Friday, 10 January 2014

Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends Of The Titan

Gamespot Score: 8.0 (Great)

My Score: 9.0

(+) Pros: - An overall HUGE leap from NDS to 3DS with tons of improvements, - Revamped classes are as fun to build teams around as in previous games, - Improved interface allows for better character customization, managing and drawing maps in dungeons, - Overworld airship travelling better than the sailing of EO 3, - More potential floors to explore with side dungeons, - Insane amount of content overall, - A lot more forgiving in training new characters and retraining old ones, - Casual mode (bleh).

(-) Cons: - A tad bit easier than previous games.

Gameplay time: 50 hours+

I know I haven't played many games on the 3DS, but I may have found a top contender already. I loved the "Etrian Odyssey" series on the NDS, LOVED it to no end...even though as a guilty pleasure, I've only managed to finish the first game (would have finished the 3rd one too...f**king Progenitor was OP). "Etrian Odyssey IV" is the series's first entry on the 3DS, and it goes without saying that the transition to the 3DS has made the game a f**king masterpiece. SIGNIFICANTLY improved visuals (even though the 3D in this game is shit...3D for all the games I've played so far on the 3DS has been shit), updated UI, a new overworld, a lengthy new journey overall...everything is just as an "Etrian Odyssey" game should be, and more! Even if first person dungeon crawlers aren't your thing, "Etrian Odyssey IV" is one of those games that YEARNS for your attention, because for heaven's sake, who knows how many dozens of hours have I dumped into this game (more than "Pokemon X", yes, I'm serious).

"Etrian Odyssey" has always been about one thing...exploring the Yggdrasil labyrinth. Even though the beginning of ever game in the franchise is somewhat similar, the end product and overall plot differ from one another. "Etrian Odyssey IV" is not different. You start off as a greenhorn explorer, new to the city of Tharsis, where explorers all around the world gather for one sole purpose: to reach the great tree Yggdrasil that beckons far off into the horizon. As in all of the previous games, many explorers tried, but none have successfully accomplished it....will you the one to break the ice? Or will your guild be just another band of corpses for the f**king turtles in the Golden Lair?

That's a pretty over-leveled party for a baboon....

The game flow in "Etrian Odyssey IV" is mostly similar to that of previous games...and you should know what to expect. The game is a first person dungeon crawler, with turn based combat featuring your team, which you will build from head to toe by yourself. As the game starts you are thrown into the guild house, where you will create a guild and the explorers who will form it. You will name each and every one of these explorers, and you will choose from many different professions available to you...all to form a team of 5 whom will march bravely into the labyrinth to discover the many dangers and wonders that await. When you set foot into the dungeons or the overworld, one thing becomes certain, the game has come a long way in terms of visuals.

Gone are the days of stale 2D portraits of monsters and bosses (though I do miss those now and then)...say hello to the newly developed 3D models of monsters. Environments look as detailed as always, though the inhabitants of these environments are the things that have changed. FOEs are no longer lingering red orbs that follow you around, and bosses are also no longer the black orbs that they are. Instead, now you have fully visible bears and furyhorns right behind your ass, making you feel the tension of fear even better than before (though in a way, red orbs of death were also rather scary back in the day).

You'll have to draw maps as usual, not surprising, right?

When we talk about "Etrian Odyssey", we have to talk about the meat of the game, the combat. Combat is turn based as usual, but what's so fun and intriguing about the series is that you create and craft your entire team by YOURSELF. Their skill tree, skill order, and how you want to shape's all up to you. You get 5 members in a party, and the game has 10 classes that you can choose from. 7 at the start, 3 more as the game progresses. Most of the classes in "Etrian Odyssey IV" have made an appearance in previous games before, unlike the completely new selection of classes in "Etrian Odyssey III". However, these classes in the fourth installment have either gone through name changes and/or received massive tweaks so that they all feel considerably different from before (except medic, you can never change the medic). As usual, as is the case with all of the previous games, it's an absolute blast to build teams around different combinations of characters, and that is a charm of the franchise that will never go away.

