Etrian Odyssey IV: An Overview

Each time a new Etri­an Odyssey is released, I think they can’t top the last shop­keep­er, and then this hap­pens…

Oh boy am I late on this post. I actu­al­ly did have this game pre­ordered and grabbed it on time, but mak­ing a post about it was the last damn thing on my mind. This game had me way too addict­ed to mak­ing a cute as hell super badass par­ty and then going off into dun­geons only to be bru­tal­ly mur­dered by any FOE I did­n’t pay atten­tion to (more on that lat­er when we get to the game­play itself). Before we start talk­ing about the con­tents of the car­tridge, how­ev­er, I want to show off the pack­ag­ing, man­u­al (ha), and sound­track.

On the left side you can see the paper box they had the plas­tic case inside. I real­ly hate these paper box­es, I have to be so god damn care­ful not to dam­age them. I’m pret­ty sure they’re MEANT to get dam­aged instead of the main case inside, but I still find myself baby­ing the box so the stu­pid tabs that keep it closed don’t break.

    Here we have the back of the paper box, as well as the first page of the art­book. I’ll be show­ing every page one by one.

Though small, the art­book is free with every copy in the first ship­ment of the game, and the art is real­ly nice, there’s real­ly noth­ing to com­plain about here. What impressed me even more though, was the game’s sound­track. I had pre­vi­ous­ly bought Code of Princess when it was released, and though it had an equal­ly impres­sive art­book, the sound­track of that game left a lot to be desired. Etri­an Odyssey IV, how­ev­er, just floored me with its in-game music, and the arranges in the sound­track they includ­ed are just great. In fact, I’ve been look­ing into get­ting a copy of Sekai­ju No Meikyu IV Den­sho No Kyoshin Super Arrange Ver­sion, but the import costs have me waver­ing on that. If I do get it though, I’ll be sure to write about the tracks, I don’t imag­ine they can make the songs worse than they are in-game, and they are wow­ing me as they are now. If any of you are curi­ous about this par­tic­u­lar sound­track includ­ed with the game, the title peo­ple are using to sell it is usu­al­ly Etri­an Odyssey IV: Music and Art Col­lec­tion.

Any­way, mov­ing on, let’s check out the guide! Let me just get past this stu­pid Nin­ten­do safe­ty man­u­al..

OH FUCK YOU ATLUS

Okay, no, seri­ous­ly, fuck this shit. Look, I appre­ci­ate the art­book and sound­track, but those are con­sid­ered bonus­es giv­en with the first ship­ment. I can’t even make a joke about how the man­u­al is two pages, made out of recy­cled paper bags, and print­ed with the tears of orphans as ink. There is lit­er­al­ly no fuck­ing man­u­al. I can’t be the only one who miss­es full col­or man­u­als that you read before play­ing a game to get your­self hyped up and famil­iar­ized with the game’s world, right? I real­ly don’t want there to ever be a day that I have to say, “I sure miss the days when video games had man­u­als!” They did include a man­u­al on the car­tridge itself that you can access from the 3DS Home Menu, but that’s just all game­play instruc­tions and the like, the shit none of us want­ed to read any­way.

Any­way, OFF TO ADVENTURE!

Now, before I get start­ed here on the game­play of Etri­an Odyssey IV I should note that I had very lit­tle hands-on time with the three old­er games of the series. I nev­er owned my own copy, so though I’m not new to dun­geon crawlers, I’m fair­ly new to Etri­an Odyssey. I’ll be talk­ing about the game in chrono­log­i­cal order to the best of my abil­i­ty, but my mem­o­ry is as unre­li­able as, well, the rest of me real­ly. The game starts you off in the main (and prac­ti­cal­ly only) town with noth­ing but an over­whelm­ing desire to jour­ney over to the big, glow­ing Yggdrasil Tree tow­er­ing in the back­ground of the land­scape. Mov­ing around town con­sists of just choos­ing which loca­tion you wish to go to through a menu, which is pret­ty stan­dard fare for a dun­geon crawler’s main hub. You can’t real­ly do much at the start because the game is try­ing to shove you towards the Explor­er’s Guild to start up your…explorer’s guild and…explore. The premise isn’t exact­ly going to win any writ­ing awards, but it does its job, and a deep and engag­ing plot isn’t real­ly the point of most dun­geon crawlers any­way.

