Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan marks the first time the hardcore, first-person dungeon crawler has graced the Nintendo 3DS screens. Developed and published once again by Atlus, the fourth entry keeps true to the series roots, but also introduces a new casual mode to ease new players, and those wary of the series trademark difficulty, into the experience. Previous fans can rest easy though, as the normal difficulty setting feels pretty much identical to the challenge found in the previous three titles.
As far as the transition over to a new system goes, Etrian Odyssey makes that move without any significant hiccups. In fact, it’s one of the better third party titles on the system to make use of the 3D effect. When searching through the various labyrinths and caves that make up the majority of gameplay found here, with the 3D slider cranked up you’ll be surprised at just how much depth that particular effect has to offer. It can get a little tiresome, Etrian Odyssey IV is certainly not a short game, but I really felt that the 3D feature aided the immersion quality significantly.
From a gameplay perspective not a great deal has changed in direct comparison to the last three entries. You’ll compose a party out of seven introductory classes, name your characters and pick anime styled portraits to represent them. From there you’ll take on a series of story related quests to advance the game, along with a number of side-quests, both found within the hub town of Tharsis. The game world is divided up into a series of lands, represented by an overworld map that you can move around on via an airship. Each land contains one main labyrinth to explore, consisting of multiple floors, and smaller caves that generally contain unique resources, monsters, and other items.
Of course I’m not sure that fans are looking for a significant amount of change with this series, and I can understand why. Since the first title debuted on the original DS people have enjoyed the traditional dungeon crawling aspect presented, and despite the punishing difficulty keep coming back for more. The fourth game in the series doesn’t change that a bit, offering up the same threatening presence of gigantic F.O.E.’s that wander both the overworld and dungeon maps, along with your more traditional random encounters and boss fights.
One aspect that I really enjoyed this time out, especially on the overworld land maps, is the use of F.O.E.’s and other dangers as a sort of puzzle, requiring you to make use of the airship’s ability to ascend and descend on various map sections in order to bypass danger. This, along with the use of food harvested on the overworld map at various points, which gives temporary stat boosts to your explorers, makes each overworld section feel as interesting and fun to explore as the interior dungeons they contain.
In fact, the airship used to explore the overworld is the most interesting new feature the game has to offer. While Etrian Odyssey III did make use of a standard ship to explore the waters, the airship has no land or water restrictions, and is also not tied into a resource-fed function in order to move around. The ability to alter height isn’t introduced until the second land, but once you gain that function, the subsequent areas make use of that particular feature to great effect. The third land is the first one that really stood out to me as a unique and challenging experience, rivaling a lot of what I had seen so far in the interior labyrinths and caves.
Other fan favorite features from the previous titles remain in place, like the ability to draw out a map on the lower screen for every explorable section you come across. The map tools give you a lot more to work with than just lines to map out walls, giving you the use of icons to tag doors and other passages, mark directions for Lost Woods style scenarios, and the option to even tag squares with small notations, useful for the various side quests you can take on. Other features, like craftable equipment and items are present as well, including unique drops from bosses and F.O.E.’s that might require a bit of grinding, but are usually worth the effort for the gear those materials can produce.
While Etrian Odyssey IV doesn’t come with a lot of significant changes in comparison to previous titles, the addition of a casual mode is certainly a great idea for anyone that’s shied away from the series before. It does make for an easier game, offering up lowered difficulty, more lenient death penalties, and some unlimited, beneficial items to use. But for everyone else, Etrian Odyssey IV offers more of what you already love about the series, just this time it’s a little prettier in action. The soundtrack is also absolutely outstanding, and picking up the physical release is worth it just to get your hands on the pack in CD that features a number of tracks from the game, along with some that didn’t make the cut.
I’m definitely impressed with Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan, and I’m pretty sure you will be too. And for everyone else that hasn’t had a chance to check out the series for one reason or another, this is the perfect opportunity to jump in.