Title: Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Atlus (Atlus)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Mild Blood, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Language and Mild Suggestive Themes
I’ve been on board the Etrian Odyssey train since the original DS installment back in 2007. Six years later, I’m still in love. However, I’ve always been conflicted. I’m one of those people who likes to badger my friends into playing the games I enjoy, because I know if they tried them, they’d love them too. I could never bring myself to do that with the first three installments of Etrian Odyssey, as I knew the games were too difficult, too complex and too masochistic for them. Yet with Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan, I can finally tell them to buy their tickets and enjoy the ride. Everything that makes installments in this series amazing is here, but for the first time there’s a gameplay mode that welcomes newcomers.
Exploring labyrinths, searching for Yggdrasil and uncovering the past
Etrian Odyssey IV begins innocently enough. Players create a new band of adventures who have just arrived at the city of Tharsis, registered with its guild and hope to explore regions, caverns and labyrinths in the hopes of finding fame, riches and adventure. Little does anyone know, this motley quintet will eventually become legends. They will find ways to reach inaccessible lands, meet new races, discover the lost history of the lands and perhaps even reach the legendary world tree, Yggdrasil.
As far as the more personal details for Etrian Odyssey IV party members, that’s up to the player. People can use their imagination to create any possible scenario or backstory they’d like. For example, I like to name my group after characters from Mass Effect and other games. I’ve recently added a character from one of the secret classes named “Wrex” to my party and couldn’t be happier.
It’s not about the goal, it’s about the journey.
Every Etrian Odyssey IV adventure begins with character creation. Players start with seven of the ten classes available, as the last two have to be unlocked, and can create and register whichever characters they’d like. Some, like the Landsknecht, Fortress, Sniper and Runemaster, are dedicated attackers. Others, like the Nightseeker, Medic and Dancer, have unique status influencing and healing skills. Success only comes by forming a balanced party that works for you. The further you go, the more options become available, as eventually a subclass option becomes available that lets people create, say, a master Medic with Runemaster skills or a devastating Sniper with Nightseeker skills. I found myself looking forward to level-grinding, because it meant I was one step closer to reaching the perfect skill-set. I would advise not getting too attached to initial characters. Eventually, players can “retire” adventurers, receiving a new character with improved stats and the ability to earn extra skill points later. These are the ones you can start loving.
Once players have a party of five put together and set up, it’s time to explore. Aside from main storyline quests, which are given by Tharsis’ count, there’s also the Dancing Peacock, a pub where people can pick up sidequests. Grinding is also advised. Doing so boosts levels and creates a surplus of monster parts, which can be sold to Berund Atelier so the resident blacksmith can cobble together new equipment and items for the party.
Etrian Odyssey‘s most lauded feature has always been its mapping system, which once again shines in Etrian Odyssey IV. Players are able to map four different regions while exploring in their skyship, then venture into caverns and labyrinths they’ve discovered and map their way through those. The touch screen displays the map at all times, and players are able to draw, drop icons and even make notations telling where everything is. There are symbols for every situation, so I was always be covered. The only regret is that text notations are limited, so I could only put down one or two words to describe a special spot and had to hope I’d remember their meaning later in the game.
Battles in Etrian Odyssey IV are mostly random and, aside from a few, visible enemies in regions, take part in dungeons. A gauge on the lower right side of the screen slowly changes color and when it’s red, the party is about to be attacked. Battles are first person, with boxes representing party members on the bottom of the screen and the enemies in 3D on the top. Players choose the party’s actions, then a turn begins. The fight ends when one side is completely wiped out. Usually, the monsters will be the ones going down, but if an F.O.E. comes up, then it could be the party.
F.O.E.s and bosses are the two kinds of monsters that can be seen on the map and they are far more powerful than the typical foe, with F.O.E.s typically being even stronger than bosses. The best case scenario, when confronted by an F.O.E., is to run. A party typically won’t be strong enough to defeat it unless they’ve already almost completed the region’s main labyrinth. Fortunately, if one does get trapped, the in-battle Burst gauge and skills help fascilitate survival by providing one strong attack, status buffs or afflictions, fast healing, slightly more experience or a guaranteed escape.
Which brings us to the difficulty level. Etrian Odyssey IV is notorious for being a grind-heavy romp with ridiculously overpowered opponents. If you choose the Normal difficulty level, you will be fighting to survive every step of the way. However, this installment also offers a more forgiving Casual option. It’s still difficult, but monster attacks aren’t as devastating, the Ariadne Thread items that let one immediately escape a dungeon aren’t a single use item and if a party is completely wiped out in a dungeon, they wake up in town with everyone’s HP and TP refreshed.
Etrian Odyssey IV also offers a StreetPass feature, in which people can exchange guild cards and it seems swap locations of hidden goods in regions. I say seems, because I haven’t actually encountered anyone else with the game so I can swap StreetPass hits. I can’t really tell you how, or if, it works. However, I can attest that the QR code reading feature is quite awesome. Atlus has released a number of QR codes for the game through its official Facebook, Twitter and certain partners. Once scanned, they add a new item or quest into your game. It’s a nice bonus and the free weapons and armor really help when a player is just starting out.
Etrian Odyssey IV is so good, you’ll dream about it.
Rather than share some poignant Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan thoughts, I’m going to tell you how the game has invaded my subconscious. My 3DS Activity Log says I’ve played 23 hours and 53 minutes of the game. I haven’t touched it for 48 hours as March 13, 2013. Yet still, for the last two nights, I’ve had Etrian Odyssey IV related dreams. In the better ones, I’m guiding my characters through “training” as I search for the perfect builds or I’m completing sidequests for awesome loot or equipment rewards. However, Sunday, March 10, 2013, I had a nightmare. I was roaming around a 4×4 grid in a labyrinth. I had fallen through a hole in the previous floor, and was trapped on B2 with no way out and no Ariadne Thread. I kept checking walls, but there were no hidden doorways. Suddenly, I looked at the map screen, because of course my dream was taking place on dual screens, and I saw an F.O.E. slide through a wall I had just checked behind me. I actually woke myself up somehow so I could finally get out and avoid facing it.
That is what Etrian Odyssey IV will do to you. It’s an incredible RPG that will burrow into your brain until even your dreams revolve around mapping, character customization and dungeon crawling. So long as that inescapable dungeon and teleporting F.O.E. don’t make a reappearance some other night, I’m okay with that and I think other gamers will be too.
Full disclosure, Staples provided the video game for this review. However, the words and opinions expressed in this review are strictly the views of the TechnologyTell writer. Click here to see Staples’ full line of gaming equipment.
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