aesthetic of the game. While the character and environment art style has remained faithful to the first in the trilogy, there are so many little touches that make the whole experience feel so much more premium – god-rays and sunshine fill every scene beautifully, character eyes move with a natural sort of aimless twitch, and a lot of dialogue scenes even employ the sort of subtle camera movement you would see in some triple-A games. The UI is just as polished, with smooth menu transitions and absolutely gorgeous, rewarding pop-ups when you discover new landmarks or finish off a quest.

Every Atelier Ryza entry has been the best Atelier game yet, and Atelier Ryza 3 is no exception. It's the perfect final chapter for fans of Ryza and her story, but it's also the most polished and expansive exploration of the core ideals of the franchise we've seen yet – alchemy feels natural, exploration feels natural, and combat is a delightful adrenaline rush. It's sad to see my favourite tomboy alchemist go away, but if this game is any indication, the Atelier series will only get even better from here.
  • Perfect end to the trilogy
  • Gorgeous visual and UI upgrades
  • Open fields are a game-changing upgrade
  • Lack of climbing makes some environments tough to navigate
Written by
I'm a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City. I'm into a pretty wide variety of games, and shows, and films, and music, and comics and anime. Anime and video games are my biggest vice, though, so feel free to talk to me about those. Bury me with my money.