Sunday, May 24, 2015

Game Review: Etrian Mystery Dungeon

Dungeon Crawler; 3DS; Atlus/Spike Chunsoft; 2015
Are you having a happy Mermorial Day Weekend? Well, I'm not. Well, kind-of... Okay, here is the deal, we had a wedding to go to on Saturday, and this was the first time in a LONG time that me and ALL of my brothers where together, so the idea was that at some point we would all be playing Smash Bros for god knows how long (the sentiment was to play it until the wee hours of the night). Unfortunately, the brother who came to visit was dead tired after a 5 hour drive on only 3 hours of sleep, and then we had to wake up and leave the apartment to head to the bride and groom's house at around 11 am, so that we can head on over to the church for the wedding at noon, and then be at the reception at 5 pm. We didn't arrive at the church until 12:30, The wedding started at 2 pm, and while most people where at the reception at 5 pm, the proceeding didn't start (nor was any of the food out) until 7. Ultimately, we only got a few matches in during the hour before our brother had to leave again, all because apparently everyone on the bride's side operated on what was known as "Asian" time, which means things will start at some point after 2 hours have passed since the "planned" time.

Anyway, sorry for the lengthy introduction that has nothing to do with the game I'm about to review. It's time for me to review another Etrian Odyssey game.... Oh wait, I'm sorry it's a Mystery Dungeon game that has an Etrian coat of paint. My mistake.

Cute girls fighting monsters in a beautiful natural environment. Yup, definitely Etrian Odyssey.
The beautiful town of Aslarga lies at the base of the Amber Yggdrasil and is known for the sap of the mighty tree that has incredible medicinal properties. It is also a curious place where several areas change their shape suddenly as explorers enter and, despite being in the in the middle of winter, it is hot enough to be spring. The town would be an ideal home, except powerful monsters roam in the shapeshifting "Mystery Dungeons" that lay outside of town, and threatens to destroy the livelihood of everyone living there. Thus the call was sent out for Adventurer from all over the world to explore the Mystery Dungeons, defeat the powerful monsters, fortify and develop the town, and unlock the mystery that lies at the base of Yggdrasil.

Like most Etrian Odyssey stories, the plot to Etrian Mystery Dungeon is largely just there to give you an excuse to venture forth and dungeon crawl. However, unlike Etrian Odyssey IV, EMD seems a little lacking, especially in the characterization of the supporting cast. In EOIV, the supporting cast was the main driving force of the story and you can see a lot of effort was made to make even the villains relate-able. Here however, everyone just has a single characteristic that is put forth in every story event that they participate in. There is nothing deeper or more complex about these characters, and thus they tend to be very forgettable. It's true that story was never the Etrian Odyssey's main focus, but it feels even more of an after thought in this game than previously.

"Umm, guys? A little help?"
Etrian Mystery Dungeon may have the Etrian title, but this is primarily a Mystery Dungeon game. What does that mean? Well every floor is randomly generated with money, items, and traps placed all over the place and if you get wiped out all of your items and money are lost forever. So be careful. The most interesting part of MD is the battle system that operates as a turn-based system in a more real time environment. Basically, every action you take is considered one "Turn" and this includes moving, so when you run into enemies they can only "move" after you have. Once you get into a serious tussle with enemies it starts to resemble a turn based battle system with each character attacking in turn. Unfortunately, this does mean combat tends to slow down considerably when engaged with large groups of enemies, but each class does have unique attacks and some can deal with larger numbers far more effectively than others. Now while Etrian Odyssey's map system had to be discarded for this game (due to the fact that every floor is different each time you walk on it) there are still several classic Etrian Odyssey classes available to play as. You have the classic classes like the damage dealing Landsknecht, the master of tanking Protector, and the "do I really need to explain" Medic; but also more recent classes like the magic dealing Runemaster, and the power buffer Dancer; and one new class, the master dungeon exploring Wanderer. In addition to exploring dungeons you are also fortifying the town of Aslarga by building forts inside each dungeon. These forts not only set the basic layout of a dungeon (and later versions allow you to warp to that fort), but also serve as you lines of defense against DOEs, super powerful enemies akin to FOEs in the Etrian Odyssey games proper. These enemies are harder to defeat and move from the bottom of the dungeon all the way to the surface. If they get to the surface then the town will be damaged and some facilities will be unavailable, like the item shop. In addition to building forts, you can also help develop the town which will unlock new items at the shop, new quests and dishes at the restaurant, larger storage and item bags with the inn, and more forts and character slots at the guild.

"My gun shoots a healing salve that cures all ailments!"
Unfortunately, the game is plagued with several annoyances. These don't ruin the game, persay, but they do make it harder to enjoy it, especially later on. First of all, you party is a bunch of morons. The game has you control a group of 4 characters with one of them being controlled directly by you while the others operate on AI. However, that AI makes for more problems than solutions. They often go after enemies, even when it is not necessary or if I wanted to ignore them, they blow ALL of their TP on useless attacks when they could have just walked up at hit them for more damage, they CONSTANTLY use skills when they don't need them, and if they are standing outside of a room that a fight is happening in, they will just stand out there like morons and not do a damn thing. Now there are commands that you can use to direct your AI companions, but for some reason they require at least one charge on you Blast gauge, a gauge that only fills up when you kill an enemy or touch an amber tile (which restores TP and Hunger). Second of all, late game LOVES to throw waves and waves of enemies at you. Seriously, later in the game you start encountering rooms that have at least 7 enemies in them and at that number fights become very long and very VERY tiresome as it could take a full minute before you are able to act again. This is made worse with Traps that summon groups of at least 5 enemies starting to become really REALLY prevalent and the aforementioned AI is STILL being complete dumbasses. And lastly, the classes seem a little unbalanced. For one, the Hexer is damn near necessary when fighting DOEs because you need to inflict a status ailment against them before you can deal damage to them, and large DOEs need to be suffering at least two ailments before you can actually damage them. Some classes (like the Runemaster) tend to blow through ALL of their TP way too quickly to be of much use during longer treks (mainly thanks to the stupid AI). And lastly you NEED a Protector. These guys are WAY too overpowered since they can 100% draw ALL enemy attacks, have so much Defense that all attacks at them only deal 1 point of damage even late game, and still have decent attack power.

Now did I enjoy Etrian Mystery Dungeon? At times, yes. It was a fun experience and scratch that dungeon crawling loot fest itch that I have from time to time. Unfortunately, there are several SEVERAL issues that plague the game that only get worse as the game goes on. A lot of it comes down to the AI party that blows all of their TP needlessly and don't fight efficiently at all, and running into large groups of enemies that just take forever to put down, only to fight another large group of enemies seconds later. If these problems wehre resolved the game could easily be a recommended or even a highly recommended if it nails all those things and remained compelling from beginning to end. As it stands, only fans of Mystery Dungeon or BIG fans of Etrian Odyssey would enjoy this game. Etrian Mystery Dungeon gets a limited recommendation.

Until next time.

-CRES, What does the extra "e" stand for?

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