Etrian Odyssey IV Review

Etrian Odyssey IV proves that old-school dungeon romping and exploration can be both accessible and fun.

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Etrian Odyssey has been pleasing fans of classic dungeon crawls for years, delivering throwback gameplay punctuated with modern design enhancements. The fourth installment makes the move to the 3DS hardware, and brings with it some well-thought-out improvements to its formula. The result is the most engaging and accessible game yet in the franchise and an excellent example of how games built on classic concepts can still feel fresh.

The setup to EOIV mirrors that of the previous games in the series. You control a guild of explorers (all named and chosen by you), and you are new to the city of Tharsis, a bustling hub of trade and exploration. In the distance towers the great Yggdrasil tree, which has remained inaccessible for centuries and hides some manner of secrets lost to time. The routes to Yggdrasil aren't clear, and the lands are dangerous, with monsters and terrifying beings roaming the skies, the underground, and everywhere in between. It seems as though some of the world's labyrinths contain secrets pertaining to Yggdrasil, and it's up to your guild to brave the dangers of both the overworld and the underworld to find the truth behind the tree's seclusion and the legendary Titan.

Etrian Odyssey is modeled on the first-person-view role-playing games of yore. There are few non-player characters to interact with and only a handful of hub areas in the game that allow you to recover, buy items and gear, undertake side quests, and collect hints. Furthermore, the characters within your guild are warriors of your own design, with no real personality to speak of beyond what you imagine them to be. Yet the world itself tells its own story through its lands, dungeons, puzzles, and dangers. Brief bits of narration give context to your actions, and the handful of NPCs you encounter throughout expand upon the lore without sounding like living infodumps.

You spend the majority of the game exploring various caves and dungeons, looking for treasures, events, materials, and solutions to help you proceed. Dungeons and caves are presented in a first-person perspective, and you wander through them step-by-step. RPGs from bygone days often required you to have hand-drawn graph paper maps at the ready, but Etrian Odyssey IV comes with an indispensable mapping feature to chart out the mazes you explore, enabling you to mark points of interest and hazards like damage traps and warps. As the mazes increase in complexity, so too do your maps, so keeping them constantly updated is vital to happy exploration.

As in any RPG worth its salt, these areas are also teeming with monsters hungry for unaware explorers. Encounters are random (though a radar appears onscreen to let you know the likelihood of one happening), and combat is turn-driven and menu-based. Enemies are now fully animated, which helps a lot during fights: it's easy to see at a glance if an enemy is hurt or ailing and act accordingly. Don't expect to simply mash A through combat, though: even the rank-and-file foes in Etrian Odyssey IV can pose a serious threat if you're not paying attention to their behavior and their unique quirks. It's not uncommon to be badly burned after underestimating a never-before-seen enemy in a new area. Burst skills, which require spending meters that build up as you fight, can help even the odds if you're in trouble, but their limited usage requires careful consideration before going all out.

Conquering foes requires careful character planning. Because the characters are mostly blank slates (aside from a few NPCs later on that you can potentially recruit), you are responsible for developing their abilities through various skill sets. The presentation of the skills has improved vastly from previous EO games, with easy-to-follow trees replacing the confusing lists from games past. Each level-up grants skill points that can be applied to purchase or upgrade class-specific skills for each character, allowing you to specialize each warrior to your personal tastes. Later in the game, characters can also adopt a subclass to bolster their skills and create some potentially lethal fighting combinations. Some skills require certain gear to be equipped, so keeping tabs on characters' weapons and armaments is also important. New to the game are rare weapons and armor that bestow additional skills upon their user, sometimes granting abilities outside of a character's chosen class.

Mazes and skill trees aren't the only parts of the game that require player exploration; to get to the various caves and labyrinths, you need to set out on your balloon-powered flying vessel and explore the overworld. Etrian Odyssey III introduced the concept of exploration outside of its dungeons with its sea travel, but it felt disconnected from the main game and had some limitations that made it frustrating at times. EOIV, in contrast, integrates the exploration seamlessly into the core game, encouraging you to fly and discover new places to explore as part of the natural game progression.

