After hearing all about the DS game Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City after it was released in Japan, and seeing an hour long sneak-peek preview, I was more than ready to start my own adventures around Armoroad. Thankfully, that opportunity arrived earlier this week!
Etrian Odyssey III begins the same way as all Etrian Odyssey games. You arrive in a new, mysterious city which happens to be adjascent to an enigmatic labyrinth. You are immediately taken to the Explorer’s Guild to form your own guild and register characters from prince/princess, gladiator, hoplite, buccaneer, ninja, monk, zodiac, wilding, arbalist and farmer classes. I dubbed my group SEES and added a princess, gladiator, buccaneer, ninja and monk, named after my friends and myself. (In retrospect, I should have named them after Persona 3 characters.)
I was then instructed to report to Via Senatus, the government of Armoroad. There I was given a Prelude to the Forest mission, an official test to see if I was worthy of being a Senatus-sanctioned explorer. It was fairly simple – head to the forest labyrinth entrance and create a map of floor B1. Once completed, I would be able to have the guard on the floor check it, and head back to be certified as an adventurer.
Before heading out, I decided it’d be best to do some skills customizing. First, I went to the limit section to set up my characters with the new Limit skills. Limit skills allow you to unleash special attacks after a gauge has been filled in battles. To use it though, you must equip the requisite number of party members with the skill. I had three available to me right away, Cross Slash, Indomitable and Charge Tactic, and chose to set characters up with them.
Then, I headed to the skill menu. It should look familiar to returning Etrian Odyssey players, as it hasn’t changed too much. There’s a list of skills your character can learn, with number limits next to them. To learn a skill, you just assign a skill point to it. As a skill improves, it becomes more effective and you may be able to unlock and learn more advanced skills.
There’s a change now, as all character have class specific skills and common skills that can be learned. Class specific are ones that only apply to that character’s class, while common skills are skills all characters can learn. For example, Royal Veil, a Prince/Princess skill which recovers allies HP in battle if the Prince/Princess’ HP is full, is a class specific skill and chop, which lets you cut down flora in parts of the dungeon, is a common skill. You can switch between the two tabs by pressing Y. Each newly created character starts with three skill points and earns one per each level, so I distributed them to prepare my party.
I also stopped by Napier’s Firm, the town’s shop, to stock up on some equipment. Daggers are nice, but you need more than that when you head into battle. I used the 500en I began with to get some better weapons for my princess, gladiator and buccaneer, and get some Shuro’s Sandals and straw hats for all my characters. Napier’s Firm is also where you can sell materials you get from defeating labyrinth monsters, and where players can later forge weapons. I made one last stop at Aman’s Inn, where you can rest, heal, store items and save, to save my game, then headed into the forest.
The first area I could enter was called Waterfall Wood. Sure enough, after journeying ahead into a clearing, I could see a gigantic waterfall. As always, Etrian Odyssey III features 3D, first person dungeon exploration, with 2D, turn-based battles. A half-circle gauge at the bottom right of the screen tells when a monster attack is more likely to happen, by shifting red as danger draws near, and a clock and dial at the upper left of the screen tells you what time of day it is.
The bottom screen is where you draw the map. As usual, walking forward will automatically draw a floor tile. It’s up to the player to use the stylus to draw walls, leave markers to indicate areas where you can obtain materials by chopping, gathering or mining, note camping grounds, staircases up and down and doors. You can also add a tab again, with a brief word or two of text, to remind you of important spots or areas.
The map-making section now adds a new feature – auto pilot arrows. You can place these on the map to guide you to specific areas, perhaps to lead you to the stairs to the next floor or an important spot you want to return to once you’ve healed or acquired a necessary item. When you press the auto pilot button on the touch screen, these arrows turn read. Walking onto them then makes your character automatically move forward and follow the path.
I then started journeying through the dungeon. About 1/3 of it was closed off to me, guarded until I completed my map. So I headed onward. I only encountered four enemies in this initial section – fanged fish, deadly durians, forest frogs and great lynx. There was one notable exception. I discovered a spot where I had to choose whether or not to set free a trapped baby Great Platypus. Doing so attracted the attention of its parents, who mistakenly decided I was responsible for trapping it and trying to hurt it, forcing me to fight (and defeat) the two Great Platypus parents
Battle gives players a number of options. At the start, if the enemy is easy enough, you can set the game to auto and let characters automatically attack and finish the opponents off. You can also decide for each character, chosing whether they attack, defend, use skills, use items, switch to a different spot or attempt to escape. After each battle, if you’ve seen an enemy for the first time or acquired a new material spoil for the first game, the game will notify you.
My first mapping endeavor was fairly uneventful. It did take two separate trips in (I was pacing myself) to complete. Aside from the unexpected run-in with the other than that, it went smoothly and gave me the opportunity to level all my characters up to level four. When I reported my results and discoveries at Via Senatus, I was given permission to fully explore the labyrinth and my own vessel at the Inver Port. The success also resulted in my getting hammers so I could forge weapons at Napier’s Firm and getting the credentials necessary to start taking side quests at the Butterfly Bistro.
Before ending my first Etrian Odyssey III play session, I decided to try exploring the open seas by visiting the Inver Port. I was able to name my ship, Shadow, and see how seafaring works. Like the dungeon, you can map the seas as well. In fact, that’s your task. Along the way you will also get informal requests or formal missions. You can also use the Inver Port to barter – exchange guild cards and items with other players.
Setting sail requires you to pick a food, which determines how many turns you can spend on the water and equip some kind of fishing device/accessory. You start out only being able to buy 6 turn biscuits and with a free fishing flag. After some initial exploring though, I discovered dried peas, learned how to fish with a casting net and was tasked with finding a way to get to the nearby lighthouse without being assaulted by a giant bird monster which has made its home there.
Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City hits stores on September 21, 2010. If you think you may like it and preorder, you’ll also receive the Etrian Odyssey: Forests of Eternity artbook. Check back at Gamertell in early September for an Etrian Odyssey III review!
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