Mapping out the various different levels of the labyrinth have also been one of the series's mainstays, and will never be going away. As you traverse through the different levels of the different labyrinths, you will be marking your own steps, drawing walls, noting shortcuts...all in the bottom screen. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as this was how it was always done, though I must say that the UI has taken an improvement. Not just in the map drawing department, but as an overall in menus. It is now WAY easier to customize character skills in the game since everything is laid out in a skill tree format...instead of just a plain list of skills. Its also easier to fit characters in the Berund Atelier as you buy weapons or armor. 

This is now how a FOE chases you around...a real, scary ass bear instead of a red orb.

Overworld travel was introduced in "Etrian Odyssey III" via sailing the waters. It was a fine addition, and luckily for us, Atlus implemented it into "Etrian Odyssey IV" as well. Though instead of sailing in the waters, we go sailing in the skies. Sky travel is a common means of transport for the explorers in Tharsis, and yes, a sky ship is how you'll be getting around the different places you need to be. In the overworld, there are no random encounters, though your ship will still be vulnerable to FOEs that wander around the overworld...these are stronger than the ones in labyrinths most of the time. As you'll be getting requests going into labyrinths, you'll also get requests concerning the overworld, making it a prime destination source, be it discovering new locations to explore or to gather the local foodstuff.  

Speaking of discovering new locations to explore...the new gameplay mechanic to completely discover a brand new dungeon during overworld exploration is a threat to those hungering for more floors to traverse. These are completely optional, which is the beauty of it. You may find monsters that you've never seen, items you've never discovered, or FOEs that can not possibly be vanquished elsewhere. While the main meat of each stratum is only 3 floors (it went from 5 in the first two games, 4 in the third game, and now only, these new side dungeons can serve as "extra floors" that serve to add to your playtime and to relinquish your hunger for exploring new places.

The available classes and their character designs in each of them...

As with previous "Etrian Odyssey" games, the amount of content in this fourth installment is pretty formidable, even more so than in the previous ones. Cruising through the game, mapping every floor to its finest, uncovering everything in all of the lands and beating the main story should net you about an easy 30-40 hours...standard for an RPG game. But going to the extreme, going for the game's 2nd ending, getting every material in the game, beating all the monsters, bosses and even uncovering the scary as hell 6th stratum can net you about 60 hours, tops. That's not counting the time you'll spend experimenting with different classes for different team compositions...

"Etrian Odyssey IV", while being the most improved game in its franchise, is also the friendliest and most forgiving of the series....which can be good in some situations. For one, you won't have to retrain an entire character from scratch if you want to reset their skill point allocations (or reduce their levels by half), in this game, you only need your characters to lose 2 levels to get all your potential skill points back. This makes retraining A LOT easier, and since the game now provides you with training scrolls throughout the story, you can instantly level a character up to as high as level 45, eliminating ALL previous frustrations of having to train a new class from level 1 when your other characters are much stronger. Also, we have casual mode...which I assume is an easy mode? I've never used the damn thing, but I guess it's a welcome addition to those who've always been pissed about the game's difficulty issues.

Yeap, the dragons are back. Someone prepare "Scatter about" please.

I have almost no gripe with "Etrian Odyssey IV", it is by far the best game in the series...and if it improves any further than this, we might have a serious case of perfection coming in. However though, I got to say that if one thing bugs me about this fourth installment, is that the game is more predictable and a lot less punishing than it used to be. I used to die to randomly examining a corpse, but now all you get is a puny spider bite that takes off a small bit of your HP...Monsters and FOEs can still prove to be quite difficult, however there is no longer a "killer combination" of monsters that almost spelled instant death when you encountered them (f**king ants from EO 1 man). The unpredictability and killer enemy combinations still exist! Though the game saves it all for the final stratum...which is a little bit too long to be keeping the guns for.

"Etrian Odyssey IV" provides the best first person dungeon crawling RPG experience up to date. I say first person because there are other amazing dungeon crawlers out there which are on par with this game (Persona games say hi). Brilliant visuals, breathtaking explorations and the intensity of FOEs lurking around the corner have never been better. I've yet to play "Untold" since it is a remake, but because of "Etrian Odyssey IV", I feel like I need to....I need my EO fix! If there is an "Etrian Odyssey V" in developement (it'll come, we just have to wait for it)...please let it be harder. 

Happy Gaming!