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  1. #1

    [3DS] Etrian Odyssey V

    Demo's out now on the US eShop and the game will be out in the same region this October, don't know about EU releases.
    The demo allows you to level characters up to level 10 and explore part of the first dungeon, and you'll be able to carry over saved data to the full version.

    Etrian Odyssey V opens up in a very familiar way: you get to a city known for its dungeons, you register your guild at the local office, and then select at least five adventurers to go through a simple mapping quest give by the local authority to ease you in with the various game mechanics, like getting horribly maimed by caterpillars or poisoned by pretty butterflies.
    But when selecting adventurers Etrian Odyssey V hits you with probably the biggest change since the first game: there are four races you can choose from. For the sake of simplicity I'll call them humans, elves, dwarves, and fanservic...I mean bunny people, each race with their own strengths, weaknesses, and exclusive classes. Humans have 4 classes to choose from, other races just 2.
    Class skill trees are much less complex than before, but you also get race skills to mix with the rest, and so far I've never complained how the EO team balanced their character customization. Sure, some classes were essentially mandated in the endgame but that's not an easy pitfall to avoid.
    Additional races and classes (including subclasses) are unlocked by progressing through the game.
    Then you choose a character portrait, a character's hair, eyes, and skin colour, plus a voice if you want. And finally a name. And I'm someone that has a hard time coming up with names for characters, now I'm allowed to customize them? Creating five characters took more than 30 minutes.
    Anyway, voices. Etrian Odyssey V is the first in the series to be fully voiced (no chance to use Japanese voices in the demo), party characters included, and it get boring. FAST. My suggestion is to turn off voices completely and resist the temptation to give characters a voice.

    This opening sequence also reminds you that you're playing on a 3DS with possibly the best depth effect I've seen on the handheld, every element of the interface has multiple layers, as well as backgrounds. This does get in the way when editing characters, but other than that this game begs to be played with the 3D slider turned up to 11.

    So I've now got my party of five composed by a Fencer (similar to the first game's Landsknecht), a Masurao (think the Samurai from previous games), a Dragoon (a mix between Gunners and Protectors), a Warlock (elemental mages), and a Shaman (healer).

    On this first quest the difficulty isn't as brutal as it was in the first two games, but it's not as easy as if was in III and IV, at least on advanced difficulty. It's a bit too early to speak about class/race/party sinergy, but almost every class can, in some form or another, use elements to attack and I've already eyed double-strikes and follow-ups for the Masurao and an hybrid healer/dancer class that can dispel buffs and nerfs to cast an elemental spell, so it'll probably focus on this for the first part of the game.

  2. #2
    I've reached the third floor of the first stratum, therefore going as far as the demo allows me to. The third floor hasn't been completely cleared bcause it's roaming with FOEs and despite showing that they're as strong as my party, I've postponed fighting them to the full version so that I don't waste any experience, as my five main party members already the demo's level cap (10 in this case).
    The third floor is interesting as it features simple lever-based puzzles to open the way forward, it's not much but it's nice to see that developers made the labyrinth itself a bit more interactive than before. And this being just the third floor in the whole game, I suspect that such puzzles will get more complicated (hopefully without going intot he teleport hell of the final stratum in EO1).

    So, instead of battling FOEs I've tinkered with the party a bit, replacing the Masurao with a Rover. Rovers are a mix with Rangers and Beastmasters from previous games, they can summon a wolf or an eagle to attack enemies or heal the party. The cool thing is that this animal companion doesn't fill a party slot (like happened with Shinobi clones in EOIII) and lasts until you get back to the city. I went for the eagle because it has more stab attacks, and stab attacks can trigger elemental chases from the Fencer. Also, the animal companion heals the party at every turn, not by much but so I'm thinking to replace the local Medic with something else, probably a Dancer for buffing/nerfing, as the class also has some healing capabilities; it doesn't have resurrection capabilities, but there's an union skill just for that, although it might not be enough in later battles.

    It didn't take long for enemies to start their combined attacks, first with a warthog eating living acorns to power up, to 3 living trees combining up into one giant living tree (and of course at full HP no matter how badly wounded were its components).
    Plentyof ways to get miscellaneous experience points, from turning in quests to stumble across events in the labirynth, like salvaging a purse from a turtle or doing the right thing when harvesting fruits.
    Dungeons now also feature fireplace to cook food for some on-the-go provisions, as well as foraging tiles to gather random fruits and vegetables that in turn can be cooked or used for quest.

  3. #3
    OK, quite a number of things to say, got the complete version and dove right into it.
    Let's start with the first stratum.
    The first stratum does a good job in introducing players to the various mechanics of EOV. One thing I've noticed, especially in later strata, is that a lot of dead ends have some kind of event that requires your decision on what to do. This makes exploration more engaging and rewarding, and adds that level of tension associated with such events: so far nothing like the Ariadne Thread-stealing squirrel in EOII, but there have been ambushes and traps reducing the party's health down to 1 HP. Thankfully I've got a Medic in the party, and the Rover's pets heal the party at the end of a combat turn. Still, the party down to 1 HP and a bright red encounter meter is not a good thing, especially during the first levels when TPs are low.

    EOV shows that developers learned a lot during the series, and the more engaging floor design from EO Untold II returns with environmental puzzles (turn the statue to open the path forward) and FOEs with several patterns to further make wandering around labyrinths more engaging and dangerous.
    In the first stratum most monsters are easy to face, although there are Ropers that turn into Giant Ropers with enhaced capabilities, several debuffers, and monsters that use others (like warthogs eating acorns to power up, or Giant Ropers using acorns as throwing weapons).
    FOEs here still are rather standard designs, powerful creatures with a lot of HP and attack power, which works well with parties that have just begun exploring their abilities. Most FOEs in the first five floors can be faced alone with some careful planning, although in a few occasions this is not possible and if you don't want to face two of them at once you need to have a party able to kill one in three-four turns...which might happen, however most of the times this means running out of TPs, forcing a retreat and rest at the local in.

    The first boss is a giant Golem composed by a cluster of small Golems. Similar to the first boss in EOIV the boss can call forth reinforcements and you're able to block some of those by operating environmental puzzles before facing the boss. You can target its head, legs, arms, or body: once the giant Golem is complete it self-destructs, greatly damaging the whole party, and takes two turns to recompose, and during those turns you have to focus on one of the smaller Golems to avoid a complete giant. The body is the boss' "real" lifebar. It's a very tense battle that drained all my characters' TPs but thankfully I have some items to recover TPs to keep going.
    Once you learn the boss' patterns and block its reinforcements the fight gets significantly easier.

    The party is still composed by a Rover, a Fencer, a Dragoon, a Warlock, and a Medic.
    Upon launch Atlus released a series of DLCs, including free character portraits, and two quests that can be undertaken as many times as you want for extra money, experience, and two nifty items: one ring to increase experience gained, and one to increase drop chances. The latter won't make conditional drops available for free, but the experience ring benefis the whole party and has been a staple of my party since getting it.

  4. #4
    This makes me wonder if the Etrian series has a future once the DS family of consoles wraps up. Have any of them appeared on other machines?

    I know there was a game for the PSVita a while back, which was some weeb thing with fan-servicey girls and their mecha going through underground mazes. I know because I played it after pre-ordering it nearly a year before release, when there was scant information other than it was a game with customisable mecha. It ended up being pretty dire (fortunately I was able to sell it pretty quick).

    All this makes me think of whether something like Etrian can work on devices with only one screen.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Asura View Post
    This makes me wonder if the Etrian series has a future once the DS family of consoles wraps up. Have any of them appeared on other machines?
    Etrian has been exclusive to the DS family, but its success spawned several other dungeon crawlers. Most of the are rather basic compared to Etrian and even crawlers on the PC (Eye Of The Beholder, Wizardry), and a lot of them are based on the Wizardry system, but others attempt build their own system and don't rely on two screens.
    However the necessity to draw your own map and the ability to note things down as will is one of the major features in the series and without major reworking it's not going to work on a device without a touchscreen always available...that's why I was hoping in some kind of HD collection on the WiiU as it was the perfect fit for Etrian.
    However if Etrian ends here I won't be particularly disappointed, I'm OK with constantly refining a formula but it's also time for Atlus to try something new. Also the Japanese subtitle roughly reads "The End Of A Long Myth".

  6. #6
    The second stratum, rocky canyons of reddish rocks.
    In this stratum both enemies and FOEs become more dangerous not only due to their HP and damage output, but because FOEs actively interact with the environment and both standard and special enemies mix up in a way that you need to selectively pick out some of them before doing anything else.
    Take the Stun Cicadas, for example: they don't do much damage and go down with few hits, only that they can stun the entire party when killed; they always appear on the front lines and there always are other enemies in the back, usually with some kind of long-range attack. There are also giant yellow parrots that can mimick standard attacks making them extremely dangeorus to characters with low defence.

    FOEs include giant scorpions that follow you around as soon as they see you (but you can ambush them with some careful movement), Buckling Giraffes that one at 50% HP start spamming and extremely power area attack (able to get every character down to critical from full HPs even with Dragoons defence buffs), and golden monkeys that aren't particularly powerful but are damage sponges, don't have elemental weaknesses, and summon enemies to help (including the giant parrots, then cast Decoy on them to deflect standard attacks on mimicking parrots).
    The golden mokeys are particularly dangerous because they chase you around as soon as you enter their room and can manipulate rocks to block your way or even damage you, but you can do the same with some careful herding. These monkeys also respawn every time you enter a floor, so you can't just think of clearing the floor with constant rests at the town in and then explore an area with ease.

    The boss of the second stratum is a very straightforward battle against a giant creature which I aced at the first try. My party is geared towards elemental damage, and this boss is very susceptible to lightning. At times it guards to reduce damage taken and regain some health and the only way to break the guard is with a lightning attack.
    To be honest I was kinda disappointed about this battle, but then I remembered that I've been using a ring to gain more experience, and I think that single completely broke the difficulty curve. I've actually removed that ring from the equipped items to see how difficult the game truly is.

    Clearing the second stratum also unlocks master skills for all characters above 20 (and my characters where level 40 at that time), and in fact I did have some unspent skill points because I didn't really know how to invest them.
    Charactes above 20 can choose between two specialisations and get few extra skill points once one is chosen.
    For Vert, the Rover, I went for Hawk Master, so that the Hawk is a much more capable fighter; for Aina, the Fencer, I went for Chain specialist, to maximise her effectivness in follow up attacks; for Mash, the Dragoon, I went for Shield Bearer to improve the party's defence (I'm kinda getting prepared for the endgame here); for Tuka, the Warklock, I went for Elementalist to improve spells; for MOMO, the Medic, I went for healing specialist (the other was debuff/status alteration specialist).

  7. #7
    It took five games (well, seven if you count the remakes and eight if you count the spinoff...Mystery Dungeon 2 came out later than this in Japan so it doesn't count) but finally Etrian Odyssey has a spooky cemetery for stratum filled with ghosts, skeletons, zombie, and a boss that announced itself as the Ligh King.

    Well, the environment and enemies aren't particularly original, and the stratum also introduces damaging tiles; some FOEs here can pass through walls while others constantly respawn after being killed. The whole stratum has twist though: during daytime you can lure some FOEs in rare sunlit tiles to immediately kill them, and during nightime damaging tiles are inactive. It's a nice twist of events and makes the day/night transition more meaninfgul than simply having a different encounter rate.

    Both standard enemies and FOEs like to inflict curse and other status alterations that damage character if they harm enemies, and one FOE in particular can unleash a sure-KO attack if any party member is cursed. Ghosts are particularly tricky, as they posses characters, reflecting any and all damage done to them in full at the possessed characters.

  8. #8
    OK, so, third stratum, the massive graveyard filled with ghosts and skeletons. I've reached the boss, and since he named itself the lich king, it was a giant mummified pharoah.
    Throughout the third stratum you get the backstory of two NPCs, Solor and Lili, and you can actually fight the boss with Lili if you choose the right options during a dialogue in front of the boss' room. Lili's a Necromancer, another class able to spawn companions similar to the Hawk and Hound the Rover is able to. In a Necromancer's case companions are Wraith that can be sacrificed for a fire-based attack...meaning my Fencer had a field day in following three attacks per turn instead of the usual two.
    The gimmick of this boss is that it can summon enemies to help him, as well call forth "wings" to enhace its defences (both physical and elemental). Unfortunately I'm still suffering from the extra experience the Growth Ring bestowed in the previous floors and so this boss wasn't all that powerful.

    Onward to the fourth stratum then, a massive crystal cave. Soon you're faced with two dead ends, but after a quick trip to town the shopkeeper gifted the party with a heavy pickaxe to mine one massive crystal to clear the way forward. Picking at such crystals is like moving one tile, and of course the FOEs on this floor follow their own path and careful movement and crystal mining are required to avoid battles.
    The FOEs wandering around floor 16 are giant turtles that can increase their physical and elemental defences and they will do just so during the first turn of battle. During my first encounter with such creatures I started out as usual, piling up defence nerfs to allow my Warlock and Fencer to be extra effective with their elemental attacks. Only that the turtle replied to those nerfs with an area attack that killed two of my characters and brought the rest in critical condition. OK, retreat, recovery, retry. Same thing. So those turtles perform this area attack every time they end the turn with a nerf, so I braced myself for a rather long battle as I could only sneak in good attacks every few turns: the defence boost the turtle casts upon itself wears down in three turns and then it takes two for the turtle to cast it again, and so after the second longest fight I had till now (the first boss was the longest) I finally defeated one of those turtles. Now onto defeating the rest of them.

  9. #9
    Oh, the fourth stratum. We're at the fifth main game and Etrian Odyssey still lacks decent teleport mapping tools when entire floors (and apparently bosses) are designed around teleports. It's still not as maddening as the 6th stratu in EO1, but I still can't understand why there aren't two sets of numbered tiles of different colour to denote telport departure and arrival points.
    Going through the last three floors of the 4th stage did require some time, I still need to find a way to the last section of floor 19, and I've reached the stratum boss on floor 20 after randmly walking into portals with more than half of the floor unexplored.

    I've also found a key that opened previously sealed doors that gave access on secret areas in the first two strata, populated with stronger enemies than usual and some puzzles. I'm almost done exploring these areas and the way to complete those is blocked by two FOEs that push stone pillars in the way; downed pillars and FOEs respawn at their original location every time ou get to that floor, and I think I've found a way but I still need to experiment it...and that implies me willingly stepping into a collapsing pillar to be pushed forward. Good thing I have a good medic in my party.

    I still find EOV interesting, but I miss the boat/airship adventures of EOIII and EOIV: they made the world a bit more interesting and broke up the monotony of simply going through a set number of floors before changing scenery. I like that classes have a smaller tech tree with very focused skills, although I don't think that the race variable has been properly implemented.
    I've also noticed that the Necromancer and Harbringer girls vanished after I've dealt with the 3rd stratum boss, their place taken by a still mysterious labyrinth-dweller NPC that I'll be surprised if she doesn't have anything to do with the final/endgame boss.

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