Upon enter­ing the Explor­er’s Guild you are allowed to name your guild and begin fill­ing it with mem­bers. They tell you that you can “even reg­is­ter your­self,” which just means that there is no play­er char­ac­ter in the tra­di­tion­al sense, and that you would have to just imag­ine for your­self which one of the guild mem­bers is “you” if you decide to self-insert. This was a bit mis­lead­ing at first and I was won­der­ing if there was some kind of “play­er char­ac­ter mem­ber” that could be cre­at­ed, but I found no men­tion of such a fea­ture.

There’s a nice vari­ety of class­es to choose from, those two blank spots are class­es I have yet to unlock, and the Arcan­ist class isn’t avail­able from the start either.

The game gives you six slots in your par­ty for­ma­tion, three in the front line and three in the back line, but you can only have a par­ty of five par­ty mem­bers. The sixth slot is reserved for NPC guest par­ty mem­bers that may join you over the course of the game. This means that from the start you have two more class­es to choose from than you have slots to fill, and this num­ber increas­es to five by the end of the game. Need­less to say, this gives you a lot of vari­a­tion in the types of par­ties peo­ple will make. Do you want more dam­age in your group or util­i­ty? Should you focus on sur­viv­ing as long as pos­si­ble or fin­ish­ing fights as quick­ly as pos­si­ble? It’s up to you to exper­i­ment, and the cus­tomiz­abil­i­ty only gets bet­ter once you see the skill trees for each class.

Damn, that’s a lot of skills to choose from…

…there’s no way to max even half of these out, is there?

As great as this is, it’s a god damn curse for inde­ci­sive peo­ple like me.

The max lev­el in this game is 70 (there are ways to raise this cap to 99 if I remem­ber cor­rect­ly, but that comes way past where I’ve got­ten), and you get 1 skill point for each lev­el. You do start with 3, but that’s not a lot of points for how many skills they give you to choose from, which come in both the active and pas­sive vari­ety. Did I men­tion that you also get the abil­i­ty to pick a sub­class, giv­ing you access to all of that class’s skills, with the only restric­tion being that you have a max lev­el of five for those skills? Yeah, there’s a lot of ways to go about build­ing your par­ty in this game. Luck­i­ly, there’s the abil­i­ty to allow your char­ac­ters to rest, which is basi­cal­ly just a skill reset at the cost of two lev­els. Yes, you have to grind back two of your hard-earned lev­els, but it’s way bet­ter than hav­ing to make a new char­ac­ter like some oth­er games may force you to do.

There’s also four char­ac­ter por­traits per class, each with an alter­nate col­or palette. This com­bined with the abil­i­ty to name your char­ac­ter had me sit­ting at the char­ac­ter cre­ation screen long enough to melt my 3DS into my hands.

Once you’ve got your cute as fuck  badass, all male, testos­terone infused par­ty cre­at­ed you are giv­en your first mis­sion from the may­or that will allow your guild to become offi­cial­ly added to the reg­istry. A gen­er­ous man, he gives you half of your mis­sion reward upfront so you can go buy gear for the par­ty (no, this will nev­er hap­pen again), which is pret­ty damn use­ful con­sid­er­ing the fact that all new­ly cre­at­ed par­ty mem­bers start with a dag­ger and a cloth shirt. Not exact­ly some­thing will allow you to sur­vive your first excur­sion. Upon arriv­ing at the black­smith you are greet­ed by his appren­tice, a wor­thy addi­tion to the already like­able line­up of Etri­an Odyssey shop­keep­ers.

Don’t call the mate­ri­als I near­ly died get­ting for you “crap,” please.

The shop sys­tem is fair­ly inter­est­ing. Like any oth­er store, you have to pay up to get the goods, but unlike oth­er stores, they don’t stock their own shit. Nope, you have to go gath­er­ing mate­ri­als for the shop in order for them to be able to make any­thing, whether it’s a sword or some med­i­cine, you have to pro­vide both the com­po­nents and the price of the labor, not unlike get­ting your house remod­eled.

You need new car­pet­ing? Well, I’ll need you to go over to that man-eat­ing bear and kill it for its fur. Oh, and don’t for­get to bring your wal­let, I am not touch­ing some­thing as gross as a bloody bear pelt with­out a pay­check, ass­hole.

