With three games published previously on the Nintendo DS Etrian Odyssey is not a new series, but it’s probably new to most of our readers. Legends of the Titan, the fourth in the series, is on 3DS and easily available on the eShop, so if you’re a fan of old school first person grid-based turn-based map-it-yourself RPG’s then get this game and sink into a meaty dungeon crawler. Expect solid gameplay, but don’t expect high production values.
What You Need to Know
Etrian Odyssey IV is very light on plot. You start in the town of Tharsis, create an adventurer’s guild, recruit adventurers, form a party and head out into the surrounding lands on quests and missions given to you by the townspeople. There is an overarching goal of reaching Ygdrasil, the great tree, but in reality all you normally care about is the current quest. The gameplay is the focus here and it’s solid as granite.
It’s not really new any more because the series has been doing it from the start, but you have to create your own map for the dungeons using the touch screen of the DS. Those of us who grew up playing SSI dungeon crawlers will remember the days of graph-paper maps. I love the mechanic of making my own map, it’s a wonder more DS/3DS games don’t do it. It’s also old-school tough – lose a battle and it’s “Game Over” – and you really have to have your wits about you to fight even basic battles in a new dungeon. ATLUS have provided a “casual” mode in which death just means starting at the nearest town.
The classes in the game and their skill trees are really unique too. Fortress, Landsknecht, Nightseeker, Sniper, Medic, Runemaster and Dancer are all very different, and getting the right make-up in your party is very important. You can’t simply go into battles swords-swinging – you need a plan of how you’re going to not be killed as well as how you’re going to kill.
What’s the Same?
Etrian Odyssey IV still has RPG basics like character attributes, magic, weapons and armour. There is one central town with a shop, an inn, a tavern and a few other buildings. There is an ‘outdoors,’ which is really just an area to explore to find the mazes and dungeons. Battles are random for the most part, but powerful beasts are shown on your map so you can choose to avoid them or fight them. Battles are turn based with a choice of Attack, Defend, Skills, Item, Burst (team skills), Switch (change formation) and Escape for each character. Happily there is also an Auto option for when you outclass the enemy so thoroughly you don’t have to think any more.
You’ll Enjoy Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan if You Liked…
…Wizardry: the grandfather of this subgenre.
…Eye of the Beholder: grid-based, turn-based, first person map-it-yourself dungeon crawling classics.
I confess I haven’t played the previous games in the series, but it’s probably most similar to those.
What I Liked
- 5.) Interesting classes and skill trees.
- 4.) Great exploration aspects, with a real sense of danger in the dungeons.
- 3.) Battles are far from being a case of pressing A, a real strategic approach is required unless you want to grind a lot.
- 2.) Mapping on the touch screen is a lot of fun and adds to the exploratory feel.
- 1.) The pacing is excellent; there is always some next goal to reach, and the lands are carefully designed to always provide a challenge but still allow incremental progression.
Fighting the FOEs is always exciting, especially ones that are above your level (indicated by the colour of the circle around them on the map). With a well prepared approach you can sometimes beat these, but they will definitely KO some of your party, so it can be tense.
What I Didn’t Like
- 3.) I found the battle music quite grating and ended up turning it off.
- 2.) The graphics are at a DS level, with limited use of the 3DS’ capabilities. The outdoors area where you fly your balloon around especially suffers from the low polygon count.
- 1.) Guidance in some of the quests is limited and to complete them you will sometimes need to explore an entire floor of a labyrinth, looking at every wall for secret paths.
Least favourite moment
Many times I had to escape from a FOE just to survive with my life. This is not bad, but the grinding to find food to sell so that I can revive my party members afterwards is a pain.
Lots of StreetPass features. Other than that, the game itself is good for more than 40 hours.
The Bottom Line
A budget feel belies a high quality RPG experience, as long as battle mechanics and exploring are your thing and not story or graphics.