Atlus makes excellent and unique RPG experiences, we all know that. Etrian Odyssey V is no exception. It was my first Etrian Odyssey game, and now I’m hooked on the franchise.
The premise of the story is very simple. The mysterious tree, Yggdrasil, is open for exploration. Adventurers from all around the world gather at the city of Iorys in preparation for their quest. It’s a simple plot, but there is enough intrigue to keep you motivated. The main focus is on party customisation and gameplay.
As soon as you start a new game, you start with in-depth customisation. There are four races, each with classes specific to them. You can change classes at the cost of five levels later on. This is a nice option to have if you want to mix and match races with different classes. Every race has different stats, which can work well with different classes.
It was a little overwhelming at the start and hard to pick a party of five. But I don’t view this as a negative. I love the wide variety of options available to you from the very beginning. You can build a high offence team that prioritizes damage. Or you could have a few tanks for a balanced squad. It’s up to you.
I’m not an advocate for using guides in games. However, you may want to take a look at what skills each class will learn. This way, you know what sort of team will have good synergy. Of course, making mistakes and figuring out a solution on the go is part of the experience. If you’re a first-time player, then looking through a class guide might be a good idea.
The entire game revolves around traversing the labyrinth of Yggdrasil. Your goal is to reach the top of the tree. You have a first-person perspective as you combat the trials of each floor. The exploration section makes up half of the game.
In Etrian Odyssey, you have to draw your own map as you explore. That means drawing the outline of the floor and marking points of interest. You will want to mark every point you encounter. There are secret paths and exits to discover. It’s great incentive to walk on every tile on each floor.
Each floor contains resource collection spots. You can farm different materials from these spots. These materials will be your main source of income and key to powerful gear. Make sure to upgrade the correct skills for your characters to enable maximum output. If none of the characters can fish, then fishing spots are useless. At the same time, giving two characters fishing is also useless and a waste of skill points. Keep this in mind when levelling your characters.
The other half of Etrian Odyssey is the turn-based combat. The combat is strategic and rewarding. Early in the game, even the weakest of random enemies can kill you. Stronger enemies show up every time you go to a new floor. Which means you have to be on your game 100% of the time.
The difficulty never feels unfair or impossible. It often comes down to exploiting enemy weaknesses and timing your abilities. Status ailments are amazing when used correctly. You have to check which ailments are effective against a certain enemy. Usually, you can block the most powerful attacks by binding a body part (head, arms and legs). Some enemies are resistant to binds and ailments. Using the wrong ailment is a sure-fire way to a game over.
A major aspect of the labyrinth is the F.O.E.S. These are powerful enemies that can murder your team with ease. Even the game suggests that you avoid these guys until you are well prepared. The gimmick with F.O.E.S is that they roam the map alongside you. Several puzzles involve dodging them.
The first time I fought an F.O.E was awful. I didn’t stand a chance. They aren’t impossible though. Once you get some decent equipment, you might be able to tackle them. No amount of equipment will save you without the right tactics.
Having status ailments on your side is a must-have. Being able to access each one is impractical as you have other roles to fill. Try to get as many as possible, as each class has different ailment abilities. It was frustrating at times when I didn’t have the correct ability for a specific enemy. If you’re desperate, you can get items that can inflict the same status ailments.
The stage bosses of Etrian Odyssey V will test your knowledge of the combat mechanics. They tend to be quite tanky, so fights can take a long time. Bosses have a larger variety of attacks, some of which can inflict ailments. You have to prepare for anything that might come your way.
It’s also important to take note of your environment. The first boss summons minions which walk towards you, and join the battle. By blocking their path, you can prevent them from joining the fight. This doesn’t apply to bosses only, but for the entire game. In a few locations, you can drop rock pillars on F.O.E.S, and knock them out. Those same F.O.E.S can also drop the pillar on you. This level of interactivity ensures that you’re invested in each moment of gameplay.
Battles are also in the first-person perspective. All you see in the battle screen are enemy sprites and the background. Attacks are simplistic animations and effects. Nothing flashy, but it gets the job done. Even though it’s basic, the combat screen is efficient and never takes away from the experience.
Etrian Odyssey has the advantage of releasing near the end of the 3DS life cycle. Atlus’ engine for Etrian Odyssey is optimal and there are no performance issues. The labyrinth has several Stratums, which are the different environments. The first level, a forest, only lasts for five floors. Then it’s on to the next area. This keeps the journey fresh and full of surprises.
Most of the characters you interact with are residents of the town. They are the owners of the inns, shops and other facilities. Chatting with them is always enjoyable, and they each have a unique personality. They are a little flat, but it’s still charming.
What isn’t always charming is the voice acting and writing. The voices are a mixed bag. Some of them are good. Others are grating. This isn’t something to worry about though. The amount of voiced dialogue is low. Most of the time it’s silent text. There is no option for Japanese voice overs. It is a shame that Atlus is inconsistent about having this feature. In this case, it isn’t a big deal.
As for the writing, it can be childish at times. The innkeeper, for example, has a few funny lines. She also has this running joke with lame puns. It’s inconsistent and jarring. The standard for writing should be higher. When the story isn’t the main focus, the writers have a chance to make funny and engaging characters. There should be some level of emotional engagement with the plot, even if it’s laughter.
There is plenty to enjoy in Etrian Odyssey V. It’s the perfect start if you are new to the series or genre. If you’re on the fence about this one, then I recommend you take the dive. What you will get is a fun adventure that is challenging and rewards your efforts.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.