Taking place three years after the events of the first game, Atelier Ryza 2 sees Ryza travelling in a bid to discover the secret behind a mysterious object. Upon reuniting with some old friends, they set off on an adventure to explore the secrets behind ruins that tie into this object and a mysterious creature that the group encounters.
As with previous games in the Atelier series, Atelier Ryza 2 is a turn based RPG that revolves around exploring areas and gathering/synthesising items for making equipment to use in combat. Unlike the dusk trilogy however, later games in the Atelier series have removed the time constraints imposed and give a bit more freedom for the player to take things at their own pace. A staple of the series is how laidback and comforting things feel, and this game is no exception. Rather than focus on a massive story with a lot of twists and turns, Atelier Ryza 2 is more of a character driven story, with events providing a catalyst to show more scenes of the characters interacting.
The plot itself revolves around Ryza and friends exploring ruins that are linked to an ancient civilization. Here the game introduces a mechanic where the player can explore memories which are then collected as items to be placed on a chart within the game in order to discover the full picture of each area's history and to receive completion bonuses. These mainly consist of points that can be spent on the skill tree.
This tree is where the player can use the Skill points they've earned from exploring ruins, completing bulletin board requests and synthesising items in order to learn new recipes for alchemy, gain better quality items, increase the quantity you're able to carry when gathering and even learn new methods and techniques for synthesising, much like the previous games in the series. The game loops around visiting an area, gathering items, going back to the Atelier, synthesising items, going to the bulletin board to hand over gathered items, synthesising items, taking on hunting missions to earn money and repeating the process.
All this makes the story feel rather secondary to the foraging, and the main process of playing the game is the comforting laid back feel of gathering items to synthesise newer and better items in order to gain SP to unlock more things on the skill tree before deciding to progress with the story to unlock the next branch of the skill tree and repeating the process. To some this pattern may sound rather repetitive and dull but for those who want a nice relaxing RPG to pass the time with, this is the game for you.
Despite teh repetition, there are a few rather complex systems at play. First of all the Alchemy system starts off rather simple, but gets increasingly complex as the game progresses. Introducing new mechanics such as item morphing, which unlocks new item recipes by using a specific component in the recipe, item rebuilding which allows the player to take an item they've already created through synthesis and add to it using gems which are gained by destroying items. The game only provides a brief overview to get you started, but to excel you'll need to experiment. Fortunately the game (with the new gathering skills and tools that can be unlocked) provides more than enough material to help with this. Tied into the plentiful materials is the ability to fast travel from anywhere to any of the games dungeons and fields to explore and gather. While using fast travel the game also shows when events and quests are unlocked, making the need to fast travel between various locations an integral part of the game.
Along with the synthesis, the game boasts what appears to be a simple turned-based combat system where standard attacks are activated by pressing circle and skills are accessed by holding R1 along with a face button - but there are a few things to consider. Firstly, you'll need to equip items to your party, and each required CC to use. At first I wasn't sure how to earn CC and didn't really use items. This changed once I'd completed a dungeon and unlocked the ability to increase the Item Core each character has, which increases the base and total CC available. Then I learned CC also ties into the Tactics Level guage located at the bottom of the screen, which increases when the player attacks the enemies weak spot, allowing the player to chain attacks together. So while at first battle seemed to just be a button mashing affair with the occasional use of skills thrown in, once I learned about action orders and proper item use this opened things up tremendously.
While the new complex synthesis and combat mechanics start off feeling a bit cumbersome, once mastered they add a lot of depth to the game. Theres still that classic comfortingly familiar feel the series is known for, and at the same time it adds enough new ideas to keep things fresh.
Speaking of new, this is the first time the series has appeared on PS5. This upgrade was unlocked via a free upgrade, by inserting the PS4 disc into the PS5 console. As far as things go it feels like a port that only really takes advantage of the new console's power to Improve loading times. The graphics are in 4K and feel bright and colourful. Other than the fast load times there doesn't seem to be any advantage to having it on PS5 compared to playing on a PS4. If you are one of the few who have been unlucky not to get a PS5 and are holding out on playing this until you get one, there's really no need to wait.
Overall Atelier Ryza 2 feels like a very familiar game. A comfy RPG with a laid back approach to story and quests with a combat and synthesis mechanic that gets a bit more complex the more you delve into things.
Reviewed on a Playstation 5 console using free digital upgrade from Playstation 4 Disc