Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan review
Publisher: Atlus / Namco Bandai Games
Released: 5th September 2013
A break from the daily grind
My daily commute is normally taken up with some reading or playing some mobile game on my Android smartphone. So when Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan came my way, it was time for my 3DS to get the chance to be my travel partner. I’ll have to admit that RPG’s, and in particular JRPG’s are not normally high on my playlist of 3DS games. I normally stick with platformers along the lines of New Super Mario Bros or puzzle games along the lines of Crush3D; something less intense than what is required for an RPG. But I hopped on the train and turned on my 3DS and opened up Etrian Odyssey IV. And after a week or so of commuting and levelling up my characters, I‘m thoroughly hooked on the lands surrounding the town of Tharsis.
The story of a tree
The storyline centres around Yggdrasil, a giant tree overlooking the landscape that contains massive power. Legends say that the tree holds the secret to eternal paradise and the Count of Tharsis has issued a challenge to would be explorers to find the mystery surrounding the tree. Of course, you have decided that you are up to the challenge. Before heading out into the wide world surrounding the city, you must first select your party. You select their class and allocate points towards their skill tree. There are a number of classes to choose from, and each class has differing skills. You are free to choose the make-up of your squad from melee fighters, ranged attackers, mages and healers. It is probably best to have a balanced squad made up of each, as each of their skills can come in handy at various times.
After spending some time in the city to talk with the locals and accept quests from various inhabitants as well as the Count himself, you head out in your zeppelin-like Skyship into the great expanse around Tharsis. Whilst in the outlands, you guide your balloon to the various dungeons where the combat takes place. You can also harvest food that can be sold in Tharsis and talk to fellow explorers. Large creatures also wander the outlands and early on, it is best to avoid them until your squad has gained in experience.
As an explorer, the world map is empty and it is up to you to become the cartographer. As you move about (both in the dungeons and in the outlands) the map will update automatically...to a degree. You’ll need to draw in walls, indicate hidden passages and mark special locations yourself. It is not compulsory to do so, but adds to the enjoyment of the game. There is lots of travelling back and forth from the home base of Tharsis, so adding in the minor details on the map makes it easier to travel around the labyrinths. Walking around the dungeons can become quite a chore, but luckily there is an item you can purchase (known as Ariadne Thread) that enables immediate travel back to town. Also, you can mark a path around the labyrinths and use the auto pilot mode to head to your destination. Certainly handy if you're walking the same path over and over.
Of course, whilst journeying through the mazes, you will come across various creatures that seem threatened by your presence. It is then that the combat begins. You begin by arranging your party into two separate lines with up to three squad members in each line. Units at the front generally deal and take full physical damage while units in the back row deal and take reduced physical damage, so a balanced squad of melee fighters in the front row and ranged fighters in the rear is normally a good idea. But gamers are free to choose whichever formation suits their playing style.
Health Points (HP) and Technique Points (TP)
Each squad member has a number of health points (HP) depending on their class and the armour they have equipped. Any damage taken will reduce their HP meter. If the HP meter reduces to zero, the hero is dead. Medics can revive fallen squad members if they have enough Technique Points (TP) and the appropriate skill. Though, if all five members of the squad perish, the gamer must return to a saved position (or will return to Tharsis if playing in Casual mode). Technique points work much like mana from other RPGs. Each squad member will have a certain amount of TP which can be used in battle to effect special skills in battle. Again, skills are dependent on the class of warrior. Medics, for instance have various healing and revive skills, whilst Fortresses provide defence skills and Nightseekers have skills that can blind or stun opponents.
The best and toughest battles are against the dungeon bosses and the creatures that roam the lands that your Skyship flies over in search of the dungeons. For the most part, you can avoid the land-roamers, but they provide for some great rewards if you manage to take them on and win. It may be wiser to stick with gaining experience against lower-class enemies. Dungeon bosses though, cannot be avoided if the story is to continue. They generally have stronger attacks and armour and provide a great challenge, requiring expert management of your squad members' skills in order to prevail.
As mentioned, after defeating enemies, you are rewarded with various loot. Loot is quite plentiful, but you can only carry so much. Once your sack is full, you’ll either have to empty out some stuff, or head back to town to sell the spoils of battle. Unfortunately, none of the creatures carry weapons or armour and these must be purchased back in town from the local arms dealer. Along your journey, special hammers will be found and these are given to the armoury – free of charge. Weapons can then be upgraded in abilities such as increased strength or improved hit chance. They can also be infused with elemental powers so that they can affect blinding or piercing effects (amongst others).
Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan definitely looks great, especially for a 3DS game. The locations are vibrant and colourful, with each of the lands having a particular look and feel to them. The monsters are colourful too, and there is enough variation to keep the battles interesting as you progress through the dungeons. Each of the creatures has a varying degree of defence and each has their own blend of attacks, whether it be standard attacks or elemental ones. The music throughout the exploration mode is relaxing, making the game feel like a journey to a promising destination, but the tone becomes more dramatic once a battle begins.
Heading into another dungeon
Working out which skills and attacks to use against certain opponents is a huge amount of fun, especially against the larger more powerful creatures. The grinding is a little tedious , but once you’ve levelled up a certain amount, you can put your squad of fighters into auto-mode against the lesser creatures; and the use of the auto-pilot and Ariadne thread means that the travelling back and forth isn't as painful as it otherwise may have been. Although the main story is a tad mediocre, the side quests certainly fill the void and the characters you meet along the way have their own story to tell. Having not been a fan of RPGs on a handheld, Etrian Odyssey IV: Legend of the Titan had a bit of work to do, but it has come through with flying colours. I'm pleased to say that I'm hooked and my daily commute isn't complete without heading into a few dungeons.