One thing that both the skies and the ground have in common is the presence of fearsome monsters called FOEs. These beasts wield considerably more power than the average monster, threatening your entire team with extinction should you stumble into their path unprepared. FOEs appear on your maps, allowing you to track their movements and see if they are pursuing you. Since each type of FOE exhibits unique behavior, learning how to avoid them--or, if you want to challenge them, how to approach them with an advantage--is essential to progress. The map also displays a helpful aura around each FOE that indicates its power compared to your group. This helps you decide if a struggle is worthwhile. While most FOEs are better to avoid when you first encounter them, after gaining a few levels, it's incredibly rewarding to return to a FOE that has terrorized you in the past and smite it mercilessly.

What happens if you do get annihilated by an enemy? If you're playing on the standard difficulty, you resume from your last save, losing all progress and acquired experience/items. A new addition to EOIV, however, is casual mode, which removes the punishing penalty for wiping out, instead transporting you back to the safety of town where you can regroup and try again with all progress retained. While devoted series fans will likely gravitate toward the more traditional setting, casual mode removes a lot of the stress and frustration from unlucky encounters that may have turned players off from the series.

Don't think casual translates to cakewalk, however; the enemies are still extremely vicious, and crossing an FOE carelessly could send you swiftly back to recuperate in Tharsis. You still need your wits and some good planning to succeed in combat and destroy the most dangerous foes in the dungeons. And if you change your mind and think you're up for a harsher experience, you can change the difficulty setting back and forth while you're in town.

But while it might be more accessible, Etrian Odyssey IV isn't a game for those lacking in patience. Sometimes you need to revisit old dungeons and caves to grind for items or materials necessary to obtain some gear you need or to complete a quest. You get access to new classes at certain points in the game, and if you want a custom build, you need to raise characters from level one, which, naturally, entails more grinding. (There is a very rare item that allows you to gain multiple levels at once up to a cap, though it's incredibly hard to come by.) One of the major elements of character creation, the ability to dual-class your characters and combine ability subsets, isn't available until around the game's halfway point. A few of the puzzles you encounter on the overworld or in dungeons can be tricky and could prove to be points where some players get stymied.

Taken as a whole, however, Etrian Odyssey IV is the most impressive and entertaining entry in the series yet. It may be somewhat old-fashioned, but modern sensibilities make it both challenging and welcoming, and rich lore draws you into its world. Few series manage to continually improve themselves with each successive installment, but Etrian Odyssey IV proves that some things do get better with time.

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The Good
Delivers wonderful, old-fashioned dungeon crawling with modern enhancements
Overworld exploration is more engaging than ever
Interface overhauls make character development and shopping easier
Casual mode adds accessibility without stripping out too much challenge
The Bad
3D effects aren't well implemented
Have to play a good way in to unlock certain key classes/features
8
Great
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43 comments
Sora278
Sora278

With all the positives and not really any negatives I do not see why it was given an 8.

kstegall2
kstegall2

I wish the Gamespot reviewers would always cover the 3D aspects of the game in abit more detail (instead of just a blurb on the "Cons" list that precede the actual review).. I mean, that's what I bought my 3DS for in the first place!!..haha..

Tso11
Tso11

One thing I don't like about this game like all in the series EXP is split ie. Party of 5 gains 2000 EXP and all is 1000 till next level they will not level up the 2000 is split amongst (among? getting a spell check error on it) 5 making it beyond a grind sometimes up in the high 30's and above. Also like the reviewer said the 3D is almost non-existent, these 2 things more of the first than the second of course are keeping me from buying this at the moment. Also just throwing this in there the classes on Odyssey III were better. :x I dislike these ones.

splinter10
splinter10

lol is the mode genuinely called casual mode?

