Sunday, April 26, 2015

Game Review: Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan

Dungeon Crawler RPG; 3DS; Atlus; 2013
Well, I had an interesting experience yesterday. On Friday I got a note from the post office that says the package (as well as one of my brother's packages) was waiting for me at the post office because they "missed" us (In other words, they tried to deliver it when we weren't home). This was odd because usually they just leave it with the apartment manager, but no problem I just have to go to the post office. Unfortunately, the office it was "sitting" in was two bus rides away, and the post office is only open for 5 hours on Saturday. No big deal, I had something else I needed to do at the post office anyway, so I went there only to discover that the package WAS delivered to the manager office, the post officer just gave me the wrong note. So I went halfway across town to get a package that was sitting right outside my apartment. Yeah, that was a fun time. What was the package? Just some books I ordered from BnN. Anyway, after a long trek and an incredibly annoying final boss that just WOULD NOT DIE, I finally finished Etrian Odyssey IV. And thus, here is my review.

Ah the magical occupation of RPGs: Explorer. At least it's better than Adventurer.
The Town of Tharsis is a haven for Explorers. Not only is the town world famous for its Skyships and its magnificent view of the great tree Yggdrasil, but also the lands to the north, in the direction of Yggdrasil, are uncharted, unknown, and filled with danger. A perfect calling for Adventurers. After forming your own guild, you and your fellow Explorers begin to cover the land to the north, discovering labyrinths, caves, and even new races of people. However, not all is peaceful, as what rests at the base of Yggdrasil can spell the doom for all: The Titan.

Etrian Odyssey was never a series known for its story, and because of that Etrian Odyssey IV's story is largely serviceable. There is nothing groundbreaking or genre defining, just a good story told well. Of course if you are expecting something more impressive from the presentation, then be prepared to be disappointed as 99% of the story is told through dialog boxes describing what you see with at most static portraits of the characters who are talking to you. That being said the localization job is excellent with top notch writing you've come to expect from Atlus. Of course given your entire party is player generated, the lack of characterization of our group is a little distracting.

For those of you who have either played the series before, or have read my review of Etrian Odyssey Untold, then what is in Etrian Odyssey IV will come as no shock or surprise. It is a dungeon crawlering RPG that is so old school that you have to not only view everything from a first person perspective, but you also have to draw your own map. The bottom screen is almost always displaying your map and the touch screen controls are ALL designed for filling out walls and floors. This does mean that every few steps you will have to stop, pull out your stylus and place walls where you think they are. If this sounds like a drag, then let me remind you that it really isn't. True, you have to spend a little time every few steps to make sure you have an accurate map and that adds up over time, but it really taps into some aspect of the human mind that makes it more relaxing. And besides, I always hate it in these kinds of RPGs that you KNOW that spot is a pitfall or a hazard location, but you STILL have to walk into it in order for it to appear on your map. Etrian Odyssey does away with this by giving you the ability to mark on your map hazards and other points of interest without touching them, and the fact that you can leave notes on squares so that you can know precisely what that check mark in that one location on your map is.

Of course, exploring dungeons inevitable means fighting monsters and Etrian Odyssey proves itself to be an Atlus game through and through. The actual combat system is fairly basic, your team of 5 party members form two rows and fight off against a number of monsters who also can form two rows. The back rows gain bonus defense from melee attacks and can only be hit by melee attacks from characters in the front row. It's all basic stuff that anyone who has played RPGs before knows about. What Etrian Odyssey IV does different is it's class system. At the beginning of the game you have 7 classes to choose from with an additional 3 classes unlocked as the game progresses, and each class functions very VERY different from one another. You have very basic classes like the Fortress (High Defense tank), Medic (Healer, duh), Runemaster (Elemental attacker), and Sniper (Ranged attacker). But then you have classes that completely change the way you play, like the Landsknecht  who's elemental attacks will trigger bonus damage to the next person who attacks that enemy, the Dancer who can do follow up attacks or have other character follow up their attacks, the Arcanist who can lay down circles that inflict status ailments and restore your HP, and Bushi whom the term glass cannon is very appropriate as they can deal a TON of damage at the cost of losing HP. Not only that, but each class's development is completely up to you as every skill requires spending skill points earn at every level. You can have two Landsknechts that are COMPLETELY different from one another, and that isn't even going into subclasses. What this means is that the game is heavily dependent on having the right party balance, as a good party balance will make exploration easy, a poor one will send you to the gameover screen a LOT faster.

That icon means RUN!
Of course since this is an Atlus game that means one thing: It is Atlus HARD. Several bosses and even some normal enemies are going to give you a run for you money, several times, and you will likely die, again, and again, and again. Some times you will die because you are unlucky and the enemy took out your healer and you have no way to revive them. Some times you die because a random encounter occurred while you where trying to run away from a FOE (super hard enemies who appear on the map) and got caught between the two. But most times you will die because the game wants you to take your time, gather more items and money, level up and get better gear before it deems you worthy to fight the boss and survive more than two turns. Besides the difficulty, there isn't much bad with the game, except for the fact that if you reset your character's skills the game automatically dis-equips them and doesn't really tell you that it happened.

Etrian Odyssey IV is hard, it requires a lot of grinding, and it is light on story and presentation. These don't make it a bad game, but it does mean that it is a game that doesn't have mass appeal. Let's face it, you have to be a particular type of gamer to enjoy the Etrian series. You have to be the type of gamer who likes slower RPGs that is more about slowly getting stronger and getting better gear, than epic stories about whinny teens trying to save the world. But if you can get into this game, it is well worth your effort as the reward isn't so much about seeing the story's completion, but rather to challenge yourself. For those who enjoy the hardest of RPGs, Etrian Odyssey IV is Highly Recommended.

And if you don't know whether you'll like the game or not, you can always check out the rather impressive demo.

Until Next Time.

-CRES, She's my "Main Character," I call her Claudia.

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