Atlus's Etrian Odyssey series, known as Yggdrasil Labyrinth in Japan, made a bit of a splash overseas, what with its heavy emphasis upon mapmaking on the stylus screen. The third installment of the series, Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City, continues this trend, with some new features that differentiate it from its predecessors, proving to be a fun experience in spite of its faults.
The core game mechanics of Etrian Odyssey III are largely the same as in its predecessors, with traditional turn-based combat that moves at a quick pace and the player able to customize their party with up to five characters of different classes, which are different in this installment. Classes include the Prince/Princess, which has a variety of support abilities as well as the ability to equip heavy armor, and the Monk, which has good attack power and many healing abilities. FOEs that are visible in dungeons also return, which provide experience for occasional leveling unlike in the second installment, as well as occasional materials (which normal enemies drop as well) that the player can sell in Armoroad for money used to buy items and equipment.
New to the third installment, in addition to the new classes, is the ability to provide custom limit breaks for the party, which they can execute when their limit gauges are full after taking enough damage from enemies. As in prior installments, if the player isn't satisfied with a character's skill setup, they can reset their point distribution at the cost of a few levels. Ultimately, the game mechanics work as well as they did in prior installments, given the quick pace of combat and grinding, although bosses can occasionally be punishing obstacles, yet are manageable as long as the player brings along plenty healing items, particularly those that recover TP.
Controls are similar to those in previous games, with the player needing to create their own maps of the dungeons, and if the player becomes bored with the Yggdrasil Labyrinth, they can always sail the seas surrounding Armoroad, where they also need to make their own map, and many obstacles await. Granted, completing the seas may require a guide at times, although interaction is otherwise decent, with typical conveniences such as being able to exit the Yggdrasil Labyrinth instantly back to Armoroad with either a Farmer skill or a consumable item, and the ability to see how equipment affects characters' stats before buying it.
As with prior Etrian Odysseys, the story isn't a reason to play the game, what with the lack of character development for a party the player has to create on their own, although there are some decent twists and even a plot branch during the game. The translation is spotless, with no errors of which to speak, and ultimately, while the story isn't a driving factor, it does have its strong points.
Yuzo Koshiro's soundtrack, as usual, provides a nice ambience throughout the game depending upon the situation, with peaceful Stratum themes and energetic battle themes, among other tracks. The graphics, however, aren't as strong, what especially with inanimate enemies in battle, although the scenery and character art looks nice. Ultimately, the third installment looks okay but sounds much better.
Finally, playing time is indeterminate due to the lack of an in-game clock, although there are plenty of sidequests and extras to stretch out playing time. Overall, Etrian Odyssey III provides an experience largely on par with its predecessors, what with solid game mechanics and controls, as well as a solid soundtrack. Other aspects such as its story and graphics could have been better, but those who enjoyed its predecessors will most likely enjoy the third installment.
+Solid battle system with lots of customization.
+Plenty of lasting appeal.
-A tad difficult.
-Story could have been better developed.
-Graphics could have been better.
Platform: Nintendo DS
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Playing Time: No In-Game Clock