Luck­i­ly, you don’t have to just hand over craft­ing mate­ri­als for free, you just sell them to the store for prof­it like you would any oth­er item and the shop will have the mate­ri­als avail­able for use, so you’re not get­ting com­plete­ly screwed here. What this does mean, how­ev­er, is that just find­ing what­ev­er makes you the most mon­ey and get­ting filthy rich isn’t enough to get new gear; you also need to gath­er or hunt for the ingre­di­ents need­ed to make the item you want. So far I’ve found that it’s not dif­fi­cult to keep up with when play­ing nor­mal­ly as long as you don’t go run­ning pasts spots where you can chop wood/gather plants/mine ore.

The Yggdrasil Tree in the back­ground serves as a con­stant reminder of your ulti­mate goal. It’s also pret­ty and super shiny.

When you final­ly get your par­ty and gear togeth­er, you’ll head out of town to find some­thing that’s new to the Etri­an Odyssey series: an over­world map, and a sweet sky­ship to tra­verse it with.

Great, anoth­er oppor­tu­ni­ty to give some­thing a stu­pid name. No, I am not proud of this.

The over­world map has no ran­dom encoun­ters, but it does have FOE’s (dif­fi­cult ene­mies, per­haps best described as peri­od­i­cal­ly respawn­ing mini­boss­es) wan­der­ing around, who are very ter­ri­to­r­i­al and don’t take well to you try­ing to steal their food. Which is a damn shame because gath­er­ing food from the over­world map from the three types of sources (birds, herd ani­mals, and veg­eta­bles) nets you some seri­ous cash if you make it back to town with the stuff. If you’re being care­ful there’s no real dan­ger of los­ing the food you have onboard, but reck­less­ness can have you fly­ing your ship into an FOE who pro­ceeds to wipe your par­ty, or into a tor­na­do or angry drag­on that makes quick work of your sky­ship (which thank­ful­ly does­n’t kill the entire par­ty, but you end up in town with all your food gone), so pay­ing atten­tion is as impor­tant as ever. Also on each over­world area you go to is a labyrinth, the maze-like dun­geon you would expect to vis­it in Etri­an Odyssey; with­out those we would­n’t real­ly be play­ing a dun­geon-crawler would we? Also lit­tered around the map is sev­er­al small­er mazes called “caves” by the game, which so far have been one floor each, and I don’t expect the pat­tern to change. Once you find these caves and labyrinths, you can actu­al­ly tele­port straight to them from town like you would in the pre­vi­ous games, so as soon as you unlock an area you’re not forced to con­stant­ly fly out there.

Ah, final­ly, adven­ture!

Dun­geon crawl­ing in this game is like any of the oth­er Etri­an Odyssey games. For those of you who have nev­er played a dun­geon-crawler before, you tra­verse the maze from a first per­son point of view, and try to get as far as pos­si­ble before being forced to turn back to restock on sup­plies and upgrade gear. For those of you who have nev­er played an Etri­an Odyssey game, you also need to draw your own map as you go through the maze using your touch­screen and sty­lus.

Some of you may see green squares and blue lines, but I see carpal tun­nel wait­ing to hap­pen.

This may sound weird, but I get a deep, per­verse sat­is­fac­tion from draw­ing a map nice­ly. I’m no artist, I don’t draw as a  hob­by, and I avoid doo­dling when bored in class in fear of peo­ple being offend­ed that I would put some­thing so unpleas­ing to the eyes on paper, but I am down­right anal about draw­ing my maps in this game. I will some­times retrace my steps a cou­ple times and be forced to face ran­dom encoun­ters just because I want­ed to be absolute­ly sure my map was accu­rate. I may have a prob­lem, but damn it, if it’s a fea­ture in the game, they were prob­a­bly intend­ing for it be enjoy­able to at least some degree.

