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Etrian Odyssey Untold Review – Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens

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The Etrian Odyssey series has gathered quite the following over here in the States and to my knowledge I think every single installment in the series has seen release on this side of the pond.  With that in mind, we are looking today at Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl for 3DS, the most recent installment.

It’s interesting to note that this is kind of a remake of the original game with an entire story mode added in, complete with new locations and fully fleshed out characters.  I won’t touch too much on what the story mode is going to be like since I already covered it in my preview which can be seen here, but it’s a fantastic addition to the series.  It features pre-made story characters and is complete with voiced dialogue, animated cut scenes, and characters you can really get behind.

The series was always great and this only adds to the appeal.  It gives you a reason to keep playing beyond just advancing into the dungeon and getting stronger.  But fret not, for the fans of the old formula, you can choose to play the game the old fashioned way and create your own characters if you wish.  I didn’t personally do this since I’ve played the series before and wanted to experience the new style, but it’s fantastic that Atlus gave us this option.

You will also notice from my preview that the demo mentioned something about the sound not being of the same quality as the final version and this is true.  The first thing you will notice is that the title screen has music now, it’s a nice touch.  Not all the songs are changed, but if you have a nice set of headphones you can notice the increase in clarity, added bass lines, and those types of things.  Oh yeah, this game also features fully remixed and orchestrated versions of the songs from the original game and if you pop in the original and do a side by side comparison, you will notice how amazing these remixes sound.   However, as if there weren’t enough great options in this game, you can choose to use the original soundtrack.  Make sure to pick classic mode with the original soundtrack for that classic feel.

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The demo for this game was quite long and I put about 6 hours into it when I wrote my preview.  This is where I really give Atlus some nice brownie points.  When you load up the demo data it just doesn’t give you added stats or a secret item or something along those lines, no, it drops you right off where the demo ended.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I really didn’t feel like playing through all that again for this review.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in a videogame and something more games, especially long RPG’s, should do.

But enough with the demo vs. final product comparisons, let’s get into the actual game.  I think I would be doing the Etrian Odyssey series a disservice if the first thing I didn’t talk about was the map making process.  This is what really separates the series from other RPGs and turns what is pretty much a by the book traditional RPG into something special.

When you enter a dungeon you are charged with the task of mapping out the floors on your own.  This sounds like a pain if you are new to the series, but you quickly realize how easy and fun it is.  You chart the walls, treasure locations, points of interest, dangerous spots, secret passages, etc. and it isn’t long before you are addicted to it.  I can’t exactly put my finger on it, probably my own OCD, but I felt compelled to 100% chart every single floor I explored.

I really can’t say enough about this feature.  I have never been a huge fan of first person dungeon crawlers, but I never once had a problem with this game and the map that you draw is a huge reason for that.  If you properly chart out your map you will never lose your sense of direction and get lost which is a big problem I have had with first person dungeon crawlers in the past.

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Anyway, all this OCD tier map charting has the added benefit of having you grind for experience and making it not feel like grinding which you have to do quite a bit of in this game.  You will notice quite the spike in difficulty in between different floors and then there are those pesky FOE’s.

Yes, the FOE’s make a return and they are just as nasty as ever.  Unlike most enemies they are clearly visible on the map and it’s best to avoid them at first.  There are even hidden FOE’s, such as the pig boulders I mentioned in my preview, that will put your mapping skills to the test as you better pinpoint where they are and what direction they travel.  These creatures will always give you a hard time on floors and one of the greatest thrills in this game is going back through earlier floors when you are much stronger and destroying the FOE’s, they certainly deserve it.

The battle system doesn’t break any new ground, but it really shouldn’t in this type of game.  Its traditional turn based, however it moves fast and furious.  Enemies have a front and back line just like you and you need to defeat the front line foes before the back line ones move up, or, if you are smart, you can hit them with long range spells or abilities which you will have plenty of.

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You have your usual array of attacks, special attacks, magic, alchemy, healing spells, items, so and and so forth.  You will need to use all these skills to win and yes, that does need to be pointed out.  I am sure we have all played turn based games where you just hold down attack to win and well, you can’t do that here.  I mean, you could, if you wanted a quick trip back to the inn after death.  You really need to make sure you make use of your buffs, debuffs, and status effects if you hope to survive all the way to the boss.  After all, that monster with the huge teeth can claws can’t do much if they are asleep.

