The follow-up to the extremely cozy alchemy-driven Atelier Ryza has arrived. How does it measure up to its predecessor? Let’s dive into the twenty-second entry in the Atelier franchise.
+The new alchemy system introduced in Ryza 1 has been tweaked once more, giving it an even more addicting quality.
+The overall combat system feels much nicer this time around, while lacking the role system of the first title it adds new features to manage.
+Just as with the original, the inclusion of side stories related to characters adds more content and a small peek into the lives of the characters.
-There is a disturbing lack of variety in models present in the game, for both enemies and NPCs.
-Being forced into side quest cutscenes via proximity gets tiring very quickly.
-Despite the overall improvements to the synthesis process, there’s a lack of intuitiveness when it comes to which Traits can be used on specific items.
I can say without any hesitation I have been awaiting this game to come across my desk with the greatest of anticipation. Not just for Ryza and her friends, but the pure jubilation I experience while playing any Atelier game. Imagine my immense glee when I was informed that, yes, we have indeed been provided a copy of Atelier Ryza 2. I’m so excited to play this that, even in the middle of trying to work through my ever-expanding backlog of games, I shut down everything to get started immediately. This game is a reunion for me. A comforting friend that welcomes me in these troubling times. It’s also a horrible addiction that threatens to devour my already unstable sleeping habits with systems that greatly appeal to my crafting obsession.
As ever, I have played Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy on its Normal difficulty setting to set a baseline experience. I would also like to state that I will be using spoilers in the context of Ryza 1 as well as this title.
Three Years Home, Three Years Alone
Our story opens, once more in the familiar surroundings of Kurken Island. Three years have passed since the end of Atelier Ryza. Our heroine, Riesalin Stout, stayed home on the island while her dear friends departed. In that time Ryza has continued her studies as an alchemist while also becoming a teacher to children on her home island. One day she is visited by Moritz Brunnen, the de facto leader of the island, and presented with a task. Discover everything she can about a particular stone that has been in the care of the Brunnen family for generations.
This task, in addition to a letter from her friend Tao, is the catalyst for Ryza to leave Kurken Island and head to the mainland capital. This is incredibly surprising. We have absolutely zero control of Ryza on Kurken Island for the entirety of the game, but we do see it a time or two during cutscenes. While I’m excited that the entirety of this game takes place in new locales, I’m also somewhat disappointed I wasn’t able to explore the hideout.
The railroading this time around isn’t as bad, there’s a bit of initial exposition and exploration to familiarize yourself with your new surroundings in Ashra-am Baird, the capital city. I’m a bit upset the game predicted my hoarding tendencies and removed any gathering nodes I could access until after my first trip to the city, no early resource acquisition this time. The capital consists of a few distinct districts.
You have your Central District, where Ryza’s apartment and atelier as well as most of the shops are located. Then you have the Artisan’s district, where you’ll be able to buy equipment and refine gear you’ve already acquired. The only important part of the Academy District is the Cafe. The Cafe itself is where you can go to accept requests from the various people living in the city, ranging from monster extermination to synthesis requests. Lastly is the Farming District, there’s not a whole lot to do in this district, unfortunately.
Kleptomania Has Never Been So Rewarding
Finally, after getting through the initially required exposition I can do what I do best. Hoard an unhealthy amount of items I will lose complete and total track of when I go on to synthesize equipment later down the line. Something I do so with much gusto. I spent many hours of my time with this title out in the field repeatedly filling my basket with resources. There’s little downside to doing so aside from initial time investment, while there are several benefits to be reaped. Your various materials will have a selection of Traits that can be put on the final product of synthesis. This is a boon for those like myself who will invest numerous hours in the full process, from gathering to synthesis, to make a single piece of equipment just so.
In the original title, you were extremely limited in the number of tools you could take out on an expedition with you, this could prove a problem. In some cases, you could create a combination tool, such as a Fishing Rod Net which could gather from both fishing spots and plant spots. Even taking this into consideration, you only had five slots for gathering tools. Atelier Ryza 2 addressed this issue by cutting down on the total amount of gathering tools, in addition to splitting tools between Gathering Tools and Adventure Items. No longer will your Wind Shoes take up a precious Gathering Tool slot. Such a change is welcome as it allows you to bring every tool with you at once, without limiting the pool you can gather from.
