Publisher: NIS America
Type: JRPG/Dungeon Crawller
The next entry of the Etrian Odyssey Untold series is essentially two games in one – the first, a Nintendo 3DS update to Etrian Odyssey 2: Heroes of Lagaard (released on Nintendo DS) with new dungeon layouts, new graphics, and system improvements from the recent Etrian Odyssey Untold. The second is the Untold portion – a brand new story mode with a fixed party, voiced dialogue, and animated cutscenes that follows the bittersweet tale of the Fafnir Knight and Princess Arianna. Like Persona Q, the Untold portion of the game has a strong focus on characters and their interactions as the story about the Fafnir Knight and Princess Arianna unfolds as they adventure forth into the ruins of Ginnungagap and the Yggdrasil Labyrinth with the hero Flavio and the two mysterious adventurers, Bertrand and Chloe.
Every now and then a game comes along that you know, with every fibre of your being, you’re going to hate. Yet for some inexplicable reason you end up engrossed in the game a losing hours of your life to it.
That is Etrian Odyssey 2: Untold the Fafnir Knight, a game I felt I was bound to hate, but I’ve actually been unable to stop playing!
My 3DS XL has pretty much become my goto device these day but my initial thoughts when I was asked to do Etrian Odyssey was to run a mile. However Q needed an EU editor to do it as that was the region the game code they had was for. So I sucked it up and stepped unto the plate!
So why did I not want to do this game? Well, it contains a lot of the elements that I find tedious, boring, and not a lot of fun to play.
Firstly, the entire game is from a first person perspective with a silent protagonist. You only really know what you look like because of the cut scenes and the character images. For me, this has always been a turn off in the past; and it was initially for this game. However as I played more and more I found this less and less of an issue. In part I think this was due to the constant banter going on between the party, making it feel more alive and ‘there’. The cut scenes are the other aspect that helps as well. Without these two elements I think I’d have struggled with the game.
So this game is essentially two games in one, the first being the ‘new’ aspect, the story mode which sets your party and gives you direction. The second part is the remade Etrian Odyssey map grinding. This mode lets you pick and choose your characters and their class.
Initially I was concerned over the dubbing, as of late all I’ve encountered are bad english dubs, and while I do find Arianna bit grating (nails down a black board grating!) she’s the only one I struggle with. After a the 27hours I’ve put into the game now it’s gotten to the point where I don’t mind it as much anymore. The other characters VA’s I find are actually pretty good.
The cutscenes are basically mini anime, and are surprisingly of a good quality. Given the fact it’s a 3DS and not a PC the visual quality is pretty high. As is the animation itself, flowing smoothly without hitching or looking like a slide show.
The music, like the game, has two options. The first uses synthesiser music that was in the original and other games of the series. The second option is the ‘new’ arranged version, which is what I’m using the most. I had the synthesiser on for a while, but personally I prefer the new arranged music. This is however, one of those personal choice things.
Graphically, given the style the game is, it’s actually really well done; and character design is spot on. The backdrops and various levels of the labyrinth are well drawn with a nice level of variety on each stratum (Stratums are every seven levels or so). So in the first area you’ve a fairly generic labyrinth made of trees, the next is a lush forest, and so on. It adds some diversity to a game that would get stale very quickly.
This is also aided by monster variety, which is pretty decent, and bolstered by the FOE’s which are essentially level bosses.
This is where one of my niggles comes in. When you’re first introduced to FOE’s your warned they’re tough monsters that will be hard to battle. But the old adage ‘no risk or reward’ applies. So I went off and killed the FOE’s on the level I was exploring, tough fights, but highly rewarding. However at no point was I warned that FOE’s do not respawn, until a long time down the road. So when a mission came up early on to kill a FOE that was found on the first level, I couldn’t complete it because I’d already killed them all. So that mission hung around for a good while until I’d gotten further down to the fifth level and the same FOE was available there.
Turns out FOE’s do respawn, just at very slow rate, which I’ve not been able to get a solid answer on. The range I’ve been give is anywhere from seven to fourteen in game days, to seven actual days. Irritating, since if I’d known this before I wouldn’t have killed them so early on. But that is just a minor niggle.
I’ve not completed the story mode yet, don’t even think I’m half way yet, but so far the pacing has been pretty decent. For me I’m finding that just around the time I’m starting to find the constant exploration to get mind numbing, we get some story. So for me the pacing is really well done. And as I said the banter between your characters, and the little mini events you come across in the labyrinth all add up to a enthralling story that I’m eager to complete to see how it ends.
