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Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold Preview: Let’s go on a Picnic

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The 3DS retellings of Etrian Odyssey are unique not only because they give a sense of structure in the form of a defined stories and precreated characters, but also because they take substantial steps to make the series more accessible to people who would find the games too punishing otherwise. Thus people too put off by Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard may find Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight far more inviting.

At least, that’s my takeaway after about 10 hours with the game. Since everyone is familiar with the standard difficulty of the series, I thought it best to approach Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold with the new Picnic mode. It’s the easiest of the easy, but not exactly the simplest of the simple. My takeaway thus far is that going on a Picnic means characters are slightly more powerful than usual and there’s less need to grind.

For example, my team reached level five without any effort. I want to say that milestone was hit after less than two hours of play. Story mode characters, like the titular Fafnir Knight, were dealing over a hundred points of damage while at level one. It made the commentary from the story mode characters at the start of battle, during which they’d sometimes suggest specific attacks or elements to use to make a fight easier, seem more like a bonus, since I knew my characters could easily wipe out any foe anyway. And, even if they did fall, that was okay too. The game would give me a second chance. This may seem less attractive to veterans, which is fine since Expert mode is there for them, but it makes Picnic mode a highlight for those new to Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold.

The skill system is more open as well. Leveling up a mastery, say Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold‘s Heal Mastery, to level one, three or five will automatically sometimes provide instant access to the level one version of specific battle abilities. Grimoire Stones from the previous Untold return, and it’s possible to equip them to give someone an ability without any of the work.

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Yet, Picnic mode doesn’t hand things to a player. It makes Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold more welcoming, but doesn’t alter the quests or Yggdrasil Labyrinth challenges. The second floor is a good example. Highly aggressive FOEs (Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens) resembling tyrannosaurus rexes stalk the rooms. Picnic may make the group stronger and encounters easier to manage, but these particular monsters are still incredibly deadly and the impromptu puzzle that allows the party safe passage is the same here as it is on the other difficulty levels. Though, the fact that Ariadne Threads, the instant escape item, isn’t removed from the inventory after one usage on Picnic mode, meant less pressure if one of these FOEs cornered me.

The multiple save files is a boon too. I have three save files at the moment. One a Classic save, to enjoy an updated version of the original experience. The other two are the Story modes at two different difficulty levels. It provides a sense of freedom and comfort. If there’s a problem, there are options. I can maintain multiple files and jump back to an earlier date.

Perhaps most helpful is the cafe. Things aren’t handed to people. You can’t immediately cook up a dish that will regenerate health as you walk through the dungeon. Ingredients have to be acquired. You have to listen to Regina’s audio cues when picking what food to add when decoding recipes. Available dishes have to be purchased. You’re still earning everything, even when heading out on a Picnic.

Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold will give people a chance to experience the second installment again on August 4, 2015. If the difficulty always put you off before, maybe it’s finally time to consider going on a Picnic with the Fafnir Knight.

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