Lambchopzin
Lambchopzin

I bought my 3DS on launch week, boy was that a mistake. Really up until the last few months or so the selection of good games has been pretty slim. Now all of a sudden they are coming out of the wood work. Better late then never, I guess. Still wish I would have waited until the XL came out.

stratosss
stratosss

Nice review guys,i will check it out soon!

digitaltiger
digitaltiger

Great review Heidi, their needs to be more games like this here in North America. I hope other parts of the world get this game soon, because it's really fun.

Shawn45
Shawn45

I actually bought this recently as well. Making your own map has to be the most addictive thing in any game I've played.

ratchet200
ratchet200

Dam when's this going to come out in Australia!? Don't leave us with 'TBA' dammit!

elunesgraces
elunesgraces

There's too many good 3DS games too fast! I can't afford all of this at once =/.

They should transfer over some to the WiiU.

KBFloYd
KBFloYd

great review guys! i thought this game would get looked over...glad to see this.

im playing on casual difficulty.

slefo29
slefo29

Spend your time grinding on Fire Emblem Awakening. You need to get Galeforce. And level Donnel. And his son. Because they come with aptitude. Huh? 

00LiteYear
00LiteYear

I didn't really like the 3ds demo

Getesh
Getesh

I picked this game up a few days ago and it is the first etrian odyssey i have played. It sucked me in much like it's predecessors, games like shining the holy ark did back when. I also appreciate the challenge present within the game as well. Some FOE's and bosses require some preparation to fight.

Johacamigames
Johacamigames

DS has been releasing a lot of great games recently under the radar.. I should pick one up soon

dw9872
dw9872

@Sora278 The number is based on an overall opinion of the game, whereas the Good/Bad section just gives some of the more notable positives and negatives of a game (reviews generally list more items not featured in this section).

If game scores were strictly based off of what was in the Good/Bad section, then these games would have gotten perfect 10s:

http://www.gamespot.com/dance-central-3/reviews/dance-central-3-review-6398385/

http://www.gamespot.com/counter-strike-global-offensive/reviews/counter-strike-global-offensive-review-6394405/

ggregd
ggregd

@Sora278 Because it's "just" great and not spectacularly awesome.

telaros
telaros

@kstegall2 I actually enjoyed the 3D in the game, and on some fights. I don't use it often and it doesn't add much to the game, but when you do use it it does look slightly prettier. Even the 2D sprites with the layered backgrounds sort of POP when you turn it on.

Small stuff, but it's still nice to see done. But this game is very very grindy. Best boring advice I'd give to plow through stuff is build a fortress to max Strike Guard, get Proficiency and just defend against FOEs (this will make it so you take less trips back to the Inn..) and partner with a Nightseeker and get Decoy to at least 3. The rest is all up to you, though a Runcaster is a must or those melee resistant mobs will murder you...

Gamefaqs has a list of good starter gear to help ease the earlier levels (I missed out and most got out grown an hour later...) but this is really a great game! Especially if you happen to come along those random dungeon events with choices lol I have a few personalities I add to my characters I play out with the game events... a game that encourages the use of imagination? Wha~t? lol

I'm currently having more fun with this than *gasp* Fire Emblem at the moment. Older games felt less grindy to unlock stuff, but this game actually paced itself really well with each area making use of your levels so that you don't feel like grinding is the only thing you do in this game.


As a follow 3DS owner, I can only hope you add this wonder of a game to your collection. It really is a blessing and the DEMO Music CD of the orchestral pieces used to build the final pieces of the games music was gorgeous.

bdixon76
bdixon76

@kstegall2 Probably because the 3D aspect really is a joke. 3D TVs are pretty much a fad, and Nintendo leveraged it... I'd gladly trade that feature for a clean screen that I dont have to adjust or hold just right to see Semi-3D.



King9999
King9999

@splinter10 Yes.  I believe Fire Emblem's non-permadeath mode is called the same thing.

telaros
telaros

@Lambchopzin I feel your pain! ;^;

I thankfully still had a load of DS games and I really managed to get into some games I had overlooked that kept my 3DS more than functional.

I bought mines for Icarus... BOY did they botch that ground control up... it was still a worthwhile game for me... and made me happy to own one, but if it didn't have backward compatibility? I'd a sold it ages ago... And had missed out on this gem!

