Game: Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of The Titan Developer: Atlus Publisher: Atlus Release Date: Out Now Available On: 3DS Version Played: 3DS
For those looking for an engaging storyline experience, you don’t really get it here. The premise of the story is that For centuries the people of Tharsis have been living in the presence of a giant tree called Yggdrasil. Not knowing what it’s purpose is, or what secrets it holds. So the people of Tharsis start to encourage adventurers to reach and explore Yggdrasil. You’re just the latest bunch of adventurers taking on that task. It’s that simple. Normally a light story can be redeemed by some interesting and in depth characters, but it doesn’t really have that either. That’s a real shame, but it’s refreshing change that an RPG is relying on its gameplay to encourage you to keep playing, rather then feeding you story points every few hours.
The presentation is a bit of a mixed bag for Etrian Odyssey IV is absolutely fantastic, and has a pretty mixed style. When in the hub of Tharsis the characters you meet and different areas of the city is all 2D anime inspired art. Which is what you come to expect with JRPGs. As soon as you’re out of the HUB however, the 3D visuals kick it. It’s bright and colourful, and you’re never really left with just an empty space, something is always going on. Whether that being a giant enemy looming in the distance, or just some other adventurers. Each of the different lands you go to through out the game are diverse and just as colourful as the last.
However, the dungeons are a bit of a different story. While each different land has a unique style, the dungeons in the land have the same tile sets. So the visual flare in the dungeons wears off pretty quickly and can easily put you in the mindset for just grinding. Speaking of, the 3D models for the monsters are fantastic. Animation is smooth and and the more powerful monsters definitely convey that they could rip you to shreds if you’re not careful. The soundtrack is fantastic, suiting each situation appropriately, from the up-beat Tharsis theme, to the blood pumping battle music. I absolutely love it. I have honestly just left my 3DS open so I could listen to it.
Since it’s release in NA, all I heard about Etrian Odyssey was that it is absolutely brutal. So I went into the game being overly cautious. Stocking up Medica (Health Potions) in case something happens to my healer, or If I need to heal two or more people at once. I turned back as soon as my party’s mana started getting low to avoid any sticky situations. There were a few close calls but for the first 10 or so hours of the game, everything was going pretty smooth. Then, I decided to be a little bit reckless. Thinking that my party could handle it, and I got absolutely slaughtered. Again, again, and again.
I know I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, but I feel like explaining that experience is very important to this game. Etrian Odyssey has been boasted to be a “Hardcore First Person Dungeon Crawler” and well. It kinda lives up to that. I feel like I should say that. It has a harsh learning curve at the beginning, however the game does more then enough to accommodate new players by adding a casual mode. However, if you are new to the RPG genre be ready for a challenge.
This game can be tough for those that aren’t used to the systems that come from a game like this. It has an extreme amount of depth that could be tough to understand straight away. An example of this is how the game starts off with you choosing how you build your own party, will you go a standard MMORPG party build, Tank, 3 damage and a healer? or do you think of your own? Some people wouldn’t even understand the importance of a party build unless they learn’t the hard way. It’s important, because if you jump into here thinking 5 damage classes will just breeze you through the game. Think again. You have to understand what your getting yourself into.
Also, it’s worth noting that I’m shorting things here, classes just don’t fit the role of tank, damage, healer etc. There is a lot of classes here that work in a lot of specific ways, not to mention you have subclasses for even more customisation. The thing is that, you really have to consider how your building your party, there is not an optimum build. It’s balanced in a way that you’re always missing something crucial, and you have to find a way to compensate for it. I found myself switching by party around trying to find what I found worked well for me. Once you have found that balance you’re comfortable with, you have plenty of ways to progress. Levelling up gives you a basic stats increase, you have a skill tree to fill out to your liking. Then you have ways to acquire better gear, you don’t just buy better gear at the blacksmith. Rather, you have to materials from all those nasties you just fought on your journey, or who knows. Maybe doing an extra quest or two will give you a nice piece of equipment. It’s worth finding out.
Speaking of quests, your journey is split into two sections. The overworld and the dungeons. Once you have built your party and go to leave Tharsis, you are given an Airship. Pretty cool right? However, don’t let your mind wonder off with it’s imagination. The overworld section with the ship is pretty lacklustre. You can gather food which gives you stat bonuses for a short time and are sold automatically when you go back to Tharsis. Talk to other adventurers, fight F.O.E’s (Think of them as bosses) and explore. Once you get to a certain point you get upgrades for you ship, which allow you to explore areas you couldn’t get to before. Then you have the dungeons, which is where you will be spending most of the game.
You explore the dungeons in first person on the top screen, and on the bottom you have a map with you make yourself. While making a map sounds tedious boring, and if you have poor art skills possibly confusing. You move on a tile based system, and the map tracks where you have walked on with a blue square. It’s your job to outline the walls, gates, shortcuts possible hazards and F.O.Es all through out the dungeon. It’s not as tedious as it sounds, filling out a map completely is really rewarding. You will be in the same dungeons a lot, so having that map filled out will be a blessing if you just want to blitz through as fast as possible.
Combat isn’t your typical turn based affair with random encounters. It just goes turn after turn. So when you attack, the monsters do. They don’t deal damage and then it’s your turn. It all unfolds at once. So you have to take a lot of things into mind about party management through the various class abilities, or just doing outright damage to your opponents. You will also unlock “Bursts” which are more or less an additional ability anyone in the party can use that takes up it’s own action, so instead of 5 actions, you might have 6. These abilities range from party wide buffs to attacks on enemies, and can be quite helpful against the stronger enemies. As you can see, there is a lot to consider as you progress through the game.
Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of The Titan is a game any RPG fan should play. The lack of an interesting story is more then made up for by the beautiful and vibrant visuals, a rewarding sense of constant progression and one of the most in depth and fun dungeon crawling I have had in a long time. Not to mention it is suited perfectly for the 3DS. Easy and quick to pick up and play for 20 or so minutes, but can also be played for hours and hours in a single session without really feeling tedious. Be wary, those inexperienced in the RPG genre you have a tough time ahead