Another element of the game is both cafe and city development. You’re press ganged into working for the city and that work is helping out in a cafe. Your job is to track down the rare ingredients needed for the food served. This gives you a second reason to go back to early levels of the labyrinth for the gathering and mining nodes, as well as the monster meat. The city development is tied with the cafe, and you have to use your own money to invest in city development.
The idea here is the the better the city is developed the more people live in it, and thusly more people come to your cafe increasing your profits. Sadly I’ve found the cost to return is not very good. Infant I invested around 30000en (en = currency) and barely made around 15000en back. thus far there doesn’t seem to be any real benefit to the city development, where as the cafe development has huge returns.
As you recreate the recipes each new one grants a certain buff. So later on I’m expecting to be eating a food to give me a boost in specific scenarios. Such as eating a food that gives fire resistance before fighting the salamander.
The map making aspect of the game is rather fun, which I was very surprised by. Given the lack lustre map making that was in Legacy of Legend I wasn’t holding out much hope for the map making here. However, it blew me away how in-depth the map making is here. The amount of details you can add to your map is amazing. You can even put notes directly onto the map, as well as there being a vast number of icons that cover everything under the sun.
So rather than just uncovering the map you draw the map as you, it reminded me of my childhood with those old board games where you had to draw your own maps and stuff. That said, if you don’t want to do that you can just turn on auto mapping, and it does 99% of the work for you. You’ll still need to add things like doors, stairs, boulders, and treasure chests, everything else is added for you.
So for me, this first part of the game is where it’s at, and it’s worth picking up the game just for that.
Sadly thats where I’m going to stop singing the praises. The second part of the game, the ‘classic’ mode, I found lacking in a very important area. The labyrinth maps.
What I was expecting (and hoping for) was that when I started the classic mode the labyrinth map would be different. While I was not expecting fully randomised maps, I was hoping that each part of the game would have their own separate maps. That’s not the case however, and the classic mode map is a carbon copy of the story mode maps.
For me this took away a huge chunk of motivation to explore in the classic mode. I don’t see the point of exploring the same maps all over again with no real reason to. I made it to the third stratum in classic mode and found I couldn’t go on anymore.
While you do get rewarded for completing the story mode first, in the form of being able to import the Fafnir Knight as a playable class in the classic game, I don’t see it that way. Rather I’d say pick one in accordance with your playstyle, so go either story or classic.
I will be honest here and admit that my dislike of the classic mode comes from the fact I don’t like it’s lack of direction. I like the fact you can customise your party from the outset, but dislike the fact there’s no story framework to play in.
However it is worth noting that you can customise your party somewhat in story mode. By going to the explorer guild and having the characters level drop by five, you can pick any of the classes. So you do have that option as well. However I personally felt doing so felt wrong, given that it was a story mode, I felt like I was telling the author he was wrong and changing the script. So I didn’t do it, and while I wouldn’t mind changing the class of Arianna, the others we get are pretty ballanced.
There’s one final mechanic to talk about, the Grimoire. This is a system that, honestly, I’m still struggling to understand why its in the game since it doesn’t really add anything. Grimoire stones are dropped by mobs when you kill them….occasionally. They can either be skills you have or skills the monsters have. If you equip a stone that has a skill you already have, it boosts that skill, the level of the stone dictated the level of the boost you get. If you equip a stone with a skill you don’t have you gain access to that skill, and if the skill requires a specific weapon that your class can’t use already; you’re given access to it. For example if I equipped medical bullet on my character I’d gain access to the skill, but also gain the ability to equip and use guns.
However, as I’ve said I’m still trying to figure out why the system is in the game, since it doesn’t really add anything that is needed for the game.
One last thing to say on the mechanics, and that is do not play on picnic level difficulty. The game becomes stupidly easy on that level, and you can literally set everything to auto battle. Even FOE’s don’t pose a problem on that difficulty. However an other problem arrises, you’ll fast find yourself under levelled as you progress through the labyrinth, stick with standard.
Finally, lets talk DLC, as there are several bits both free and paid.
Yggdrasil Veteran, Highlander’s Return, Ultimate Feathered Warrior, Hidden Hot Springs, Winter’s Harbinger, are all free DLC, initially. Apparently the way they’re doing the DLC is for the first week or so after they’re released they’re free. However when the next wave of DLC are released the old ones get a price. These area mix, some add new bosses, others add classes and others add new portraits.
Currently there’s two DLC that were paid DLC from the start: Wanted: Lucky Bud and Wanted: Golden Sprout. These are cheat DLC that give you increased money, material drops and grimoire stone drops.
So should you buy this game?
Absolutely! And I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this! The story mode of the game has been a hell of a ride, one that I’m not getting off of any time soon. I’ve enjoyed this game so much I’ve now gone and ordered the the first game as well, hoping it’s as good as this one is!