Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout is an RPG game that belongs to the Atelier series. It involves mechanics such as crafting and gathering more heavily than other RPGs, but it does so in a way that rather than it being it a chore, it becomes an enjoyable process of discovery and progression. The story follows a clash between respecting old traditions and cultures. Rejecting all that is not a part of those in contrast to breaking one’s own shell and innovating, looking to bring change, which is what the protagonist Ryza tries to do.
+ Worlds full of life and creatures, rich in graphic details.
+ Gameplay is energetic and fun using the battle system of action points.
+ Is a good entry point for those wanting to get in the Atelier series of RPG’s
+ Multiple mechanics that unlock as the player progresses through the game add layers to all gameplay aspects.
+ Characters are likable and essential to the story, getting involved in a chain of events and developing traits, skills, and goals.
+ Synthesis and gathering are simple enough not to become annoying but also feature deep replay-ability. Trying to craft the best version of items and gear.
-Side quests are, for the most part, dull and pointless.
-Recycle bosses, as well as a general lack of them, bring down some of the game’s hype since there are no many vital enemies to defeat.
– The story suffers from inconsistent pacing, it is painfully slow at first and abruptly rushed near the end of the game. There is room for improvement in getting the correct length.
The game uses the action point system, meaning that a character gets a turn when their portrait reaches the gap in the speed bar. Player’s must progress through areas and dungeons with a party of three active characters and another three as reserves to be able to change formations and lineups. The AP system works as follows: a character can always execute a normal attack without any points, but they need them to use skills. Points are awarded by dealing with damage, killing enemies, performing joint actions, using items, or inflicting the break status.
While the combat system can be simple at first, it keeps introducing more mechanics that made it more enjoyable. Using the right timing between the negative and aggressive stances feels rewarding, and some battles require quick reflexes to push through. Skills are satisfying to use, and the orders keep things interesting through multiple encounters. Boss battles are exciting thanks to game music and their design in Gameplay that becomes an adequate challenge. Regrettably, there are few bosses in the game, and some of them are just the same boss with different colors.
There are also tactics levels, which you can spend your hard-earned AP in a battle to increase. This will sacrifice your immediate action potential but benefit you in the long run for that battle. There are five levels, the first three levels increase the number of regular attacks (therefore the gain of more AP) and skills evolve into more powerful versions. Level four and five give more damage, and the possibility to use fatal order. An ultimate devastating technique that can be used when it is not your turn.
What I ended up doing most of the time is reaching tactics lv three, then using skills, orders, and items as the situation demanded. There was not really a need for levels four and five until the latest parts of the game, and depending on the monsters you battle, you might want to reconsider your approach. Sometimes it is better to deal with the encounter as fast as possible, even at the expense of AP.
Orders are rich in animation; they are enjoyable to watch and fun to accomplish them, even more, when they become extra orders, which are advanced versions. When an enemy is hit by one, their turn will get delayed, and the player will gain additional AP, so it is in the best interest to use them. Something annoying, however, was that orders that required Lv 40 skills kept sometimes popping when characters were Lv 20. These were uncommon but not rare.
Synthesis and Gathering
Synthesis and gathering is the other part of the Gameplay. At first, I thought it could become a bothersome element. Still, in Atelier Ryza, they made it friendly to new players while also keeping some of the extra layers of depth. They are easy to do. Still, finding out the best materials or synthesis the best versions of items is a challenging process that makes you look forward to crafting something really powerful or useful.
To explain that layer of depth a bit, you can synthesis something as simple as an ingot. Then as you unlock more areas and get better materials, you can craft that ingot but make it so much better than the other ingot pales in comparison. Giving it extra effects, quality, traits, skills, and so on. You can then use that improved ingot to make better versions of existing weapons or craft powerful ones. The game follows that chain; if you want the best results, you need to gather and synthesis the best ingredients. An alchemist is only as good as their tools.
For gathering, the game uses different elements in which one can interact in areas. From brushes to trees, rocks, crystals, fishing spots, bags, defeating monsters, and more, the player can gather different materials. There are also a variety of tools to gather such materials as hammers, scythes, or explosives. Depending on the tool you use, you can get one set of materials or the other from the same elements. The game doesn’t tell you how to get the materials exactly but gives you hints by telling you the area in which they are and the tool to gather them.
I found myself spending a reasonable amount of time with this aspect of the game. I would say gear is more important than leveling in this game as I really didn’t need to grind but rather craft better equipment. Creating items to use in battle is fun. Assigning roles and having a general strategy with a lineup. It makes it feel like the choices I made outside battles, were carried into them and having a profound impact on how they play out.
The story is good, but it does have some issues; for starters in the early parts, it has a slow start. Events move slowly, and something is artificially extended. Characters keep dealing with the same topic on different conversations, and it is sluggish. Once that early part is over, the game story does pick up, and it is a perfect one. Ryza and her friends start as dreamers on an island and becoming involved in a series of events that will change their lives forever. They are incredibly likable characters and essential figures in the story.
The latest part of the game is unfortunately rushed too, one moment, you are exploring areas and finding out the truth of events. Trying to look at the bigger picture and the next moment, the game is getting ready to wrap everything up. I think the game could have been lengthier, seeing as how some aspects of the story are skipped or just bee-lined to the end.
What I like about it is how characters have their backgrounds. Different personalities that create a diverse cast, realistic motives, strengths, and weaknesses, struggles to overcome, conflicts with antagonists, and development. Each of them is working to break out of their shell and chasing their dreams. This puts them at odds with other characters. Everyone on the island had always been taught to reject new ideas and follow long-established traditions and principles. This brings a clash to the protagonist’s beliefs and goals, which are to become something more, go on an adventure, and not being afraid of change.
The game runs stable 60-80 FPS on a GTX 1060 at the highest settings.
The music in the game is excellent and adds more to the whole thing. Featuring a healthy variety in battle themes, types of music for the different areas, and important ones to elevate moments in the story. Usually, I am not too invested in the music element of a game. Still, in Atelier Ryza, I enjoyed it a lot.
What Makes It Special
What makes Atelier Ryza unique is that it is a good entry point for new players of the series and those that would like to try out a more straightforward RPG. That simplistic approach is not a bad thing, it makes for an easier to digest the experience. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, bringing new mechanics and elements to add some layers as well as avoiding getting stale.
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout is a solid RPG game. The story has some problems but is overall an enjoyable ride. The choices made outside of encounters carry into it, making synthesis and gathering a core aspect rather than an extra or side diversion. Combat is fun, and unleashing skills, or taking extra turns is rewarding if done right. Worlds are full of life, and the environments are beautiful. If you want to get into the RPG genre or the Atelier series, this game is for you.
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