Other notable changes pertaining to gathering resources is that the size of your basket has been doubled from the default size of Atelier Ryza 1, as well as the removal of the Mirage Loupe. The Mirage Loupe’s function, the overall improvement of resource quality, has instead been added to the Skill Tree. The Skill Tree itself is another wonderful addition, allowing the player to pick and choose where to prioritize the expenditure of accrued SP across increases to resource gathering quantity and quality, synthesis recipes, additional synthesis functions and so much more.
Synthesis this time around has been changed up ever so slightly. Instead of having immediate access to subsequent material loops after using a material, you must activate a specified number of loops to activate the full grid. During this process, you can use Essences to augment the process such as changing the element of that loop, doubling the effectiveness of every material used for the current synthesis, and unlocking additional levels of effects. Combine this with the returning Multiplicauldron and you can approach godhood.
I had one minor issue with the overall synthesis process, that is while planning out which traits and effects to carry over to a piece of equipment, I found out that the skill wasn’t applicable to the final product. An example is a skill that could increase your resistance to elemental-based attacks that do not in fact work on a piece of armor, but instead on an accessory.
Alchemist Versus Nature Round Two
So what is an alchemist to do with all of these wonderful weapons, armor, and explosives created through alchemy? Turn them on the local fauna of course, how else are you going to get more materials to start the process all over again. Battle this time around has kept me engaged from start to finish. This is largely due to the addition of a more active Guard system. Time your guard properly and not only do you minimize the amount of damage taken, but you also get awarded with bonus AP so you can lay down an even harder smackdown on the enemies.
You can either build up your AP more rapidly with your allies set to Support or have them spend it on skills as soon as they’re able to help build up your Tactics Level in Aggressive. Using skills will also build up Core Charges which allows the use of your support and offensive combat items. There’s so much more in combat that feels active rather than something to simply observe. Add to this that the level cap is one hundred right off the bat, there’s a much healthier difficulty progression.
There are two real power moves this time around. Fatal Drives return but aren’t unlocked until fairly deep into the game. These attacks are just as damaging and cinematic and ever. They’re a spectacle unto themselves, and take some serious work to even achieve. Reaching Tactics Level 5 in Atelier Ryza 1 was a breeze due to its tie to your built-up AP, but in Ryza 2, skill usage builds up your tactics level. Second is your Core Drive, these are special abilities that boast a wide variety of effects.
Core Drives are used by storing up enough Core Charges to use the correct combination of requisite items for the currently equipped Core Drive, and can only be used once per character per battle. All the battle systems feed into each other because of this, and it is so much more fun. Any Core Charges which remain unused at the end of battle get converted and added to your Core Bottle, to allow you to use healing items outside of battle. This conversion isn’t one-to-one, but it eliminates the need to use precious damage-dealing turns to heal up your party.
This brings me to a big gripe I have with the game, and it is one that ties not only to combat but exploring the main hub of the game as well. There’s a large amount of re-used models in this game, to the point where I have witnessed four of the exact same character in the streets of Ashra-am Baird.
The diversity in the types of enemies in the game leaves much to be desired as well. This feeling is unfortunately present even among the bosses of the game. I genuinely hope that Gust addresses this in their next Atelier title, whether that be a third entry in the Ryza series or a new line altogether.
Even through the course of writing this, I haven’t stopped playing Atelier Ryza 2. It has, as games such as this always do, sparked an addiction. The need to get the best possible equipment. To fill out the Guide with all obtainable resources and equipment. To overcome every foe. It hits a lot of the right notes for me. Sadly it also hits a few sour notes. Being forced into side stories based on proximity is inconsistent, some side stories initiate when entering a new zone, others require you to actively speak to an NPC to initiate a cutscene, and still, others seem to have a large radius to trigger them.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy
Platforms: PC, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: Gust Co Ltd
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: January 26th, 2021
As mentioned above the lack of diversity in models is disappointing, there’s a definite need for more unique-looking enemies among the various environments so they look more well adapted. Despite those two issues I had with the game, I love it. It makes me crave more. I am ever so excited to see if Gust continues the story of Ryza and if not I look forward with equal anticipation for their next project. My sleep schedule may not thank you, but I certainly will. At the end of the day, this is a title I couldn’t recommend enough to people, just like the first Ryza game, and will likely continue to do so for several years.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game for review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Kennard Daniel Prim isn’t just your average gamer, he’s a die-hard fan of the single-player genre, specializing in imported games from Japan as well as his love for everything RPG-related.