A remake of the 2007 DS original, Etrian Odyssey Untold manages to capture that old school RPG flavour that people loved about the original, but also creating some of its own ideas along the way. Some of these ideas though being more successful than others.
At its core Etrian Odyssey is a first person dungeon crawler RPG where your character and fellow adventurers are tasked with exploring the Yggdrasil Labyrinth, a massive area complete with multiple floors and threats, as well as the ruin of Gladsheim. The big difference with Untold compared to the original is the addition of another game mode – Story Mode. While Classic Mode is still present and like the original features custom characters and maps, the Story Mode now has a narrative with pre-set characters, cut scenes and voice acting. As the Story Mode is the new addition, this is the one we spent the most time with.
While the addition of these new story elements would be welcome for some, the problem comes from how cliché a lot of it is. The moment an amnesiac character is introduced eyes began to roll. The main story is also not as intriguing as it needs to be in order to get people hooked. Initially revolving around being sent to the labyrinth and ruins in order to seek out the cause of tremors that appear to be rocking the region, it takes a while to start going anywhere. Although throughout the story you are given other quests (such as kill monsters, find missing people etc.), it takes around ten hours for any sort of interesting narrative to evolve. That aside, The Millennium Girl does do everything else really well.
A first person dungeon crawler at its core, the most unique of gameplay traits is the way you have to actually draw the map as you explore. With a grid based layout, as you wander around you’ll be using the bottom touch screen to create the map. It being imperative you draw it correctly, unless you want to spend the next half an hour looking for a way to the next floor because you foolishly drew a wall in the wrong place. With traps and multiple paths there are plenty of things in the world to keep you on your toes, as well as the random battles.
Battles are a straightforward turn based affair, with standard attacks, special skills etc. Levelling up though allowing you to place points into specific skills. So you can strategically plan out how you want each character, for instance placing points into defence for your main healer or spending all the points on attack and go in all guns blazing. There are also Grimoire Stones that can be combined and equipped to your party members to improve stats or skills, these being obtained through fights, like everything else in the game. Most floors in the labyrinth are also filled with FOES. These enemies are actually viewable in the world and are much tougher than other, more standard enemies. Like yourself they also move one tile per turn, so memorising their patterns is a must if you choose to avoid them. But of course, beating them earns many rewards.
All these items you collect being sold at Etria, the hub town that acts as your safe haven. Unfortunately you can’t walk around in any capacity; it’s simply a menu with options. Whether it is spending time to recuperate at the inn, collecting quests from the local pub or buying items from the store. It does the job, but there was slight disappointment that it wasn’t a real, living, breathing world that you could explore, especially as graphically everything in Etrian Odyssey looks rather nice. It would have been great to explore a town at your leisure without the fear of a monster jumping out and biting your face off.
If there’s something in Etrian Odyssey that we truly hope gets stolen for other JRPG’s, it’s the ability to change the difficulty mid-game. Finding a section too difficult? Then go to the options and lower the difficulty, there are probably other JRPG style games that have done this, but it doesn’t seem to be very prevalent in the genre. But maybe we’re just getting bad at games in our old age.
The Millennium Girl may have a plot filled more with cliché than originality, but the exploration aspect makes up for it. The plot may offer little new, but the gameplay itself brings with it enough fresh ideas to keep you playing till the end.