(I think from the title you can gather that there be Spoilers here.)
So yah, I finally beat it. Actually it was several days ago, but I’ve only now found time to write this little update. As I said previously, I was really hankering to get back into Cities: Skylines, and I figured I was pretty close to the end (they had that “go meet up with everyone important” that often precedes the end bosses in these games), so I decided to run for it.
My gear at that point was pretty good, I thought. I’d gotten some things to 999 quality, and even if I couldn’t get everything there, I could get pretty high up there. I didn’t bother with reforging my gear though, since a lot of the best stuff is apparently post-game materials, and I didn’t want to have to bother with the entire process of remaking things later. On top of that, I just went with the accessories that I had equipped as I was going through the game: they hadn’t made that much of a difference at that point, so I figured I was strong enough to just use what I had, and went for the final boss.
Well, I was wrong. My weapons were strong enough, but the armor wasn’t good enough. Considering I wasn’t even close to the top tier there, made sense. So I went and made some new armor (at a higher tier, but I didn’t bother min-maxing it, since I was playing on Normal), and then went back and tried again.
Back when I did Atelier Lulua, I had quite the difficulty with the final boss. I think I beat it the first time, but it was by the skin of my teeth, after a significant amount of preparation, I thought. This time, I went in with little direct preparation, and while I didn’t get it the first time, I did get it the second go pretty easily. Well, it was also close. I didn’t anticipate the second form, so that was a fun deflation from the feeling of victory after I defeated the initial form. (And I expected it to get back up after the final victory, the way the camera hovered over the boss for a bit.) I think it was more that the Lulua boss had a bunch of annoying mechanics, and that I wasn’t nearly as effective with alchemy throughout the game as I should have been. But also there was that anticipation I had, reading the guide online. For Ryza, there was (and at the time of writing, still is) no boss guide, so I just went with whatever.
That didn’t take too long, so I was excited to move on to the next game. But we weren’t done yet! I expected that the resolving the last conflict (restoring the island’s power) would be a pretty simple deal, over in just a little bit. But no, there’s actually a whole new quest dealing with that. And, while this wasn’t quite the post-game, the first step to end-game crafting came at this point, with which the unlimited gem engine could begin (duping red stones, then using those to make philosopher’s stones, then reducing those for gems for a very high gem profit).
But, all things must come to an end. And the ending to this is rather sudden, at least for Ryza. Everybody decides that they’re moving on after this, literally. Empel and Lila of course are travelers, and since they’ve accomplished their goal here (sealing the portal), they are off to do the next one. Lent is going out adventuring, which was always his goal. Surprisingly, Tao and Bos are leaving together to go to university, to better understand the ruins and all that. And of course Klaudia is moving on with her dad, now that the business deals have been finalized. Which just leaves Ryza: the one who wanted to leave home the most is the one that ends up staying.
Well, at least for the time being. After all, we have to leave room for DLC, and a sequel. Scuttlebutt is that the next game in the trilogy will be another Ryza game. This game has been, by far, the best-selling Atelier game, and obviously Gust wants to capitalize on it. And unlike all the other protagonists, there is just a lack of finality to this story. A lot of “well, goodbye…until we meet again!” moments in the ending. And while there’s a lot unresolved with the island, which is Ryza’s nominal reason for sticking around, it isn’t anything that couldn’t be resolved off-camera between games. So there’s no story reason to not get another Ryza game.
The game feels pretty short, to be honest. I beat the game with 37 hours of play time, which is less than all of the other Atelier games on my Steam account (the next-shortest, Atelier Sophie, was 42 hours). Granted, I did no DLC content at all (since none had come out until today), but that’s still pretty quick. And I also spent a lot more time (I feel) on alchemy and getting good at that.
I think part of it is that it’s so easy to avoid combat and just go with alchemy – I wasn’t even at the final combat level of 50 when I beat the last boss, which, from what I gather, is not common, since it’s easy to grind combat levels. The new system with the alchemy bottles means that you can get materials from gathering that you would normally only be able to get from monster drops. That just makes things go a lot faster. And combat in general is just faster-paced, with the ATB-like system: turns out a lot of time is spend going through menus in battle in these games, which you can’t really do here.
And in general the story seems a lot more fast-paced than the previous games. Here it almost seems to happen in one season: at the beginning of the game, there’s talk about how it’s almost drought season, and at the end it’s a race to beat the boss before said season (because the enemies hate water). But the events of the game can’t logically fit in that time period. Just Ryza’s growth on its own puts a lie to that notion: she goes from nothing to great alchemist during the course of the game (as usual); unless she’s Alchemy Jesus, there’s no way that’s plausible. (And she’s not – Empel praises her for her talents, but in no way does he indicate that she’s anything particularly special, unlike Sophie or Totori.) I think it’s just that the feeling of urgency in the game makes the game seem to go by faster.
Speaking of DLC (we were?), the first batch dropped today. The standard extended music selection (with music from all the Atelier games, and some of the other recent Gust games), some weapon skins, and Lent’s and Tao’s side stories. Also being sold is a season pass, which gets the above, character stories for the rest of the main cast, a beach episode, a new super-hard zone, and swimsuit costumes. Each of the side stories (except maybe the beach episode) will be $6, so I’m thinking I’ll do that instead of the season pass (which is $55). No sign of new characters yet, and I don’t recall seeing them on the Japanese road map.
Overall, a good game. I’ve said many times that I don’t like paying full-price for a game, or even close to full-price, but this was worth it for me. It was a change to the formula, but I think it was for the better. I look forward to seeing the new games in this series.