The End of Atelier Ryza (For Now)

(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.

Saturday Short Thoughts (and Pictures)


I discovered something about myself lately: I only have the mental energy to be excited for two, maybe 2.5, games at a time. Since I’m currently playing five or six, I have a problem. I mean, I guess four can go into maintenance mode in my heart doing dailies and such, but what really happens is that I can barely handle five of them, and even the dailies get half-hearted. I mean, I don’t even play Dragalia Lost at (or near) reset anymore, GBF has been just login for the login bonus (not even doing the daily hards or arcanum or any of that). Even in ESO, it’s either going full-tilt into adventure, or barely summoning up the will to finish the daily writs; fortunately the weekend is almost here (I get Sunday and Monday off), and I can dedicate more time into this game. Of course, Ryza gets all my love right now.

I wonder who made those.

For some reason a Cities: Skylines video was suggested on Youtube. I started watching. Then another one. Then a challenge series. Man, now I want to play that game. But Ryza isn’t done yet…no, I have to be strong. This is why I never finished Atelier Lydie and Suelle, because I got distracted! I mentioned in one of my previous posts that C:S might be my game after Ryza, and I think that got a lot more sure.

Smaller ones. Maybe Tao’s doing it.

Speaking of Ryza, I think I’m at the point where things start to really open up. Not only are the enemies a lot harder (I’ve started dying to normal mobs sometimes, again), but I’m opening up more and more advanced recipes. I’ve now gotten all of my gathering tools combined, so I can use all at once. I do need more stuff to actually upgrade said tools to usefulness, but it’s a start. It’s slow going though, because now that I have access to everything I need to spend time doing everything. Good place to be.

That RPG feeling.

Some doofus I follow on Twitter got to go to Japan. Looking at some of his pictures, it looks like the kind of place I’d want to go. Not too foreign, but still a bit different from what I’m used to. (I’m more than a bit of a homebody, so the familiarity is comforting.) But then I see all that Japanese writing, and I’m back to being quite content with reading comics. On a scale of 1-5 descending in Japanese fluency, I’m about an 8. That, and I remember that it’s something like 13-hour flight, and I Nope right out.

Having said that, I’m starting to get that wanderlust feeling again. (I’m a deep and complicated fellow.) This summer, I had to go down to SoCal for my brother’s wedding. Going down, it was hell. I hate traffic. I hate getting delayed by cars going the speed limit – or even slower! (Three lanes on major arterial freeways should be mandatory.) I hate having to push the brake pedal for cars going 1mph slower than me! Argh, so impatient. And it was even worse going into California, because that’s when it got dark and boring. Coming back was still hell in California (actual traffic, even in the desert). But after leaving the state I went off the usual route, taking some more minor highways. Talk about a difference in stress! I think I passed maybe, maybe ten people in total (of course I passed them all); there was a stretch of maybe a hundred miles where I saw nobody going in the same direction (and like one or two in the opposite). That changed my whole perspective on travel. Trouble is, travel takes time. Time I don’t have. Well, I do have, but that takes time away from vidya! Oh, what a wretched state I’m in!

Part of the problem of IntPiPoMo right now, for me, is that of all my games I’m playing right now, only one is on Steam. These I have access to wherever I have my laptop, too, because Steam has a Linux client, and Chromebooks can do that. Not so with my non-steam stuff. So that’s why there’s a lot of Ryza pictures, and not much else (though I could have sworn I uploaded a lot of ESO pictures to my google drive recently…but I guess not).

The Hazards of Buying a New Game

As a general rule, I don’t buy new games. I don’t like paying a lot of money for a game that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted by hundreds or thousands of people, especially anons. That, and I just plain don’t like paying a lot of money for any single game – a decade of Steam sales and used games that give me just as much enjoyment as if they were new doesn’t help me see the point in paying the full asking price of anything. Plus, add in the usual “Ultimate Editions” these days, that tend to have all the DLC, expansions, bug fixes, etc., it makes me really not want to buy a brand new game.

