Climbing the mythical tree.
After my enriching experience with Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of Titans, I have been following the series closely, and it has quickly become one of my favorite franchises on the 3DS.
However, the last two releases for the series were remakes of the first two games, and while I certainly enjoyed them both, I have been waiting to see what advancements might be in store with a numbered sequel.
With the release of Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth, the series makes a return to its roots and presents a polished experience that serves to highlight the best strengths of the franchise as a whole.
Voice Acting: ENG Only
Demo Availability: Yes! On the eshop
As is the case with all numbered Etrian titles, the story presented serves as more of a minor distraction than a driving force, as the player’s party is entirely composed of created characters. Due to this fact, there is very little in the way of personality outside from their visual design, and the various NPCs that the player will encounter aren’t much better either, never straying too far from typical tropes we’ve all seen time and time again.
The Untold series of games offered two modes of play, where the player could choose a preset cast of characters with a bigger emphasis on storytelling or go with the classic formula by creating their own party, and to see the option missing here was quite the disappointment.
What the driving force of the game has always been is the dungeon crawling aspect itself where the player is given the daunting task of making it to the top of the mythical Yggdrasil tree. With the stylus in my right hand at all times, I mapped every floor, wall, door and notable landmark one tile at a time, and given the complex nature of the dungeons as well as the deadly F.O.E.s that needed to be avoided at all costs, it was no small feat.
There was a sense of great accomplishment every time I managed to fully map out an entire floor, knowing all the trials and tribulations that led me to that point. I feel as though many games make the claim that it will make you feel like an “explorer” but I can say without hesitation that the Etrian Odyssey series encapsulates that feeling the best out of any game I’ve played to date. Blazing the trail of an unknown environment filled with dastardly traps and creatures the likes of which have yet to be discovered was always exhilarating, and just when I was starting to feel like I had a solid understanding of my surroundings, I would reach the next Stratum, which would feel like an entirely new world.
As I journeyed through the layers, I would often be confronted by events where I had the option of approaching the situation in multiple ways, and whether I made a poor or wise decision, I would learn from it, earning some much needed exp for my troubles.
There were also a myriad of side quests to take on from the NPCs in the town, some of which required some out of the box thinking and clever problem solving.
The combat encounters were challenging as usual, and even on the basic difficulty setting it was a common occurrence for me to lose a party member or two and be forced to warp back to town to heal up. Luckily, there is a great level of customization to the party members, as I was able to choose their race as well as their class.
Each race had unique skills that could be used to complement a particular class, and even though after a certain point I was able to use any race with every class, it was still very important to pick a potent party composition lest I be stuck grinding out levels unnecessarily. Union skills are a newly added element to the combat, where each character passively builds up their union gauge, and when filled they could use a powerful skill that would be independent of their regular turn to help turn the tide of battle.
Some of the skills were as simple as a double attack, where two characters ganged up on one enemy to do an attack, to a powerful recovery skill where everyone’s union gauge was expended to restore mana to the whole party. It added another layer of strategy to an already well-crafted combat engine, and really gave me the extra bit of advantage I needed to pull through some of the most difficult boss encounters.
The challenge offered even on the basic difficulty is nothing to scoff at, as one wrong decision in a crucial moment in combat could mean the difference between total victory or complete annihilation, and delving into the dungeon without an ariadne thread could lead to losing out on over one hour of progress. Thanks to the high level of difficulty, it felt even more satisfying to overcome the challenge ahead, and the victory lap to return to previous floors, all powered up to clear out F.O.E.s that previously plagued my existence was cathartic in every sense of the word.
Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth continues the proud tradition of the franchise with its stellar character customization and level designs as it poses a daunting challenge, well worth conquering- one tile at a time.
Fun Tidbit – While classes like Mage and Shaman feel weak at the start, they really start to shine in mid to late game so stick with them and you’ll be rewarded with your patience!
Review copy of game provided by publisher.