The recent JRPG dungeon-crawler classic Etrian Odyssey for the DS (originally released in 2007) has gotten a full revamp in the new Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl for the 3DS. The game definitely has an “untold” element, for it not only adds new updated graphics but also includes an all-new story mode that brings more than a few changes to the formula of the original game.[su_pullquote]Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl
Developed and published by Atlus
Available on the Nintendo 3DS.
*Review copy provided by Atlus[/su_pullquote]
As a newcomer to the Etrian Odyssey series, I was initially a bit hesitant to jump into the game. I had heard more than enough stories about the series’ unrelenting difficulty to be somewhat scared of what I would find in my exploration of the game’s dungeons. Surely enough, a few minutes into the game a deer – out of all things – became the downfall of my party of heroes. Defeat is something that the player needs to get used to while grinding and exploring the dozens of floors of the game’s Labyrinth, as anyone who plays the game finds out soon enough that it is a crucial part of the success of your quest. Still, grinding does not become a great obstacle to the game’s enjoyment thanks to the new adjusted difficulty, which makes a comeback from the most recent entry in the series, Etrian Odyssey IV.
Gameplay does not veer too much away from classic JRPG dungeon crawlers. You explore dungeon in first-person, and battles are turn-based random encounters. One element that really helps when keeping track of your party’s well-being is the proximity gauge and the FOE’s gauge, which tell you how close you are to an enemy encounter. This is a pretty nifty tool when you are trying to keep your party prepared for battle, for it allows you to always be aware of when you are about to be engaged.
The game does not only feature normal enemies. Stronger types of enemies, known as FOEs, are visible to the player in the map and roam each floor. Most of these enemies are extremely strong and, if not handled properly, can become the cause of multiple party wipeouts. When first encountering these types of enemies it is better to avoid them although they have the ability to jump into your battles if they are close enough to where you are. This can become quite a problem if you are caught in a bad situation, since a simple battle with a small enemy can become as hard as a boss battle. Nevertheless, you can avoid these enemies as they follow certain patterns of movement; if you move the right way, you can avoid having to fight them even if only until you are stronger.
One crucial gameplay element is cartography. During exploration of the dungeons, you need to map each floor using the 3DS’ lower screen and the stylus. It is important to be as accurate as possible; it will become extremely neccesary in your constant revisits to each floor during the game’s multiple side quests and missions. Thankfully, the addition of a fast travel option makes the exploring much less painful than it could have been. Mapping is not a novelty to the series but, as a newcomer, I found myself quite engaged in the mapping process. However, this mechanic can easily put off some players, since it is quite time consuming. Most of my time with the game was spent mapping the labyrinth’s numerous rooms to perfection, making notes of everything that called my attention. Labyrinths are highly complex–therefore, mapping each floor takes a lot of patience. Still, this is made easy with a mapping system that is quite complete, although the player shouldn’t expect much explanation about it. The game is vague in its instructions and the player is given the liberty to use the mapping mechanics to their own liking. While some players might like this amount of liberty, others might be discouraged by the game’s lack of direction.
The biggest addition to The Millennium Girl, as most players of the previous entries in the series will notice, is the addition of a storyline. Story has never been a crucial element for previous Etrian Odyssey games, but this time, the story becomes the driving point for the dungeon exploration. This, in turn, makes the game more accessible to those who find the game’s challenge a bit too much for their taste. In Story Mode you’ll find yourself in the shoes of The Highlander, a warrior from a tribe that has been asked to investigate a mysterious series of earthquakes that have been affecting the land of Etria and mysterious sounds that seem to be somehow connected to these earthquakes. During the investigation you meet a girl named Frederica Irving, whom suffers from amnesia, but seems to be connected to the whole mystery, and a colorful three-member investigator team from the Midgard Library who also seem to be trying to find out the truth about this same matter. The story is hardly groundbreaking but, when frustrated with the constant defeats, it was the story and uncovering the truth about Federica, that drove me towards stepping up to the game’s challenge.
Besides the newly added story mode, the game also includes a Classic Mode which goes back to the typical gameplay style of the series. In Story Mode, for the sake of the plot, members of your party have a set class. However, in Classic Mode you have 9 different types of classes which you can change during gameplay. These classes have different traits like the Lansknecht, which are skilled at melee combat, or Medics, who specialize on treating your party’s wounds. Each member of your party has a highly customizable skill tree that is greatly detailed and, as you gain levels in battle, unlock different skills. An interesting option is the Rest option, available early in the game: it allows resetting all the skill points of any character in order to rearrange them. This is highly useful when you realize that a certain skill is not helping you in a way that another might. This, of course, comes at a cost of two levels which might just be a worthy sacrifice when stuck in a boss battle. Grimoire Stones, obtained in battles, are another option to customize your character abilities. They contain skills from different equipment, classes and enemies. Equipping a grimoire stone may allow you to use skills that would otherwise be inaccessible to the character. Also, a synthesis system is available in which you can merge different grimoire stones to make new, more powerful ones.
Another addition to the gameplay is the new Casual difficulty option which might be just what more inexperienced players need in order to tackle the game’s punishing gameplay. Although Casual difficulty is much easier, the game is still quite challenging.
The game graphics are quite similar to what’s expected of the series. Game environments are colorful yet they can get a bit repetitive; you will get lost more than once if you rely on the environments as opposed to your mapping skills. Enemy designs are great and work quite well with the game’s old-school charm. The addition of fully fledged characters in the story mode brings forth some interesting character models, something that was missing from previous entries. Also, gorgeously animated cut-scenes rewards players for their hard work.
Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is a great revamp to the series’ main entry by making it more accessible to new players while maintaining the challenge that has come to be expected from the series. The addition of the Story Mode makes gameplay highly rewarding as the player uncovers the mystery behind Frederica. Although it’s not for everyone, the game’s challenging difficulty and highly customizable characters, along with the inclusion of the classic mode, makes this a must buy for fans of the series and fans of JRPGs alike.