And that last bit is basically the thrust of it. I really don’t like buying incomplete games, and then being asked to pay for the privilege of having the whole thing. I can get behind using DLC as a way to extend the life of a game – more of a good thing is usually better, particularly after there’s been time to fully appreciate what was already offered. A good example of this DLC usage is The Witcher 3: the base game was a whole and complete experience from day one, and then stuff is added to it (and it doesn’t hurt that what was added were pretty much complete games on their own).

Of course, what set this off is Atelier Ryza (after all, it’s one of the few new games I’ve bought in recent memory, and certainly the first within the time of this blog). As previously chronicled, I got this as soon as it was available. As you might expect of a game these days, there is DLC planned for the future. Unfortunately for me, it’s the sort of thing that should have been in the game in the first place.

Some people think that there are going to be more endings added. I don’t think so. I think this is going to be like Atelier Sophie, which only had one, single ending, in a series where one of the few claims to fame was the varied and sundry endings possible, with often ridiculous requirements.

No, what I’m thinking is that there are going to be character stories and playable characters added. There game just feels kinda incomplete with the amount of characters we get: six total. And they’re all “main characters” too – they’re all significant parts of the story. In games like this, you tend to have other side characters that can be part of the party as well. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that there’s plenty of room in the UI for additional spare party members…

But even worse is that it’s pretty obvious just who these DLC party members would be: Bos is the first one, since he all but joins the party at a point in the story (no spoilers needed for that: it’s obvious from the second or third interaction). Then there’s Pamela, who is dressed like an adventurer this time around. Agatha is next because we need a traditional protector/knight type, which is strangely missing in the cast. Last likely candidate is Kilo, for both story reasons, and because she’s the last one that doesn’t have full-NPC-face (if you’ve played the game you know exactly what I mean) and isn’t an old man. (I’ll discount Lumbar, both because he isn’t involved too much in the story, and because he looks like a regular NPC.) At least it’s not as bad as Atelier Lydie and Suelle: one of the major characters, who definitely should have been in the party (since she goes on all the adventures with everyone else) is only playable as DLC.

(An aside: I like how this game hasn’t tried to be cute with, or pointlessly localize, the character names, like so many Japanese translations do. All the silly names are kept intact (like Lumbar), while the names are not changed to be even more “silly” (like Esty Dee…). So often low-quality translations will change the names, just because the translators didn’t think they “sounded right.” Making names more “realistic” or familiar to the Western audience, when that isn’t necessary. Dragalia Lost does this with almost every name: for an extreme example, Rejina, Rojina, and Rujina are changed to Rena, Ramona, and Renee; but even things like Lucas being changed to Luca, or Najaf(u) to Naveed.

However, one strange thing was having “Moritz-san” and “Lubart-san” being translated as “Mr. Brunnen” and “Mr. Valentz”. Normally, it makes sense to translate “-san” as “Mr./Mrs./Ms.”. However, I think it’s pretty significant that people, even prestigious important people like Moriz, or prestigious, important strangers like Lubart, are refered to by their given names, rather than their family names as is usual in Japanese (and Japanese games). So it wasn’t even an east/west culture clash thing, but a whole thing about translators missing the point.)

Not to say that having extra DLC characters is bad or anything, but just that having obvious story characters excluded, either because of lack of time or intentionally just to make more money, is. It’s selling an incomplete game for full price. Same thing with possible game systems. I can’t think of anything here for this game, fortunately, but I’ve seen other games sell whole mechanics as DLC (like ESO selling whole classes).

Now, remember that I said the problem of buying new games. Well, all these obvious DLC’s aren’t even available yet. They almost certainly won’t be by the time I’m done with the game, considering they aren’t out now even in Japan, which had several months lead time. So, do I come back and play a game again, without so much as an alternate ending? No, don’t think so. I rarely ever replay games, especially long, linear jrpgs. No matter how much I like it, I doubt I’ll be coming back to Atelier Ryza after I beat it. So all that DLC effort, which I want, and am missing, will be wasted. Sad!

This guy at least has a unique face, so maybe he has a chance too.

