Originally posted: Aug 12, '08
Four letters. H-A-R-D. That´s what a player new to the series will say about the game. The learning curve of this game is quite easy, about 30 minutes and you're in; but the difficulty is what might turn you off in continuing to play it. Its game style is like your normal dungeon crawler (think Diablo 1) where you'll stay on a single town and there exists a deep dungeon beside it and that's pretty much the setting for the entire game.
If you like that genre, you'll most likely love Etrian Odyssey. What's unique to this game is that you're the one creating your own map for every level (thanks to the stylus). Make a mistake (or don't bother) in mapping the dungeon then you'll be lost within a short period of time. What's good about that is that you'll feel in control of the game, even if the whole place itself is not random and treasures inside chests are the same. For the characters, you're also the one to create them. You can choose between several types like landsknecht (swordsman), protector (paladin), medic, alchemist, etc. so you'll have control over that area too. It´s level up system is similar to other role-playing games where for each level up you'll have skill points to distribute for learning or enhancing skills. There are so many skills to learn that it's not possible for a character to acquire all those, so one word of advice: choose wisely.
As I've said the game is hard as it is not noob friendly unlike other RPGs where they baby you at you're early levels. First time you enter the dungeon, after a fight or two you're already on the verge of defeat and must return to town to heal or else prepare for helpless death. Now you get the picture? You're gonna experience this feeling up until the fifth floor of the dungeon where you'll face the first boss. You'll really know the true meaning of GRINDING wherein a few level ups will help if not the only way for you to continue on. After that, the game goes a little bit smoother but still not in the way of spoon feeding; make a little mistake and you'll still end up with the Game Over screen. Now if you've been religously building up your characters and placing skills where needed, you'll finish the game in no time.
Now even if it's hard, if you're up to the challenge, there's still plenty of reasons for
you to love this game. By the way, the sequel (Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes Of Lagaard) is also out at this time and I'm hoping it still remains true to the formula. If you have a Ninteno DS, there's simply no reason for you not to play Etrian Odyssey. Definitely 5 Stars.