Keep in mind that all of this applies to regular random battles, not just boss fights.  You might think that having to go all out strategically on every random battle would drain you rather quickly, but it doesn’t.  It makes every new encounter a learning experience and after you see an enemy a few times you know that a certain status ailment will work on them so you just go right to that.

You earn all these fancy tricks through a very basic but functional skill system.  If you can remember all those outlines you had to write back in school, you will have a good idea of what this looks like.  You apply points to your main category, such as ATK up or HP up and it will unlock various skills under that category having to do with that feature.  You can level each skill up to level 10 and skill points are only earned by leveling up, so make sure you spend your skill points wisely.

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Back at the town which serves as the main HUB of the game you have all kinds of options.  Aside from the expected inn and shops, you will want to make special note of the Golden Deer Pub as well as your own base which you name yourself.  The Pub is essential for gathering information as well as accepting quests and you will be visiting it quite often; the reason being is that you don’t get money just from defeating enemies in this game.

Yes, Unfortunately you can’t walk back and forth on the same 2×2 square defeating the same enemy 1,000 times to amass huge wealth.  You have to complete quests and missions to get rewarded with money, or you can sell back the materials you found on your adventure.  Selling materials back to the shop also allows the shopkeeper to create new weapons and armor for you to wear, quite the bartering system.  So yes, Money can be very scarce in this game and while it didn’t happen in this game I remember in the original I was defeated and had no money to revive my party members, the times were tough back then.

Your main base is the other important destination as this is where you equip the Grimoire Stones as well as store your items which I want to touch on for a moment.  Before I go off on a tangent however, I want to mention that the maid at the home base can prepare you for battle by giving you a little innate ability or stat boost before you set out.  This is very helpful and a healing boost for example can help you conserve medicine and magic points.

Now, back to the item thing, yes, this game has an item system that gives you limited carrying capacity and every time I come across one of these systems in an RPG I just shake my head.  I understand realism and all that, but I have never gotten to a point in RPGs where I can’t suspend my disbelief so much too somehow understand holding 99 healing potions.  Systems like this are just an annoyance and I let out a large groan when I got the message that said “You are carrying too many items”.  Maybe it was useful back in the day when games had limited amounts of memory they could store, but it should not exist in this day and age.  Feel free to sound off below if you feel otherwise, but it’s going to take some amazing arguments to get me to change my views on this.

The Grimoire Stones are crucial, especially in the story mode that I played.  Since you don’t get to create your own class members in story mode, you can learn skills from other unused classes with the stones to better balance your pre-determined party

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As this is a 3DS game the game obviously comes with 3D effects.  Despite being in the systems name, people have not fully embraced the feature, as the upcoming 2DS no doubt proves.  However, in some games the feature is really excellent and adds to the game and this is one of those games.  I’m sure it was easier to implement since the entire game is in first person, but it really makes the dungeons pop.  I didn’t play with it always turned on, but whenever I hit a new area I always switched it on to see what everything looked like.

Polarizing 3D turned on or not, this game is a treat visually.  The game features lots of blue, especially on the menu, which could have been done intentionally to calm you down as the game can get quite intense.  The environments in this game look really great however.  The forest looks alive, the ruins look abandoned yet mysterious, and the character portraits themselves are very well designed and colorful.  Etrian Odyssey has always had unique character designs and I would most certainly pick up an art book if one became available.

The game also comes chock full of street pass features and while I didn’t really get to experiment too much with them due to lack of DS using friends the best one I read about is having other people recruit your characters if they are playing in classic mode.  You can personalize a guild card in this game once you unlock your guild and this lets other players see how you are playing the game.  You can also get special badges by completing certain achievements.  Guess this makes up for Nintendo’s lack of an achievement/trophy system.

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All in all this game was a sheer joy to play.  I have always been a fan of RPG’s but this one hit all the right buttons.  The originals were great in their old-school approach, but the story mode they added really bridges the gap between old and new and the transition is seamless.  You really do get the best of both worlds here and it’s topped off with wonderful audio and visual presentation.

This is my favorite 3DS game to date and you would be quite the silly goose if you own a 3DS, like RPG’s, and don’t pick this up.  Now, if they get rid of the limited item capacity for the next installment, we will have a perfect game.

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