Time For Pictures

Over the past several days, I kept seeing stuff about this NaNoWriMo thing on blogs and Twitter and whathaveyou. I’ve never seen this before, but there are a lot of these sort of promotion things. I figured it had something to do with writing, since it was up on blogs and author Twitters, but I wasn’t sure what it really is. Another sort of blog writing thing (didn’t we just have Blaugust?)? A generic writing thing? I was too lazy to just google it, though, so I just left it at that.

Well, I came across something else somehow, and learned what this stuff is. It’s for novelists. That explains a lot. But it definitely isn’t something for me. Not only is 50k words alone a big NOPE from me, but a novel doubly so. While it may be true that everyone has at least one story in them, it’s definitely not that they have a novel in them. Including me. I can write competently, but not in a terribly interesting manner. Or rather, not in a way that would make a book interesting; I’m much more for short-form, informational stuff, in an informal setting. Maybe; you be the judge of that.

So that’s a bust, but there is something I can do: IntPiPoMo! When I saw that, I thought it was another nice thing…until I saw that screenshots count! It’s like a blogging festival made just for me. Screenshots are a thing I do.

And the best part is, I don’t even need context! Not that that’s ever stopped me before, but it has slowed me down a tad, since I generally try to post stuff that fits first, before going to the random stuff just to break up some paragraphs. So, let’s get the show on the road, with some screenshots by Yours Truely:

A related aside: I’m a bit bummed that Steam took away that nice feature that showed a pop-up after you closed a game, where you could put your screenshots from that session on the cloud. Now it has to be done from the Screenshots section of your profile, manually. Which means I have to remember to do it.

I still use Althemia over Gleo, because many of her bones are indeed alluring.
Ok, an actual original picture: That time I forgot I didn’t have a pizza cutter, even though I was sure I actually had one.

October Review, November Plans

It’s the start of a new month, and the easy thing to do is talk about last month, and what I’m going to do this month, so I’ll do that.

Last month’s plans are here, but to summarize:

  • Do dailies in most games.
  • For ESO
    • Finish Ebonheart Pact questline
    • Start Summerset Expansion (mostly for jewelry crafting)
  • Do Halloween stuff in the various games that have them.
  • Get and start Atelier Ryza

So how did I do? Pretty much what I thought I would. Star Trek Online had another TFO event (Kobayashi Maru rerun), which I’ve been doing. I had 14 TFO daily tokens saved up from previous events, so I was able to start right into the dilithium pickups. Usually I wouldn’t bother, but getting several days’ worth in less than ten minutes a day is pretty compelling. The rest of the games have just been logging in for the bare minimum, mostly. Dragalia Lost event dailies have required a lot more effort than I’d like, mostly because the rewards-per-action are ridiculously low, compared to what the daily is asking for.

In ESO I did indeed finish the Ebonheart Pact storyline. It was a bit more involved than I thought, requiring finishing a sufficient amount of the main quest. And it also turns out the the three main quests merge to one last zone (which is the worst zone in the game, imo: Coldharbour), and then you can finish the main story too. So I did. Then I figured, while I’m here, I might as well start the Aldmeri Dominion questline, since that was my supposed original questline. I figured I’d just do the starting zone, since that’s usually pretty short, then get into Summerset proper. Well, again, plans changed. That first Altmer zone is pretty compelling. Or at least the Queen is. Couldn’t just abandon her. But I also wanted the jewelry crafting stuff. Turns out, you just need to do one quest to get the jewelry writs, which I had long fulfilled the conditions for. Popped in, did that, went back to the Altmer quests. Finished the second zone, on to the third.

Halloween stuff, did that. Not too much to say about the gacha Halloweens, since they were mostly in the early parts of the month, at least for the new stuff. ESO’s Halloween has proven longer. There’s more to do, just for the dailies. Gave up on doing FFXIV’s Halloween – I wasn’t going to get to that game anytime soon, and I’m not subbing a month for a day, a week tops, in content.

