By: Casey Curran
There are a large number of games that set out with a goal and achieve that goal exceptionally well. The only problem with this is that these goals are sometimes based on gameplay elements that will drive a larger portion of gamers crazy than those that will enjoy it. Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is one of those games. Depending on who you are, it will be full of massive dungeons, deep turn-based combat, and epic boss fights, or dungeons so obscure you have to draw your own maps, way too much grinding, and bosses with annoyingly sharp difficulty spikes.
Etrian Odyssey’s interface does absolutely everything I could ask for. The menus are perfectly categorized; there are not too many options in a given submenu, and the game doesn’t force you to switch between them too often. They are all very clear and easy to understand as well, despite a wide variety of options.
Map drawing initially seemed like something that would feel very tedious to me, but navigating while adding notes was more intuitive than I could’ve ever imagined. There are those that will find it monotonous, but the developers did everything they could to cater to this niche while making it as easy to use as possible. Meanwhile, navigating dungeons works flawlessly, though keep in mind if you do not own an XL that the smaller 3DS may cause hand cramps from constantly switching between the analog nub and d-pad.
Graphically, the character models look fantastic. They are very crisp and colorful with some great art direction. Environments, however, are where the game needs work. These are very blocky and basic, which would normally look horrible. The game’s first-person, tank-like controls, however, do everything they can to mitigate just how bad they do look, turning it into more than the sum of its parts.
The soundtrack does not have any tracks that will be remembered, but in the heat of a battle they do their job. Sound effects do what is necessary in an RPG as well. The voice acting reflects the other two elements, as no one’s performance is exceptional, yet none of the voice acting is bad. Good, not great, describes everything in the sound department.
Mechanically, Etrian Odyssey Untold is very well designed. There is a great selection of classes, and the game does a fantastic job making each of them feel both distinct and important. These have their own branching skill trees as well, which gives the game a lot of customization that is both deep and accessible.
Where the game will split players, however, is in its overall gameplay design. Simply put, Etrian Odyssey is a game about grinding above all else. You will be spending hours repeating battles so you can reach a level in order to get past a ridiculously powerful boss. The game does much to make this more interesting than grinding in your average Final Fantasy, yet this mostly comes from placing highly powerful enemies on maps to avoid. If you do encounter one of these in anything other than tip-top conditions or hours of leveling under your belt, immediately move to the run option.
This in particular gets especially frustrating when you are far into a grinding session and find yourself taken out easily before you can return and save your progress. Granted, the game does give the option to immediately reset, and there are items to let you return immediately. Yet it is still very easy to find yourself losing hours of progress if you are not careful, which I guarantee will turn many off.
Conversely, there are many who will love every second of this, and it feels about as interesting as this game design can get. Yet just remember that this is only made for a specific audience, and if this kind of game design does not sound appealing to you, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere. Yet if you are unsure about dungeon crawlers such as these, then Etrian Odyssey is absolutely the best example I have experienced of what the genre has to offer.
Etrian Odyssey is a very hard game to score. For some it will be a game that does no wrong and delivers everything they ask for from an RPG. Then there are others that will find themselves either bored or frustrated the entire time. As someone that normally disdains dungeon crawling RPGs, however, that I even liked Etrian Odyssey should be a testament to how well made it is.