I have been a fan of the idea of roleplaying games for as long as as I can remember. The idea of using my imagination to explore, battle fantastical monsters and immerse myself in deep storytelling keeps bringing me back to the genre. I love so much of what developers bring to the table in these games, and even manage to embrace the more complex and arcane systems that make the average RPG fan balk.
A few years ago, I discovered the Etrian Odyssey series on the original Nintendo DS. I fell in love with due in no small part to my lifelong love of maps, a key element of the franchise. These games are a nod to the days when RPGs were rich with dialog and devoid of long CGI cutscenes and absurd plots about clones.
Once again, Atlus has hit a homerun for fans of a more technical RPG experience. In Etrian Odyssey 4: Legends of the Titan, players take a band of adventures into new realms while enjoying the art of skill building, map drawing, and battling monsters.
The first thing that you will do as you begin this journey is to create a guild, name it and start creating a band of adventures to fill its membership roster. You can create over two-dozen characters in all, and I found myself grateful that so many slots were available. There are seven classes available from the start and three more that become options later, however this is just the tip of the iceberg.
As you level up your guild, player choice becomes of paramount importance in the growth and development of each member. Characters starts out with three skill points and gain more with each level. These are the building blocks used to mold each unit. Whether building a a Runemaster (spell caster) who is an expert at just fire magic, or a Fortress (tank knight) powerhouse attacker or meat shield, the choices are in your hands. There is even benefit from building multiple characters in some classes and taking them down different specialization paths. I absolutely love the possibilities for character creation.
The first major difference that I discovered while beginning my adventure is that the monsters are no longer just 2D sprite images, but are now fully functional 3D models. This new level of graphical fidelity makes the enemies and monsters much more full of life. One of the newest features in this installment is being able to travel the overworld map using a hot air balloon. This improvement, which opens up the entire world, helps take the game away from feeling like the nonstop dungeon crawl found in previous Etrian Odyssey titles. Don’t think that flying is going to be a cakewalk though, as many powerful enemies roam the sky.
This brings me to the difficulty of the game; Etrian Odyssey’s challenge is significant. This title wears it’s old-school badge with pride, and with that comes dozens of hours of level grinding and skill building. Etrian Odyssey isn’t for the faint of heart, but for those who are willing to put in the time, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience.
As you are exploring labyrinths in the first person and drawing your map on the bottom screen, you will once again be treated to the masterful tunes of Yuzo Koshiro. This time, the music is fully orchestrated, and the battle theme (Gale Force) is a fantastic track.
There is a lot going for Etrian Odyssey IV. It is both an achievement in retro gaming while also an evolution to the series as a whole. For those unafraid of an intense RPG challenge, a rewarding experience awaits you.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.