Also of note in that image are the three pur­ple cir­cles on the screen with the arrows inside of them. Those are the icons for FOE’s on the map, and they are a fast oppor­tu­ni­ty to exit the land of the liv­ing if you run into them before you’re ready. They will have a glow around their map icon that will either be red (don’t even try), yel­low (plan prop­er­ly), and blue (no longer a prob­lem). Hav­ing a red FOE run into your par­ty is guar­an­teed death unless you man­age to escape, and often­times this game’s escape chance once you’re in a fight makes you won­der if the but­ton is just there as a joke. It’s things like this that make me pre­fer to call the game “pun­ish­ing” rather than “dif­fi­cult.” It’s not all that dif­fi­cult to avoid an FOE (most of the time, some of them move extreme­ly, and some­times you end up sur­round­ed), but if you make a mis­take then the game puts on the man pants and starts pro­ceed­ing to show you how stu­pid you are by open­ing a can of whoop-ass that shouts “LOSER, LOSER, LOOOOSERas you pray to the RNG gods that you’ll man­age to escape the fight. There’s even an item called the “Adri­adne Thread” that tele­ports right back to town, and is usable any­time you’re out of com­bat, includ­ing when you’re fly­ing on your air­ship. That means if you are ever in sit­u­a­tion where you are trapped by FOE’s and have nowhere to go that is safe, you can just get the hell right out, instant­ly, with no penal­ties.

It is not dif­fi­cult to keep your­self out of dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions in this game if you take your time, but if you don’t, don’t expect any mer­cy from the game. Unless you’re play­ing the game on casu­al mode (why do peo­ple do this?) you will be forced to load your last save, and you can only save the game in town or at “Geo­mag­net­ic Poles” that are found on over­land areas and the first floor of labyrinths, which allow you to save your game and tele­port back to town. This does­n’t mean you aren’t screwed out of being able to stop play­ing if you need to turn off your con­sole though, you can cre­ate tem­po­rary saves out in the field which delete them­selves when you load them up. This lets you take a break when­ev­er you need to, but if you die then you’ll still have to load back to your last reg­u­lar save file.

The ene­mies in the lat­er areas are more intim­i­dat­ing, I swear. And then you run into a bat that’s stronger than the rhi­nos you were pre­vi­ous­ly fight­ing and won­der what’s gone wrong in the world.

The com­bat of the game has­n’t real­ly changed from the pre­vi­ous games as far as I can tell, unless you count the fact that some of the class­es have changed as they always do between games. I’m not sure what there real­ly is to say about the way the com­bat flows, it’s fair­ly stan­dard for a turn-based game, with the speed­i­est char­ac­ters act­ing first, and choic­es like main­tain­ing the most effec­tive buffs and debuffs while exploit­ing ele­men­tal weak­ness­es appear­ing as one would expect. I sup­pose one thing to note is the bar on the right side of the screen, the “Burst Meter.” Each time this meter is charged all the way (the meter increas­es as you attack and defend in com­bat), the num­ber at the bot­tom of the bar will go up by one, to a max­i­mum of five charges. These charges are used to acti­vate “Burst Skills.”

As you progress through the game, you will unlock more of these Burst Skills and be able to equip them before bat­tle, which each skill tak­ing a cer­tain amount of slots, and your num­ber of slots increas­ing at cer­tain points of the game. These skills vary in how many charges they use up, but they will all be acti­vat­ed at the start of the com­bat round before any­thing else is done, and can be done in com­bi­na­tion with a reg­u­lar action by each char­ac­ter, pro­vid­ed you have enough charges for each skill being used. This gives you a lot of inter­est­ing tac­ti­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties in terms of what Burst Skills you may want to bring with you. For exam­ple, I always car­ry the Burst Skill “Calm Breath” which con­sumes one charge and heals the user. This does­n’t sound very impres­sive see­ing as two char­ac­ters in my par­ty can heal as it is, on top of all five par­ty mem­bers being able to use heal­ing items if they so wish. How­ev­er, Burst Skills don’t use up a turn, so a char­ac­ter could, for exam­ple, attack an ene­my while heal­ing them­selves with Calm Breath. More impor­tant­ly how­ev­er, is the fact that Burst Skills are acti­vat­ed at the begin­ning of a round, which can make all the dif­fer­ence when a par­ty mem­ber is low health and you want to heal them before the ene­my gets a chance to fin­ish them off. Not all Burst Skills are this sim­ple how­ev­er, as they range from the mun­dane effects such as heals, defense buffs, and dam­age deal­ing to more inter­est­ing things like mov­ing the par­ty out from the fight all the way to the begin­ning of the floor for a full retreat or the abil­i­ty to iden­ti­fy ene­mies to view all their resis­tances and weak­ness­es (some­thing that you nor­mal­ly only can see by killing the ene­my, which isn’t so use­ful for boss­es who you only fight one of any­way).

