Role-playing games have gotten longer over the years, and some may argue that they have gotten easier. Etrian Odyssey takes a step back and puts you in the shoes of an adventurer seeking fame and fortune. It's what RPGs used to be — a lot of work. It's under the never - ending - dungeon - crawler - with - no - story - but - hours - and - hours - of - gruelling - work category. These RPGs target a segment of society in which people find it fun to level for hours with no real reward except that your party grows stronger (and the fame and fortune thing).
I play RPGs for the story. If I don't find the story worthwhile, I feel like I'm wasting my time. I am not a fan of leveling for hours on end just to see my stats go up. I like a well-balanced game in which it feels like I'm nearing the end of the already ridiculously long game. Etrian Odyssey's plot revolves around this labyrinth that opened up in the forest near a small town called Etria. There is an open call for adventurers who want to win fame and fortune. As an adventurer, it's up to you to start a guild and recruit a group of people willing to go with you. This is where you name and select what kind of members you want in your party. You have the option of picking a Landsknecht, Survivalist, Protector, Dark Hunter, Medic, Alchemist and Troubadour to start . Some are meant to serve in the front lines of battle, and some should be stuffed in the back. Different situations require a different party set up, so there is a bit of strategy and planning that goes into a party that works. You can change the members of your party throughout the game, so nothing is set in stone.
This game isn't easy, and it might not be your idea of fun. Your first mission gives you a taste of what's to come. You have been sent to Yggdrasil Labyrinth to map out the first floor. As you travel through the dungeon, you move one square at a time. The lower touch screen on the DS will show the map, and the top screen is a first-person view of the long 3-D corridors. This setup makes the game feel really old, especially when the only thing you see in battle is the enemy and your hit points. Your characters only exist because you can check their profile pictures in your menu screen. FOEs or boss characters will show up on screen; otherwise, your battles are random.
To add to the game's difficulty, you don't start with very much En, the game's currency. Not only are you broke, you need to hike back to town every time someone in your party dies and every time you want to rest or save your game. This adds to the tediousness and slows down the progress you are attempting to make. There are specific points in the dungeon you can exploit, such as a chopping point, for items to sell. En is earned by completing quests and selling items you find on monsters.
There is also only room for one saved game, which makes it difficult to share this chore with others without erasing your data. Travelling to various areas is done via a menu, which makes me wonder if they just got lazy. There are good things to this game, especially if you're into customization. Your characters have skill points and will receive more as you level. You can dump these points into any stat you want and build your character the way you want them to be.
If you also enjoy exploring every nook and cranny in a game, at least this makes your effort worthwhile, since you use the touch screen to map out the area by drawing grid lines and marking such locations as events, stairs, treasure, etc. This gives you a sense that you are a true cartographer, and it helps when you return so you know where you're going. The map menus are easy to use; you just point your stylus to the pencil to draw the outlines, and there's an eraser if you made a mistake. Icons for events and such are available for you to drag onto the map to mark where they are.
Warp points and warp items come in handy to return to town when you need to. There is a lot of backtracking, though, and a lot of repetitive chores of collecting items for people when you take on various quests.
There is very little animation in the game — maybe a swirl here and a flare there when you cast a spell, but otherwise, there is not much to see. This game wouldn't be considered basic, but the presentation certainly is whereas the gameplay is not. There is nothing exciting about the music, either, but it fits the content of the game.
I find it difficult to recommend this game to anyone unless they are part of this niche demographic that happens to enjoy this type of game. It's tough, it's tedious, it's long, and there is not much to see. It's for the player that has a lot of time on their hands, rather than the player who wants to get to the end as quickly as possible. I can see how this game would be very satisfying for the former, but since I fall under the category of the latter, I just couldn't get into it.