Etrian Odyssey has gained a reputation for staying true to a specific set of old school RPG mechanics that require a unique sense of determination, grinding and certainly a lot of patience to succeed. The fourth instalment simply titled ‘Legend Of The Titan’ keeps up this difficult persona but through a new ‘casual’ difficulty setting and some slightly streamlined mechanics it it is not only the best in the series thus far, but also the most accessible to veterans and newcomers alike.
The game begins with you quickly assembling your crew of rather adorable adventurers before setting off on your first quest. You are able to choose from a selection of classes such as Medic, Nightseeker and Dancer. These are crucial to your success later on in the game or you could always expand your party by unlocking new classes and adding new members. Strategically placing your party members in either of the two lines that make up your party in battle is paramount to success. The battle system itself combines an unforgiving retro concept with a striking art style that really stand out on the 3D display. However it’s unfortunate that the game emphasises repetitive grinding in order to achieve victory rather than a more creative and modern system of questing. It sometimes feels that the archaic nature of the gameplay design holds it back from greatness.
Those of you looking for an engrossing plot will be disappointed here. Other than a disappointingly vague starting point and some continuous references throughout, there is very little to appreciate in the storytelling department. It is a missed opportunity considering the fact that a well written story would have definitely worked in Etrian Odyssey’s favour. You rarely feel a connection with your party either which other 3DS games such as Fire Emblem capitalise upon – making you feel invested in every aspect of your party’s actions.
Surprisingly, one of the most important mechanics you will come across is the map drawing system. Here you are tasked with illustrating the paths you take through dungeons, as well as the many obstacles and monsters you encounter along the way. At first this seemed quite monotonous and it becomes increasingly frustrating when you have to keep shifting between the d-pad and stylus to jot down something so insignificant. Ironically it is arguably the most enjoyable aspect of the dungeon exploration and you will be itching to carefully illustrate what you have explored. Its an unusual mechanic that you would expect to find dull and time consuming. But the process of illustrating your own personal maps is quick and easy, and not to mention immensely satisfying.
The level of strategy involved in almost every aspect of Etrian Odyssey will seem quite overwhelming to many players and those unfamiliar with the genre. But getting to grips with exploring the many different maps, completing quests and adjusting your parties skills and equipment will soon become second nature to those who are determined to invest some major time into this title. Even on the casual difficulty you will still find more of a challenge here than the majority of role playing games out there at the moment, especially on the 3DS.
The visuals behind the deep RPG mechanics however aren’t quite as impressive. The first person perspective you utilise to explore the dungeons only focus further on the muddy textures that decorate the dungeon. The monsters you do battle with are crisp, colourful and very detailed but when compared with the mediocre environments they often look quite ugly and out of place. The only time you will be able to admire the gorgeous art design of the characters is through colourful yet boring text based menus. They aren’t visible at all in the dungeons and are nothing but colorful cutouts in battle. Although this is once again an element of the design that stays rigidly true to its JRPG origins.This either for better or worse depending on how you like your role playing experience.
Etrian Odyssey IV is a breathe of ironic fresh air in a sea of modern role playing games that are currently available on the 3DS. If you are looking for something easy-going and accessible then a title such as Paper Mario or Fire Emblem may take your fancy. But those looking for an challenging old school adventure needn't look further than this.