I only wish I had waited a bit longer for the eventual XL release =(

original 3DS hurt my wrists and fingers from being such a small system... I need to upgrade for my hands sake >_<

Shawn45
Shawn45

@Lambchopzin 

I bought a used 3DS XL off Amazon for 140 bucks, and the thing works like a charm. I couldn't even tell it had been used prior to me owning it. Definitely worth the money if you still want to get an XL version.

digitaltiger
digitaltiger

@elunesgraces That would be cool, using the tablet screen as your map would fit with this game really well. Atlus could release this game on both the Wii U and the 3ds.

kstegall2
kstegall2

Whoa, Telaros, what a really great response, I really appreciate the recommendations...  very cool of you.. 

I am a fellow gamer and I frakkin' love turn-based strategy games like Fire Emblem.. so much so that one of my favorite games of all time is the ol PSOne classic Vandal Hearts  :)  My friends and I were all huge Dungeons & Dragons RPG players and Vandal Hearts was the closest thing to our D&D gaming sessions..  all of us would play the game in the den room TV and share strategies, etc. to the one actually playing it..haha.. good times.. 

I also wanted to ask you (and anybody else who wants to chime in) about what are your thoughts on current 3D HDTVs were.. do any of you have one and do you play your games and movies, etc. in 3D?..  I do for most everything, my 55" LG can turn any non-3D movie, video game, or whatever you're watching on your TV channels into a 3D display.. great feature, it's killer to start up Doom BFG on my PS3 and put on my headphones and 3D glasses for a great late-night gaming session whilst enjoying a good adult beverage (I'm partial to Bloody Marys and The Big Lebowskis fav, the classic White Russian'..  :)  anyway, thanks again and take it easy 

kstegall2
kstegall2

Hi there bdixon76, I agree with the frustration of having to hold our 3DS's at a certain angle to get the 3D effect.. I'm hoping that sometime down the line that'll be a thing of the past and we'll have true glasses-free 3D on our TVs and portable consoles. 

Personally I absolutely dig most anything in 3D, especially movies, whether in the theaters or at home.  I have a 55" 3D HDTV and playing games on it really late at night when the rest of the house is quiet, with the headphones on and the 3D on max depth is just a killer experience.. highly recommended  ;)

splinter10
splinter10

@King9999Really? Interesting. I never knew Fire Emblem had a non perma death mode.

telaros
telaros

@Shawn45 @Lambchopzin Sadly those weren't out yet... I bought mines new for 180 on Newegg. But, having been one who always bought used systems, yeah, there really is no difference between new and used outside of a box and instruction manuals usually.

Most used sales stores refurbish the systems and thoroughly test them before risking potential backlash from costumers that buy from them who'd only give them a bad review. I actually am hoping I get a good trade value on my 3DS towards the bigger XL.

I know my neighbor prefers mines over the XL because her hands actually fit better on it than the XL. Shame she doesn't have one for me to trade xD though maybe I can sell it to her for fair price depending on what I'm offered at the store.

My 360 is a used xbox elite 120gb. I've had it for years and still not had an issue with it. So yeah: screw new, buy used! :D

kstegall2
kstegall2

@mbloof Thanks for the suggestion, if I had the money I would check it out ...  I might pick up the Oculus Rift 3D VR headset when it finally hits retail, I'd read that it's supposed to be pretty affordable and < $400  ...  I'm honestly not much of a PC gamer anymore (not since the early days of Castle Wolfenstein, Doom and the Gold Box Dungeons & Dragons series), but I'm sure the games would look as great as you described 

mbloof
mbloof

@kstegall2  What the 2D-3D button on any HD/3D TV will give you is FAKE 3D that is not worth bothering with. Find someone with a good AMD+Tridef setup or someone with a good Nvidia+3DVision setup and see for yourself 1st hand what desktop (IE: PC) games look like in Stereoscopic 3D - trust me you'll have difficulty playing games monoscopically afterwards.

