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It’s been a while since a title in the Etrian Odyssey series has made its way to Europe, with Atlus’ old-school dungeon crawler being absent from our shores since the original’s release on the DS. Now that Etrian Odyssey IV has made its way here, we can finally enjoy what is arguably the best entry in an already amazing series.
Etrian Odyssey IV starts out similarly to earlier entries, allowing you to set up your own guild of explorers. Character creation is fairly simple, giving you a few classes and character portraits to select from. Certain classes are locked to begin with, along with sub-classes, which speeds up the creation of your initial band of adventurers. The game gives you enough character slots to let you experiment with different setups, and levelling up new characters becomes much easier later on, preventing the need for excessive grinding.
Once you have a party created and kitted out, it wont take you long before you’re at the first dungeon. This is because Etrian Odyssey IV prefers to keep storytelling to a minimum, with dungeon crawling being the main focus. Usually, there’s a reason given for your visits to the dungeons and not much else. The localisation is up to Atlus’ usual standards, but there aren’t any particular standout moments thanks to the relatively little amount of dialogue.
Dungeon crawling itself takes place from a first person perspective, with a grid being displayed on the bottom screen of the 3DS. The grid is used to map out each floor that you explore, from its layout to any secrets or item points that you find. While the main reason for its inclusion is to emulate the need for hand-drawn maps in older RPGs, the ability to mark certain areas in a dungeon makes it invaluable on some of the more complicated floors. Auto-walk arrows can also be added to the map, reducing the time taken to make your way through earlier floors.
Like the old-school dungeon crawlers it takes inspiration from, Etrian Odyssey IV features plenty of random encounters and, naturally, turn-based battles. Combat is fairly simple for the most part, with a variety of skills being available for each character. Burst skills introduce extra party customisation, and allow you to dominate enemies if used correctly.
Speaking of customisation, each class has its own skill tree which determines what they can do both during dungeons and in battle. For example, Arcanists, the spellcasters of Etrian Odyssey IV, have different access to different sets of elemental spells, while snipers can bind different enemy limbs. Each class also has a skill relating to dungeons, usually relating to scavenging various materials. If upgraded correctly, your party can tear through enemies, while badly managed parties will be punished. However, Etrian Odyssey IV is definitely more forgiving that its predecessors, and minor mistakes won’t completely ruin you.
Apropos Anpassungen: Jede Klasse hat einen eigenen Fertigkeitenbaum, der sich über die Aktivitäten im Dungeon und in der Schlacht erstreckt. Arcanisten, die Magier in Etrian Odyssey IV, werden unterschiedliche Elementarzauber zugänglich gemacht und Scharfschützen legen ausgewählte Körperteile von Gegnern lahm. Jede Klasse besitzt auch einen Skill, der sich auf Dungeons bezieht und meist auf auf das Plündern unterschiedlicher Materialien abzielt. Durch die richtige Skillung schneidet eure Party durch Gegnerhorden wie ein heißes Messer durch die Butter, schlecht verwaltete Gruppen werden hingegen bestraft. Etrian Odyssey IV verzeiht trotz allem weit mehr Fehler als die Vorgänger, wo jeder Fehler den Ruin ausmachen konnte.
Infact, the rest of the game has been designed in a way that’s friendly to newcomers of the series. There’s a new casual mode, which buffs your party and heals you when you return town, and there are more icons that you can use while mapping out floors. Etrian Odyssey IV is still a hard game though, even with these changes. Grinding is a necessity the further you make it though the game, and you will most likely fail many times before managing to take out each boss. F.O.E.s also make their return – extremely tough monsters that are visible on the map which should be avoided until you’re a higher level.
Graphically, it’s not the most impressive game on the system, though some areas and monsters are well designed. There’s no reason to turn the 3D on either, with the effect barely being noticeable most of the time. The soundtrack however is phenomenal, which is to be expected of the series. Songs change frequently enough to stop any feelings of repetition, with the battle themes being especially catchy.
Etrian Odyssey IV is an addictive game, which does more to appeal to newcomers without turning away its core audience. This is an essential purchase for all RPG fans, and it’s the perfect way to re-introduce the series to European gamers.