Oth­er than this, the com­bat sys­tem itself isn’t deep on its own. It’s the great selec­tion of class­es and many ways you can build them that make the com­bat deep. It’s all about build­ing your par­ty effec­tive­ly, and pick­ing the right Burst Skills for the encounter. Care­ful plan­ning with gear and skills is required of the play­er, and this in turn indi­rect­ly makes the com­bat feel deep and engag­ing when in real­i­ty it’s most­ly the prepa­ra­tion before­hand that gets you think­ing. This isn’t to say that the com­bat isn’t fun and chal­leng­ing on its own, rather, I’m try­ing to stress that there’s no real gim­micks or inno­va­tions in terms of how the turn-based com­bat flows, such as the timed but­ton pressed of The Leg­end of Dra­goon.

And I have lady balls that hang low­er than the head of a flail!

Wow, I feel like I ram­bled on and on about this game. I feel like this game is way too big for me to rea­son­ably give a review of after own­ing it for only two weeks, so I’ll refrain from doing any­thing so sil­ly right now, I just want­ed to give any­body curi­ous about this a game a bit of a first look. How­ev­er, if you can’t tell from how long this got, I am absolute­ly in love with this game right now. It’s always a breath of fresh air for me to get a game that feels unique in the cur­rent mar­ket. Dun­geon crawlers aren’t a remote­ly new con­cept, but how many do we still get these days? If there’s a lot around, they’re cer­tain­ly slip­ping past me.

Well, until next time, the No-Cons! will be sail­ing the skies on the Chen­Honk and hope­ful­ly sur­viv­ing long enough to bring you a review of this game in the near future!

5 thoughts on “Etrian Odyssey IV: An Overview

  1. you.…you.….….……
    YOU TURNED LITTLE BUSTERS! INTO YOUR CHARACTERS!!!!!!!

    not that i hate it though 🙂
    hmm i named my ship Phoenix.….….….

    game­faqs has a bunch of lev­el­ing tips if you need, or if you want to, feel free to ask some QR codes as my par­ty is already at 99 and.… have some of the best weapons and armor

    [SPOILER]the last floor of the last dun­geon, where you can find the most badass mon­ster in the game is crazy[/SPOILER]

    well done No-Cons! and duh, there isn’t even any of that 2 pages man­u­al

  2. I’m still mad I could­n’t name by guild The Lit­tle Busters!, but this was close enough!

    I can’t believe peo­ple have already hit lev­el 99, I feel real­ly slow now. Mon­ster Hunter 3 Ulti­mate is putting me even fur­ther behind…

    I’d ask for a QR code, but I’d feel bad get­ting high lev­el char­ac­ters in my guild so ear­ly, so I’ll mes­sage you once I hit the end of the game. I’m real­ly look­ing for­ward to see­ing how crazy that post-game dun­geon real­ly is.

  3. nay, lots of peo­ple have already got­ten to lv99
    [SPOILER]dragons give ~400k exp with fire crys­tal and holy gift[/SPOILER]

    and…
    [SPOILER]the hard­est boss gives 750k exp with holy gift only[/SPOILER]

    ~80hours of play should be enough to fin­ish the sto­ry along­side get­ting to lv99 (i think)
    and you have a lv restric­tion, so before you fin­ish the sto­ry you can­not recruit any­one with lv high­er than your max. if you go to car­go wharf after beat­ing the game the restric­tion will be released

    and…
    [SPOILER]the post game dun­geon is not that hard, just in 1 end, with­out the prop­er set­up, your entire par­ty can be pet­ri­fied in 1 turn[/SPOILER]
    again.…
    [SPOILER]if you don’t do any­thing to that hard­est boss, it can unleash an attack called Rag­narok which basi­cal­ly wipes out your par­ty with sure­fire instant death[/SPOILER]

  4. oh right,
    i did­n’t even get that 2 pages man­u­al,
    F*** you nin­ten­dooooo~~~ not that i’m going to read it though, prob­a­bly just that 3D for 7+ only etc etc

    and that loli,WYNNE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i like her too

    and see­ing as you already have ~lv39 char­ac­ters, i don’t think it’s very far away from end game, peo­ple starts beat­ing the game around lv55, (~lv60 if you do all quests)

  5. A week lat­er and instead of beat­ing Etri­an Odyssey IV, I’ve put over 65 hours into Mon­ster Hunter 3 Ultimate…maybe I should repent by mak­ing a post for it since this EO IV review isn’t going to hap­pen any­time soon at this rate.

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