I did pop into Astellia Online’s free weekend (pt 1). I didn’t hear about it until it was half-over, and was just planning on trying the second free weekend. But then ESO servers decided to crap out, so I was left with a bit of free time. Character creation was odd: they clearly had specific characters in mind for specific roles, and the character creator is mostly in varying up those specific characters. Mage gives you a freakish doll-loli-thing (a lot like the doll pet you first get), and getting that to be human-looking was a chore. And sizing her up even 25% still leaves you with a shrimp. Otherwise, nothing to write home about. It sounds like a fun story, but I wish the translation was actually competent.

And of course, Atelier Ryza came out. And I played it. So far, liking it a lot. It’s a slower burn than other Atelier games, I think, but that’s fine by me.

As for my future plans, I think I’ll just keep on keepin’ on. ESO will probably get relegated to “daily only” status as long as I’m playing Ryza. I’m feeling a hankering for something a little different; maybe after that, I’ll get back into Cities Skylines, since I went through the expense of buying all the DLC.

For Black Friday, I’ll be on the lookout for Switch and/or PS4 sales, leaning heavily towards the Switch. Possibly also RDR2 for PC, depending on how I’m feeling when it comes out. I don’t know if that’s a “Buy full price” game for me: I liked RDR a lot, but I don’t know if I liked it that much.

Yes, I did just happen to have these Atelier Ryza screenshots handy; how can you tell?

Atelier Ryza: First Impressions

It was a day earlier than Steam said, but a day later than Google said. But I started last night. Played for a few hours (5.3 according to Steam), and it still feels like the tutorial. There’s something to be said about that, but obviously I can’t give a full review at this point.

Game starts as these sorts of games often do: the protagonist (Ryza in this case) is bored of their little farm town, and wants to go on an adventure. If you’ve ever seen The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Ryza is basically Haruhi, but without the crazy. She drags her two friends along into all sorts of trouble (with the subsequent getting in trouble after getting caught); one goes quite willingly (basic meathead/future warrior type), while the other hates all the danger and such, but he’s every 80’s nerd stereotype, so of course has no actual spine to resist Ryza’s force of personality (plus, if he stayed behind, he’d have no protection from the town bullies, also straight 80’s stereotypes). And, as usually happens, the kiddos get in over their heads, only to be saved by someone more experienced: in this case, an alchemist and his assistant/bodyguard.

If the above sounded kinda vague, it’s because I don’t remember any names. Not entirely a bad thing: the friends are their own guys, who have their own interests besides being dragged along with Ryza’s whims. But that also means they’re not quite in the forefront when stuff happens. So far, this is just a slice-of-life adventure for a girl, who’s life just happens to include killing monsters to take their parts to make stuff with. I’m sure we’ll get into a grander adventure in time, but for now it still feels like the training wheels are on. Appropriate, because Ryza et al are still noobs, but a five-hour tutorial seems a bit much.

Mechanicaly, however, this is a big departure from previous Atelier games. The battle system is ATB, like FFVII and the like. This really changes things up. Everything is very fast-paced, especially since you can’t queue up commands (yet, at least). So, while you’re trying to figure out what to do on your turn (you only command one person at a time, though you can switch at any moment at all), everything else is advancing as well. Also, items don’t get used up – you have a certain amount of points, which get used up as you use items. You can “spend” items to refill those points, which leaves said spent items unavailable to be used until you return home from base. I’m not sure how I feel about all this, yet, so I won’t make a verdict.

Also, alchemy is different from the past. Here, you fill in a grid with items, which replaces the block puzzles of the Mysterious games. Adding different items in can unlock other places in the gird, which enables unlocking different bonuses to the item. Some grid spaces require certain items, while others only require certain categories. I’m not sure what things are actually required, though, to make the base item. Unlike previous games, there are no set recipes, because you can fill in the grid mostly how you want. Again, not really sure how I feel about this, but I’m becoming more used to it.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed what I played of it. Unfortunately, this is Halloween season in various games, and ESO in particular requires some actual participation for the dailies (the event is a huge grind if you want to actually get anywhere, because of the huge RNG component to it). That will limit my playtime substantially, but still, I’m looking forward to what time I do get with the game.