Etrian Odyssey V’s meaty demo can be a major time sink, and reminds just how addictive the series can be.
I’ve been a fan of Etrian Odyssey since the original hit the states back on the DS, and have been eager to get my hands on the newest edition since I wrapped up my time with Etrian Odyssey IV. Courtesy of Atlus, I don’t have to wait until October.
As soon as I was through the latest direct, I had the demo downloading (you can do the same- just hit up the 3DS eShop and search “Etrian Odyssey”), and before it was done I was already falling down the rabbit hole of party planning.
Etrian Odyssey V is a game that is definitely to be played with 3D on, as the layered art in town and elsewhere is a sight to behold. The accompanying music certainly meets the franchise’s standards. I’m already in love with the town’s theme, and am eager to hear more.
The art in the dungeons themselves is as crisp as its ever been, and the enemies’ 3D models, like Etrian Odyssey IV, perfectly capture the spirit of the DS’s sprite work.
But the meat of Etrian Odyssey isn’t in its presentation. Like the games previous, every member of your party’s class and portrait in Etrian Odyssey V are chosen from the top of your adventure. My five member party rarely follows a pattern- in some games, I put three on the front line, and in others I go with three on the back. Starting here, I was very open.
Every class type has four options for the portrait- two females and two males. Usually, there’s a pretty good balance on the age-range spectrum, but Etrian Odyssey V leans heavily towards preteens (exception being the Dragoon and Necromancer, and a couple of the Bushi). The voice options reflect this as well, leaving maybe two or three options for each gender that might pass for adult. That’s out of about 40 total choices, which is disappointing to someone like myself who prefers to run older looking characters. But I’ve played all of my Etrian Odyssey games without voices before, so a couple silent protagonists won’t break me out of the game here.
I am that guy who picks my party based on aesthetics first, and filling in role holes second, so I spent a solid amount of time deliberating on my party choices by using those portraits as a guide. I almost ran with two Dragoons, simply because I liked their art the best (like I said, with them, I wasn’t bringing a kid into the great tree), but ultimately decided I’d have more fun with a proper mix of classes.
Unlike previous Etrian Odyssey games, where you had a few color options per portrait, Etrian Odyssey V lets you pick hair and eye color from an RGB scale. Unfortunately, you don’t seem to be able to change your armor colors to match.
Any way, once I made my way through the initial problem at hand and picked my party’s names, colors, and classes, I was finally set. The end result: a Dragoon, a Hunter, and a Botanist on the back-line, and a Pugilist and a Masurao on the front-line. How well they’d work together, only time would tell.
But before I could make my way into Yggdrasil, I had to look through all of my characters’ skill trees, and start picking out their roles for the next sixty hours of adventure (even if I can’t get to that right now- October is still so far away!). It looks like I’ll be relying on my Pugilist for locking away FOE body parts so they can’t crush my entire team beneath their heels, or with their arms, or with their minds. My Botanist will be my healer, which probably means they’ll be killed on the first turn of every fight and leave me to rely on items. It’s the thought that counts.
So I’ll make my Hunter the healer, using its wolf to passively restore health every turn, and make my Botanist rely on poison to deal heavy damage to longer lasting foes. The Dragoon will do everything else that can be done to keep everyone alive, while the Front Line deals more reliable, consistent damage.
Putting the Plan into Action
Of course, not everything went according to plan with my hands on time with the demo. My Masurao died in one hit, even after I decked her out with the latest in armor equipment. The Hunter’s dog’s healing was minimal at best, so my Botanist had to pick up some slack. But that’s typical of my experience with Etrian Odyssey. It’s not generally an easy time, entering a new dungeon or a new floor, but ultimately grinding wins out, and eventually everybody falls into their own. My front line enjoyed the protection the Dragoon provided, while the Botanist’s poison started massacring entire enemy lines. The Pugilist was dealing solid damage (thanks in no small part to a well-crafted weapon), and my Masurao started to survive a few hits. The Hunter’s dog’s heals became relevant, too.
All that let me survive the first floor, and make my way through the second, where I ducked and dodged passed FOEs, wanting nothing to do with them, at least until I hit the demo’s level cap. These miniboss enemies march across my self-made map, eager to kill my crew, but in large part (mostly after the areas the demo presents) are puzzle beats to keep you on your feet. Partially by accident, I ended up fighting one to the death (his, fortunately) while at level 9, and thought I was pretty tough shit until I walked down to the third floor and met the bear/owl hybrids.
Their destruction was not an end result I would find at level 10.
Every beat of the demo (I hit the level cap in about 7 hours- good thing progress carries into the actual game!) was familiar, from the party creation through to the adventuring, from the combat to the leveling. Like the games before it, Etrian Odyssey V builds on the franchise fundamentals in small ways, continuing to give us a polished and familiar experience. How the final game really turns the dials has yet to be seen- Etrian Odyssey IV had introduced an entrancing over-world that separated us from our dungeon destinations, but there were no air balloons to be spotted in the demo. For my money, I see no issues there- a familiar game with great art, music, and mechanics is exactly what I want to relax with this Fall when the game comes out on October 17.