If perseverance were ever seen to be of necessity to a game, Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan would be one that most certainly requires it.
The continuation of a series that ATLUS first conceived for Nintendo DS, it now makes a welcome shift across to the handheld’s successor. This time around we find ourselves in the outland city of Tharsis, beyond which looms the daunting presence of Yggdrasil, a giant tree in which it is foretold is an unknown entity that can call people to an eternal paradise. Seeking to ascertain the validity of such legend, the Count of Tharsis issues a challenge throughout the land to anyone who would adventure toward reaching the overgrown perennial to learn if there was any truth behind it. And thus, your quest begins.
Arriving fresh-faced, you set up camp at the nearby Explorers Guild and enlist an adventuring party built with customisable characters – plucked from the game’s 10 classes which themselves provide formidably diverse. Between the defensive Fortress, the savage Bushi and the menacingly dark Nightseeker to the indispensable Medic, you will put to use all of their skills as you tackle the challenge laid before you.
Beyond this, Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan can be an unforgiving experience for those that fail to muster the hours to grind their party to the level of competency needed to bound your way through the game’s plethora of dungeons. But push past the unwelcoming exterior and you’ll be quick to discover a richly rewarding experience for those that can find enough time to sink into it.
That a new Casual difficulty level has been added does much to signify this, not that it isn’t appreciated. It does much to alleviate the game’s accessibility to newcomers through making battles easier, certain items not being expendable, and returning your adventuring troupe to Tharsis if defeated. Newbies can now enjoy seeing what all the fuss is about without too much undue stress, leaving those with more experience to charge headlong into the thick of it at the risk of having to reload their save when they are defeated.
That said, Etrian Odyssey’s charm has long been about thrusting you into such labyrinths with a blank parchment to hand, carefully mapping out your surroundings to keep track of any noticeable observations – be that points of interest or hazards. Exploring these locals from the game’s first-person viewpoint, which is a growing rarity in the genre, largely provides the more wondrous moments that Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan has hoarded away.
This is accentuated further by the improved visuals that the 3DS grants, which, whilst not the most striking we’ve seen on the device, brings to life your surrounding environments and the grizzly creatures that inhabit them in a far more accomplished manner than the game’s predecessors. Your journey isn’t restricted to being across land either, with your Guild acquiring a Skyship to traverse the skies in. This invites you to set out to discover new dungeons, using your Foodapult to distract marauding enemies whilst also seeing you come under threat from the likes of tornadoes.
Between adventures, you’ll make your return to hub areas to restock items, upgrade your party’s gear, and gather any side quests that will further expand your fortune. These serve their purpose well enough, if not straying too far from the norm. Inns to rest and save your progress, pubs to gather information, and armouries to trade weapons, armour and materials. That these are reduced to a menu interface does little to immerse you among your fellow explorers, and is an aspect that should see more attention in future titles.
The battle system will see rampant monsters attack you and, as with your own party, do so in formation. Strategy comes into play here, with skills seeing you deal damage across an entire line of foes, piercing through one enemy to hit another behind, and so on.
Burst Skills, shared by the whole party, see you raising your attack strength for a turn, dealing guaranteed hits or fleeing from battle, for example, whilst levelling your party members will grant points that can be spent within their specific skill tree to heighten their effectiveness in battle. Subclasses increase an already enviable amount of depth at your disposal here, inviting you to mix-and-match weapons between your favourite parent classes whilst synergising their skills to hone your party into a well-oiled adventuring machine.
StreetPass sees support through exchanging Guild Cards with other Etrian Odyssey dungeon-goers, exchanging favourite characters as well as details about how you’re faring in-game. QR Codes are similarly utilised, those distributed by Atlus unlocking limited edition items as well as new quests, which is generous considering these are provided at no extra cost.
Whilst Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan will appear an acquired taste to most, gallant strides have been made in not only adapting to the continually modernising genre but also in looking to attract the wider audience that is yet to discover its unique wares.