I rarely can play games that are NOT being displayed in Stereoscopic 3D anymore. While most games will render a 3D image on the screen, there is no real depth or popout - its like watching regular TV or looking at a regular photograph. S3D can give both depth and popout that when coupled with a 5.1/7.1 sound system a gamer can really immerse themselves into the game beyond what can be done+felt otherwise. Highly recommended.

Back on topic: I to wish that reviewers gave better coverage of what (if anything) can be expected of the S3D that our 3DS games provide. LOZ:OOT is awesome on this little handheld and emulates some (mostly only some depth on the 3DS screen) of what I regularly see on my 100" screen with: Skyrim, Borderlands2, DragonsAge:Origins, Batman:AA,Metro2033, TombRaider:2013, BI and countless others.

Most of the 3DS games I've purchased offer a "layered" 3D look that while better than simply a classic 2D presentation, don't match the visual quality of OOT or SuperMario3D World.

telaros
telaros

@kstegall2 I never fully bought into the whole 3D stuff outside of a very few select movies and games. And even the games didn't impress me enough when comparing it to non-3D mode.

I'll be waiting for the new 4k res TVs to come out, and hopefully score one with 3D support built. But, I'll never buy a TV for just the 3D aspect, refresh rate and just how many things I can hook up to it is important to me. I use my TV for my computer and I game on that when I'm not on my 3DS....

Man, PS1 had the game rpgs... I thought Vandal Hearts was a very under appreciated game, glad to see someone considers it a favorite xD

I loved Klonoa and Brave Fencer Musashi, FF Tactics is my all time fav for rpgs on it, and can't forget my favorite non-grid based rpg Breath of Fire III!

I guess, I just spend more time reading and browsing the net while chatting on skype with my buds. Anime is important to me and I've yet to find 3D to really boost my enjoyment of them.

lukemo
lukemo

@kstegall2kstegall2; you can dowload a free demo of this game through eshop.  I had a lot of fun with it and thought the 3D was great

UKFX
UKFX

@kstegall2 3D is indeed a gimmick which is pointless. I would like 2D to remain for the next 20,000 years lol. No need to reinvent the wheel.

However, some games like Fire Emblem Awakening and Crimson Shroud make use of the 3D pretty well and it's quite a powerful effect though whilst playing you hardly notice it, so it is kind of pointless.

However I got the 3DS XL (which has better 3D viewing angles) primarily for the bigger screen and improved battery. An of course, when I moved on from my barely used DS Lite, the hardware within the 3DS and the 3DS XL is much more powerful (and there is more RAM available).

So, for a re-vampled, well designed unit, if you want better battery life turn 3D off. :) Win.

lukemo
lukemo

@bdixon76 @kstegall2 That's too bad, dixon... I agree with kstegall2.  I have a 50" LG Plasma with active 3D and it is, in my opinion, bad ass.  Just as he said; late at night 3D movies are completely engrossing.  And climbing Wonder Tower in Arkham City in 3D is one of those gaming nights I will never forget.

The 3DSXL is one of the coolest systems I have ever owned and feel the 3D effect does a great job pulling you deeper into the game.

bdixon76
bdixon76

@kstegall2 Yea I get that, I love 3D movies, I have not really had a good 3D TV experience so... I'm cool with it staying in the theater.

I'm ready for a holo decks now please.....


Aydenuille
Aydenuille

@turtlethetaffer @DropsofJupiter @Johacamigames I know, right? I've only recently began searching in that extensive library and boy are there some amazing games that I didn't know about. Like the first three of Etrian Odyssey, for example :) I have a DS and a DSi XL, but now I can't wait any longer to get the 3DS..

Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan More Info

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  • First Released
    released
    • 3DS
    Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan has players board their skyship and set out into the clouds in search of treasure, glory, and the answer to Tharsis' oldest mystery.
    8.2
    Average Rating67 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    ATLUS
    Published by:
    ATLUS, NIS America
    Genre(s):
    Role-Playing, First-Person
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Mild Blood, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes