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Review: Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of The Titan

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You can't hide from FOEs

On paper, Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of The Titan may sound more like a chore than anything else. The concept of having to map out every nook and cranny of a dungeon sounds like something that shouldn’t be a main feature in a modern game. Developers can give players the option to pull up a map whenever they need to see where they are, so forcing people to map out their own games is seemingly redundant, and menial by comparison.

However, despite my somewhat negative introduction to the Etrian Odyssey system, drawing your own maps can actually give you a surprising feeling of accomplishment. In case you've never played any of the Etrian Odyssey games, each installment in the series focuses on exploring labyrinths filled with unspeakable horrors, with a party of characters made by the players themselves. By unspeakable horrors, I’m talking about the monsters and bosses that lurk in each area. Just like other dungeon crawlers, this series doesn't hold your hand, so you’ll have to become intimately familiar with your characters and their capabilities.

Since Etrian Odyssey IV is my first entry into the series, you might guess that I suffered a painful experience that left me in tears long before I finished the last dungeon. That said, join me below to see how I fared with Etrian Odyssey IV’s hardcore gameplay.

The real adventure begins!

Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan (Nintendo 3DS)
Developer: Atlus

Publisher: Atlus USA (NA), NIS America (EU)
Release date: February 26, 2013 (NA), August 30, 2013 (EU)
MSRP: $39.99 [Buy]

Even though Etrian Odyssey IV is all about dungeon-crawling, there is a story present in the game that will immerse you into the game’s world. As the leader of your own guild, players will have to recruit a party of explorers to travel across Tharsis’ areas to reach Yggdrasil by clearing the labyrinths along the way. During you travels, you will uncover the mysteries behind Yggdrasil as you overcome each new challenge. Of course, your explorers will be the ones to handle the battles, as their abilities will be tailored to the players.

Besides picking a class from seven possible choices, you’ll be given the chance to allocate each characters' skill points into the abilities that you think that will suit each class the best. Even if two people pick the same class, chances are that each player will choose a different build. For example, when I trained my Landsnecht (the swordsman class), I chose to focus on her speed and sword skills instead of her elemental abilities. If you mess up on your build, you even have the option to reset your skill points at the price of losing two levels. Personally, I’m glad the game has this feature, as you’ll have to learn to use each class to their full potential to overcome each cave and labyrinth.

Skill trees are super important.

While I mentioned earlier that the game can be a pain, naturally a well-developed party can make the difference between surviving or facing defeat. Before you run away scared, the first floors of most dungeons will provide you with some enemies that aren’t too tough. In reality, it’s the FOEs that you have to watch out for: strong monsters that are able to wipe out your party with ease. Luckily, you can see the FOEs in each area, so you’ll be given the chance to avoid them while you make your way to the main boss. Later on, after gaining some levels and better gear, you'll be able to come back and take down the FOEs that had you running scared-- and boy, does that feel like an accomplishment when you pull it off.

The games' difficulty could scare away some players, but the good thing about the difficulty is that you feel so rewarded when you overcome each new challenge. At the end of the day, getting fulfillment from conquering a tough obstacle is one of the many reasons that I play games, and Etrian Odyssey IV does a phenomenal job in making me feel accomplished. If this still sounds too hard for newcomers, there’s also a casual mode that lets players have a less stressful time of it.

Other than combat, the game’s feature that lets you draw your own maps is a bit of a reward in and of itself. In a way, it lets you relive the good ol' days when players had to create their own maps on graph paper. Just like the first three games on the DS, Etrian Odyssey IV still lets people use the bottom screen to draw out each path with different lines, floor tiles, and symbols. Once you get used to the system, it ends up being a surprisingly addictive element to the game. In fact, you’ll be drawing everything as you walk through each new hallway and corridor. The best part is that if you get a game over, the game will actually save your map data-- this way, you don’t have to worry about redrawing maps that you spent your precious hours on, no matter what tough monsters you run into.

Don't forget to map out your world.

Despite the straightforward gameplay in Etrian Odyssey IV, there are many features that keep the exploration fresh. FOEs still move around while you’re in the middle of a battle, which means that they can enter any battle that you’re in – including boss fights. Not only that, the main labyrinths are filled with puzzles and traps, so you’ll have to pay close attention to your environments when you step foot into each area. During exploration, you’ll have to worry about dodging giant FOEs – it’s hard to get away from these guys – and tornadoes that can cause your adventure to come to a complete stop. On top of that, there are many other types of dangers that can bar your path. Thankfully, you’ll come across some resources in the form of mammals, birds, fish, and plants, which can buff your characters. Also, if you have food, it can be used to distract most FOEs.

Like with many tough RPGs, you’ll have to do a bit of grinding to build up your custom party. But that’s not to say that killing monsters is your only option, as you’ll have access to various side quests that reward you with experience upon completion. Besides the quests available in the game, Etrian Odyssey IV has a QR code scan system that lets you scan certain codes that contain exclusive side quests that can’t be unlocked otherwise, an interesting feature.

As an aside, I have to say that Etrian Odyssey IV has one of the best shop systems of any RPG I’ve played, since the shopkeeper actually keeps the materials that you sell in stock. In other words, any material that you sell will be used for crafting new items. The great part about this system is that you don’t have to go through the trouble of saving every rare material that you find just in case you get a quest later on that calls for it.

You'll encounter some lush environments from time to time.

Graphics-wise, the game’s design is very simple. Each area has a similar layout, except that the interiors are filled with different textures to give the proper mood for each environment. A day and night system adds some depth, with changes in the lighting according to the clock. Perhaps the strongest part of Etrian Odyssey IV's design are the monsters themselves. Each monster feels colorful, which reminds me of the monster textures in the Tales of games like Abyss, Graces F, and Xillia. When the 3D is turned on, they manage to pop out even better, which adds more depth to the game’s look.

While the human characters are depicted with 2D illustrations, the character artwork deserves some praise as well. From serious looking designs to adorably huggable ones, the adventurers in this game are a memorable bunch. They may not use the most detailed illustrations on the planet, but this simplicity works well with Etrian Odyssey IV’s overall design. In fact, the simple, clean designs could almost deceive people into thinking that they’re in for smooth sailing with this game, but of course we know better.

The soundtrack also deserves some praise, since Yuzo Koshiro (composer for the Etrian Odyssey games, the Streets of Rage series, and the Shenmue series) brings a great score to the table. The enemies battle theme has a nice '80s anime feel to it, and the victory theme gives off a pleasant sound that reminds me of a track from Mischief Makers. FOEs have their own jazzy theme, a track that will no doubt send chills up players' spines. Even so, the main boss theme is the one to watch out for, as its orchestrated build-up gets your blood pumping. When you’re not in combat, you’ll be presented with some relaxing town themes to get your mind off of the pressures of the outside world.

Landsnechts and unbearable FOEs.

This title is published by Atus USA, and I have to say that the company aces the localization once again. The interface and menus are easy to read, and the text during the story segments and quests feel good on the eyes. As always, the way each line is worded shows that they put a lot of care into getting it just right.

At the end of the day, Etrian Odyssey IV’s goal is to show players that certain gameplay features you might have once found tedious can actually be very addictive if done right. There’s something special about using your own group of custom-made characters to triumph against difficult odds that can only be accomplished by a few games, and Etrian Odyssey IV is one of this select few. With the game’s modern take on a primitive practice used for navigation, Atlus deserves a medal for making it not feel like a chore. As long as you’re open to trying new things, there’s a good chance that Etrian Odyssey IV will pull you into a quest that rewards you for all your hard work and effort. On top of that, you’ll never see the word ‘FOE’ the same way ever again. 

9 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)

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Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan reviewed by Salvador G Rodiles

9

SUPERB

A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage.
How we score:  The Japanator reviews guide

 
 
 

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Salvador G Rodiles
Salvador G RodilesSenior Editor   gamer profile

Salvador's an average bystander who took his first steps towards a life-changing goal. During his journey, he's devising a way to balance his time with anime, manga, video games, and tokusatsu in... more + disclosures


 


 


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