Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan

While Atlus’s Etrian Odyssey series, known as Labyrinth of the World Tree / Yggdrasil Labyrinth in Japan, has developed something of a cult following, it’s also drawn its share of occasional critics that slam the franchise for its old-school mechanics and difficulty level. Perhaps intending to pacify these protesters, Atlus included some new features into the franchise’s fourth installment, Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan, to make it more accessible for newcomers and those turned off by previous entries’ challenge level, a change that works well for the most part.

The most prominent new feature is selectable difficulty, with the default option giving players a game over screen when they die in the battle, and the other selection warping the player’s party back to town with all health and magic restored at no penalty cost. Turn-based battles generally follow the same structure as previous games, with occasional annoyances such as no indication of turn order that can lead to wasted healing on allies the player attempts to heal before the enemy kills them. Another new feature of battle is the ability to select subclasses for each character, in which case a class has both its initial ability list and a partial list of the subclass’s abilities in which to invest points gained from leveling.

As the player’s characters and their antagonists exchange blows, a Burst meter fills up to five levels, allowing any character to use one of two selectable abilities at the cost of a few levels in addition to another default command such as attacking, defending, using an item, using a TP-consuming skill, or attempting to escape; special scrolls obtained throughout the game provide these Burst abilities, which the player sets up in the party menu. One improvement over previous Etrian Odysseys is that foraging for minerals at sparkling points no longer requires investment of points into a class’s ability, although most classes do have abilities to gain bonus items when foraging.

One step down from prior games, however, is that classes no longer have a skill allowing greater success when attempting to escape, which can at times border on impossible, even against weak enemies. FOEs also wander dungeons, and avoiding them at low levels is generally a good idea, since running into them, alongside the frequent failure of escape, can mean certain death. The game mechanics, though, generally work better than in the previous three games thanks to the aforementioned ability to adjust difficulty, although there are still certain aspects that could have been better.

The game interface is generally clean, what easy menus, controls, and dungeon navigation, though as with previous games, the player must do plenty of work mapping out dungeon specifics such as walls. A new feature in this aspect is an overworld connecting the main dungeons and side dungeons that the player navigates via airship, with the player also needing to map out the specifics of overworld maps, FOEs also wandering around outside the dungeons. Some parts of the dungeons, such as one where the player has to destroy damaging debris with special gatherable stakes, can be annoying, and completing quests can be difficult without a walkthrough, but otherwise, interaction generally rises above average.

The story, however, could have used more development, although there are occasional story characters that will join the party as sixth members at times, and who become available for general use after the player has advanced far enough. The translation is generally clean aside from the odd decision since the first game to call the franchise “Etrian Odyssey” outside Japan despite only the first game taking place in Etria, but otherwise, neither the localization nor the plot itself really damage the game.

One area that has always been strong is the soundtrack provided by Yuzo Koshiro, which is of considerably higher quality with the franchise’s debut on the Nintendo 3DS, with the only real shortcoming being some occasional quiet points.

While the 3-D of the fourth Etrian Odyssey is somewhat disappointing, the visuals themselves are also somewhat of higher quality, the most noticeable improvement over previous games being the actual appearance of FOEs in dungeons instead of floating balls, not to mention animation for all enemies in combat. Granted, the player’s party is never visible in combat aside from their character designs, but the graphics ultimately help the game more than hurt.

Finally, the fourth installment is somewhat shorter than its predecessors, with an approximate playing time somewhere between twenty-five to fifty hours, depending especially upon whether the player participates in post-game content or opts for a New Game+.

In conclusion, Etrian Odyssey IV is a nice debut of the franchise on the Nintendo 3DS, what with new features in its game mechanics in particular making the game more accessible for newcomers to the series, such as an easy mode; other aspects such as control, the soundtrack, and the visuals also enhance a solid experience. Even those that have previously written off the series due to its taxing difficulty might change their minds after playing this entry.

The Good:
+Solid game mechanics with plenty variety and selectable difficulty.
+Beautiful music.
+Improved visuals.

The Bad:
-Dungeons can occasionally be annoying.
-Quests can be difficult without a guide.
-Light on story.

The Bottom Line:
A solid 3DS debut and good diving board into the series for newcomers.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 25-50 Hours

Overall: 8.5/10

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