Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout is bloody amazing in every single way! Probably not the most professional way to start a review but blessed Nimah what a game!
I have never played any of the previous games, in fact I had never heard of them. This was my first blind step into the Atelier series. Now I feel compelled to go buy the entire series.
I’ll admit when I saw Japenese RPG with a young girl in the title pic I had a small internal groan. Here we go again more overly sexualised, weird Japanese nonsense that is incredibly popular for some reason…oh how wrong was I!
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout sees you follow the story of Ryza and her two friends Lent and Tao has they embark on their final summer as children. Seen by everybody in the town as mischievous young children and slackers the story is a wonderful tale of maturity, understanding, and finding your place in the world.
The first thing that hit me in Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout is the fact that Ryza isn’t your archetypal JRPG feminine archetype. Ryza is strong, independent, self-assured and outspoken.
Ryza knows exactly what she wants from life and that is an adventure. While her thirst for adventure frustrates her parents and is looked down upon by the rest of the village Ryza refuses to let this affect her and fit into the Island societies ways. She wants what she wants and no one can deny her it. It is extremely refreshing to see a Japanese game present a female character in such a strong confident manner.
The story progresses at a decent pace and twists and turns at just the right points. The characters development is served in small incremental pieces as the story expands and develops from being a group of mischevious children in a secluded village to discovering the history of Kurken Island, its ancient secrets and ultimately becoming its defenders.
The main narrative of Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout is perfectly paced. Moving at a quick enough speed to keep you interested yet not to complex to lose track if you get preoccupied with crafting, gathering or side quests.
The introduction of Lent’s father has an abusive alcoholic parent is jarring when it first appears but is dealt with in a tactfully if somewhat unsettling way. For a game that starts with such a relaxed and fun story it quickly pulls you in and genuinely has you feeling for the characters. At times it doesn’t feel like you are playing a game but following a personal and engaging story that you are emotionally invested in.
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout is an absolute joy to play. The world is vibrant and colourful. Controls are simple and intuitive. So much so that it is incredibly easy to lose hours to gathering materials and crafting. ( I’m going to cover crafting shortly as it needs it own entire section)
The fast travel system in the game is quite simply sublime. A simple press of the touchpad at any time and you can quickly jump to any area of the game map you have previously visited. I found myself using the fast travel system constantly by the back end of the game and was so thankful it was there. Especially when you are going from one area to another just to be sent back again.
Whilst exploring the maps, whether it be gathering or to progress the story, you can see all the monsters available to fight. There is no random pop up battles. you can decide to attack the monsters or avoid them be on your way.
If you do decide to attack the monster or fail to avoid them, you will be taken to the battle which is an active turn-based affair. There is a tactical undertone to the battles with AP, Tactic Levels, Core Items and Action Orders but 99% of the time you will find your self just button bashing attack.
Battles are pretty quick-paced. You control one of your party of three and can switch between them at any time in battle with a simple press of a button. While you are controlling one of the party members the remaining two attack of their own accord and won’t use AP unless you set the attack mode to aggressive. At which point they greedily use any and all AP available to just wail on the enemy.
With so much happening on screen at once battles can quickly become an exercise in controlled chaos. especially when the camera begins to swing and pan around for skills and actions. Nevertheless it looks confusing but in reality, is quite a simple straight forward and enjoyable system.
Crafting, or more precisely Alchemy, is at the core of Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout. Whilst there is a simple tutorial when you first unlock alchemy it doesn’t really do too good a job of explaining how to craft materials.
Yes, I could craft items and new weapons early on but I didn’t really understand why it worked the way it did and the game really offered no explanation. After a bit of trial and error and some experimentation suddenly the alchemy system just clicked in my head and it is quite possibly one of the greatest, most in-depth and versatile crafting system I have come across in a game.
You can just quite simply put the materials needed into the material loop, craft the item and be on your way. On the other hand, you can easily spend more than an hour building your own personal weapon. I got lost in crafting because instead of just crafting a couple of ingots to use as the base metals for my new weapon I went to the time and effort of crafting ingots with the attack and stat increase traits I wanted so that when used to craft my weapon they would transfer over.
It is impossible in this written review to convey the sense of achievement and pride I felt with my brand new personalised weapon that I had meticulously crafted each and every ingredient for in order to create an amazing monster-slaying staff that quite simply cannot be described as anything other than Artisan.
I implore you please for the love of gaming take the time to explore and discover exactly how alchemy works and you will not be sorry. Seriously the crafting and gathering in Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout is so complex, satisfying and in-depth that it could easily be a game all on its own. In fact, the reason this review is so late is that I have lost massive chunks of time to creating and discovering new recipes.
As a games reviewer, I have a hell of a lot of games pass across my desk. Some great, some not so good and others just flat out bad. All of them need to be reviewed and it is the life of a games reviewer to constantly move from one game to the next. It is an absolute joy when something like Atelier Ryza not only lands on my desk but takes up all my spare time as well. Honestly, I haven’t had a game gab me like this in a hell of a long time.
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout is a wonderful and complete game. The beautiful, moving and engaging storyline. The genius and absorbing crafting system. The simple yet tactical battle system all comes together to form an absolute gem of a game.
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout this so good that even after 50 hours of gameplay ( I probably could have reached the final boss in about 20 hours if I had rushed) I still feel compelled to go back and finish it. I refuse to have my last memory of the game being absolutely battered by the Ravaging Queen.
Yes, that probably means another hour or two of grinding to level up and most likely another 10 hours of gathering and crafting new gear but not a single second of that will feel like a grind. I honestly can’t profess how much you need this game in your collection.
Final Score – A resounding 10/10
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout is available now on PS4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC