Tag Archives: techniques

Etrian Odyssey, Nintendo DS

This pioneering Japanese RPG was first released in 2007 and paved the way for one of the greatest series in the history of level-grinders… The Etrian Odyssey series.

Number three is my favourite, but one and two are excellent too (see also the Nintendo 3DS fourth instalment), and all follow the same credo. Which is: to base a game around exploration, mapping, and turn-based combat. And to make the party system flexible, so that adventurers can take out different parties and experiment with character skills.

Of course this first Etrian Odyssey is not quite as finessed as the second and third (or fourth) games. It’s missing some important features of the later games, like some of the usability features that make this type of game easy to play on a handheld (for example: it hasn’t got the ability to cycle through your characters using the L&R shoulder buttons, which is available from game two onwards, which makes a significant difference). It doesn’t have ‘auto attacks’, which saves time with low level monsters; and the boost system is clumsy. Also: the layout of the text isn’t right in this first game either – it’s kinda misaligned inside the dialogue boxes, which Atlus fixed in the next game.

Etrian Odyssey also doesn’t quite have the breadth of variation as seen in the second, third and fourth games, although it does establish many of the series’ staples, such as character classes Landsknechts and Dark Hunters (specialised fighters who can excel with certain weapons, like swords and whips). It also establishes front and back rows and allows some classes to specialise in either, which is a nice feature (because you can choose to take a single character in a radically different direction to the norm, which is always interesting). A lot of thought has obviously gone in to Etrian Odyssey and the way it plays, and it is good to see how many great ideas were included at the start.

Etrian Odyssey is a beautifully-produced game by Atlus. The art is wonderful throughout and the music and menu system are highly polished.

If you’ve played the later Etrian Odyssey games before this one then you might get tired of it quickly, simply because it lacks the control/menu shortcuts of the sequels. That’d be a pity because this first game has a tremendous amount of content to play through and is technically a great piece of programming. The stylus controls on the mapping system were pretty much nailed with this first game. In fact: the mapping element – as a whole – was this game’s gift to the RPG world. It is such a great feature and works brilliantly well in this – and every other Etrian Odyssey game that followed it. It’s the game’s USP, and it’s also the series’ USP.

More on The King of Grabs:
Etrian Odyssey, Etrian Odyssey II, Etrian Odyssey III

More: Etrian Odyssey on Wikipedia

Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard, Nintendo DS

This 2008 Nintendo DS release from Atlus is up there with the best in terms of top quality level-grinders – it really is superb.

The Etrian Odyssey series is all about mapping and exploration, item drops, boss battles, levelling, and lots of excellent turn-based combat, and this second instalment is a clear evolution of the first game, although arguably not quite as expansive and refined as its remarkable sequel.

Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard is a very easy game to play, but has many hidden elements that take real skill (and a lot of luck!) to unlock. I’m talking specifically about the item drops. Kill a boss or an enemy a certain way and they’ll drop a special item. Take that item to the shop and sell it for big bucks, and also to unlock new weapons and armour. Of course, getting the special item drops is an art in itself. An ‘art’ that is infuriating on a real DS, and somewhat ‘fun’ in a emulator…

Levelling-up and spending Skill Points on your individual characters is also fun. Etrian Odyssey II features detailed and imaginative skill trees, spells, and abilities, and the option of choosing from twelve different character classes when building a party. Even better: you can easily build and use different parties by visiting the Explorer’s Guild. This feature makes the game very re-playable and gives you a chance to experiment with all the different classes without having to have different saves for each. You can have a maximum of five in a party, or a minimum of one, and access to some ‘optional’ hidden areas is only possible with a party of three or less. The flexibility of the party system really gives this game – and all the other Etrian Odyssey games – an edge over much of the competition.

Graphically, Etrian Odyssey II is a pleasing mix of simple 3D graphics (the first-person landscapes in the main view window), and 2D, hand-drawn graphics. The 2D graphics I think are fantastically-drawn and really make the game look great. Again: a common feature of the Etrian Odyssey series and one of the reasons why I love it so much.

Another common feature of the series are the boss battles. Rather than simply meet a ‘boss’ in a set location in order to fight it, the bosses (called FOEs in Etrian Odyssey II) fit into different categories, and follow certain patterns of behaviour. Most FOEs patrol the maze, usually in a set pattern, and avoiding them (at least initially) is what you need to do. On occasion the lower-end FOEs will come after you if they see you, and break off the chase if you escape out of their range. And – rather scarily – the FOEs who chase you will continue to pursue you even if you’re locked in battle. As each turn of a battle passes, you can see the red-lit FOEs on your map get ever closer… and if they reach you they will enter battle. Which you really want to avoid! Especially with low-level characters. The next level of boss is a ‘Stratum FOE‘ – a sort of ‘end-of-level boss’ with hit points and skills designed to test your party to the max at a certain level. And there’s one other level of boss – the ‘Superboss‘ – which are usually hidden away for advanced players to find and take on. Needless to say: the boss battles in this game are phenomenal! They are not only a real test of nerve and skill, but they also force you to plan ahead, and also to employ certain tactics to win – especially if you’re trying to get the special item drops. The general idea with bosses in Etrian Odyssey II is: avoid them if you’re too low-levelled, and return to fight them later, when you’re more capable.

Overall: level-grinding has never been so much fun. While not quite as brilliant as its 2010 sequel, Etrian Odyssey III, Etrian Odyssey II is still a fantastic game. It’s deep, involving, full of detail and charm, and a huge amount of fun if you like level-grinders.

More on The King of Grabs:
Etrian Odyssey, Etrian Odyssey II, Etrian Odyssey III

More: Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard on Wikipedia

100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time on thekingofgrabs.com
100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time

Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City, Nintendo DS [Part 2]

I want to post some more grabs from Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City on the Nintendo DS. Because it really is one of the best RPGs of all time, and because I can’t recommend you play it highly enough.

In my mind, developer Atlus took all of the best elements of computer Role-Playing Gaming over the past twenty years, and rolled them into this game.

Etrian Odyssey III is not perfect, however, but it’s as close to level-grinding nirvana on a console as you can get. And – having played Etrian Odyssey 1 & 2 before this, and seeing its potential – Atlus must be commended for realising that potential in this game.

The (quite wonderful) stylus/mouse-based mapping element is worth the price of admission alone. But there’s so much more to this game. The craft, quality and detail are joyous to experience, although Etrian Odyssey III is a very tough game.

I’ve not yet managed to beat the three (four actually) dragons at the end, but have otherwise been absorbed for months at a time playing this game. The combat is so good. A great example of how timings and interface make for great combat. And variety. There’s just so much variety in this game, but it’s not out of control, and Etrian Odyssey III feels like a great console game.

Etrian Odyssey III is a great console game. One of the greatest!

I’ve prepared some new grabs to show off Etrian Odyssey III‘s detail a bit more (my last post about this game I think I only posted five grabs). And remember: this is a dual-screen game (top and bottom screens). I’ve cropped most shots down to one screen, but the taller grabs are two screens on top of each other. Enjoy.

More on The King of Grabs:
Etrian Odyssey, Etrian Odyssey II, Etrian Odyssey III

More: Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City on Wikipedia