Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is generally not the kind of game I like to play. It comes from a first-person JRPG series that focuses on the mechanics and setting, and is known for giving little to no consideration for plot. After playing Untold, this is still generally true and the game still isn’t quite made for me. Still, Atlus goes out of its way to, at the very least, craft an experience that anyone can try for themselves.
Though in many ways a remake of the first Etrian Odyssey, Untold offers new dungeons, a full story mode, and the gameplay and graphical updates that have entered the series since the original’s release six years ago. As someone playing this series extensively for the first time, I am unaware of specifically how different or new the content is, so this is probably not the review you want to read if you want the perspective of a weathered veteran.
Even so, the story mode seems like it was made for new players like me specifically. On its own, Etrian Odyssey is a game where you make your own party members from several classes and dungeon crawl with the absolute smallest amount of context or writing possible. The story mode deviates from this, in that it gives you a set party and a just-substantial-enough plot to bite into. Furthermore, options like the ability to auto-map dungeon floors (a staple of Etrian Odyssey is that you have to map dungeon floors on the touch screen yourself) and a “Picnic” difficulty to make combat easier allows newcomers to dip their toe in rather than jumping in head first. Untold also features Classic Mode, which allows you to get the super-tough, mechanical, and pure experience you may desire. Playing with the story mode on Normal difficulty with auto-mapping allowed me to experience this series from a comfortable window, which I absolutely appreciated.
The gameplay of Etrian Odyssey Untold is that of a dungeon crawler. When you are not in the hub menu healing up or dealing with the item shop, you go through lengthy dungeon-crawling dungeons in first person while filling in the map (you still have to do some cartography work even with auto-mapping on) and fighting monsters using the game’s combat system.
While Etrian Odyssey’s combat is standard in the sense that you’re dealing with health, skills, a mana bar (referred to as Technique Points), standard classes, and attack advantages/disadvantages, Etrian Odyssey twists this extremely standard formula in a few neat ways. In your party of six, three party members are placed on the front lines and three are placed behind them, and positioning is key. Your sharpshooters and spell casters work best from long range, so placing them in the back row of the party would be optimal, whereas melee-centric and defensive party members work best in the front. Enemies likewise occasionally organize themselves in front and back rows, which becomes part of the strategy when only certain attacks can hit back row enemies. New to Untold are also Grimoire Stones, special stones that can be picked up in battle that allow you to customize your party members in interesting ways, like by giving your healer spell casting skills. This provides an appreciated level of customization in a story mode where my character would not be able to be customized otherwise.
As I got deeper into Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl, I came to two very important realizations. The first realization is a very positive one: Etrian Odyssey Untold is a really well designed game. Inside of dozens of hours of content, what you’re going to get is a dungeon crawling experience with a level of game design and accessibility polish that can only come from legendary amounts of Atlus experience. If you want a really tough dungeon crawler, Etrian Odyssey can scratch that itch so hard and so good. If you want a story-driven RPG built around easy dungeon crawling, you can get that too. For the people who enjoy this kind of game, Etrian Odyssey is the best of the best.
The realization I came to several hours in, however, is that I don’t enjoy this kind of game. Despite being a good looking and sounding game, this doesn’t save the dungeons from the same level of repetition and busy work that comes with scaling and mapping several identical-looking floors in a row (with little separating them other than item placement and enemy types). The combat was kind of enjoyable, but the tedium of attempting to escape from battle with a basic enemy ten times and seeing the escape fail every single time is a bit too much for me. It’s not even that the game is too “hardcore” or too difficult. The mechanics just didn’t click with me.
Etrian Odyssey Untold is a weird game to score, because it’s a good game with a huge amount of appeal to a very specific audience. However, to the audience I am a part of, there isn’t much appeal whatsoever. Because of this, I cannot recommend that everyone go out and buy it because I think there are plenty of people who wouldn’t come away from this game with a smile. However, I do recommend everyone try the demo on the Nintendo eShop. You might really love it.
3DS review copy provided by Atlus. Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl releases exclusively for 3DS on October 1 in North America.